Summary: The Lord moves in our lives and empowers us to live victoriously even in the middle of difficlut times and overwhelming obstacles.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “Sustaining Grace”
These are troubled times. We thought things couldn’t get any worse as we watched gas prices skyrocket out of sight. We were wrong. The house of cards of a society run on credit and debt is tumbling down. The stock market is the most obvious sign of the financial crisis that we all face with its precipitous decline. Everyone is anxious and burdened. There are times when I feel we should all join in on the chorus that the television show, “Hee Haw” made popular so many years ago, “Gloom, despair and agony on me. Deep, dark depression excessive misery. If I had no bad luck I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me.”
In this time when so many people feel that God has turned his back on the United States, we have the audacity to talk about God’s grace. As Christians, we dare to proclaim that God’s steadfast love is still a part of our lives and that God continues to flood our lives with his grace.
Today, we will be reminded of how God moves in our lives with God’s sustaining grace. We will learn how to live graciously and gracefully in these most difficult times.
After sharing some of the fantastic spiritual blessings that he has experienced, Paul shares with his Corinthian readers that he has a thorn in the flesh. He has a very different perspective on this trial that he is enduring.
• Paul sees his thorn in the flesh in a positive light. He is experiencing this thorn in order that he won’t become conceited because of his many spiritual blessings.
• Paul states that it was given to him. If God didn’t give this thorn to him directly, God at least allowed him to experience this thorn.
• The thorn was not simply a minor irritation. Paul identifies it as a “messenger of Satan.” We can only speculate what Paul’s thorn was, but whatever it was, it was bad.
• Paul prayed at least three times that his thorn would be removed, and God was unresponsive to his prayers.
Paul might not have been experiencing the economic meltdown of the known world, but he was in a very difficult position. What he discovers from living with his thorn gives us hope and inspiration in our struggles today.
Paul wanted God to take away his thorn in the flesh. God didn’t answer Paul’s prayer the way that Paul wanted him to answer. God didn’t take away the thorn, but God gave him something more.
God reveals to Paul that God’s grace is sufficient for every circumstance. God may not take away our troubles. God may allow bad things to happen to us. Some people may lose their jobs, others their homes. We may need to cut back—going out to restaurants less often or eating cheaper meals at home. There is always a possibility that we may lose it all. If that happens there is still one thing that we can cling to—God’s grace. God’s grace will be sufficient for us.
Not only is God’s grace sufficient for us, but God’s power is made know when we are weak. We cannot predict how God’s power will be revealed to us in these troubled times, but we do know that God’s power will be more apparent to us than it has been in times of economic prosperity. We may experience God providing for us in a miraculous manner. People might be able to face daunting challenges with a courage and peace that can only come from God. We may even be able to defy our natural survival mode and look beyond ourselves to the needs of others in these difficult times.
Paul begins to demonstrate a type of reverse pride. Instead of proclaiming his strengths, he points out his weaknesses. He confesses his needs—anticipating that God’s power will be made know and his needs will be provided. Paul doesn’t shy away from impossible tasks or dangerous situations. He takes challenging steps of faith, know that God is with him. Paul focuses his attention on God rather than on his weaknesses
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul exhorts them to give thanks in every circumstance. Paul focuses his attention on the good things in life—God’s blessings—instead of all the problems. His words are full of praises rather than complaints.
Paul turns his attention to the needs of others. There were times when Paul needed to ask help from others. When this was the situation he did so without hesitation. When his needs were met, Paul helped others. Again he wasn’t paralyzed by the thorn in his flesh. In spite of the thorn Paul continued with his mission and ministry.