Summary: This sermon is based on Chapter 7 in Charles Swindoll's book: Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit. The sermon addresses Paul's thorn in the flesh and the role of suffering in our lives.

A. One day a teacher was getting her Wednesday night children’s class started.

1. She asked if anyone had any prayer requests.

2. One girl asked that they pray for her because school would soon start and she was going to a new school this year.

3. Another girl asked that they pray for her family’s health needs.

4. A boy requested prayer for a friend.

5. Then one girl asked that they pray for her family because they recently suffered the death of an extended family member and also the death of a close friend of the family.

6. When the teacher asked for a volunteer to pray a little boy volunteered and prayed: “God, thank you for all these blessings...,” then he hesitated before continuing...“and we thank you for all these not-so blessings.”

B. Let me ask you a really hard question: Which things in life are the “blessings” and which are the “not-so blessings”?

1. Sometimes it takes some a while to clearly see how something is a blessing.

2. But in the meantime, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

3. God wants us to be thankful for all things…the blessings and whatever we may think are the “not-so” blessings.

4. Can we believe and trust that God knows what He is doing even when things happen that we think are “not-so blessings”?

C. This reminds me of an old fable about a humble farmer who had only a wife, a son and a horse.

1. One day, his horse ran away.

a. His neighbors said, “I'm so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

b. The man just said, “We'll see.”

2. A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.

a. His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

b. The man just said, “We'll see.”

3. One day one of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking his leg.

a. His neighbors said, “I'm so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

b. The man just said, “We'll see.”

4. Soon thereafter, their country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight, but the farmer's son was spared, since his broken leg prevented him from being drafted.

a. His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

b. The man just said, “We'll see.”

5. So what we think may be a “not-so blessing” may actually be a very big blessing.

6. When God is involved, some of our biggest hurts become our biggest helps.

D. Any study of the life of the apostle Paul requires a serious look at the subject of pain.

1. Suffering is not the easiest or most pleasant subject to explore, but it is a subject that we need to clearly understand and know how to handle.

2. We live in a time and culture when we are addicted to creature comforts and we try to avoid suffering and the subject of suffering at all costs.

3. Also, we live in a time when some of the biggest churches in the country and the most famous preachers on TV peddle the false doctrine of “health and wealth.”

a. It should come as no surprise that it is easy to attract a crowd by telling them what they want to hear.

b. And so some folks make the promise that if you just believe, or send in your dollars, then God will make you healthy and wealthy, and that God will fulfill all your dreams.

c. Ultimately, they say that God’s will for every person is a life of prosperity and abundance, a life free of pain and difficulty.

4. But only a cursory survey of the Bible would put that notion to rest in a hurry.

5. My desire is to help equip you and me for what life will inevitably sling across our path.

a. I also want you to know that I realize that you may be presently bearing a burden or heartache the likes of which I’ve never known.

b. You may be living with pressures or some debilitating physical disease or emotional pain that I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

6. I am so thankful that God’s Word prepares us for these kinds of life struggles.

a. God’s Word tells us clearly that we may face suffering of all kinds, but that God cares and that He comforts and helps us in our times of need, and God promises that we can benefit from our suffering – that our hurts can become our helps.

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