Summary: Paul has many life struggles. He suffers many hardships, but in the end delights in his weakness because then he is strong.
• Last week we talked about how Paul was sent into nations. How much he traveled and how he trusted God in traveling. The hardships he faced and the miracles that followed him wherever he went.
• Today I want to discuss the issue that causes so many to struggle - suffering.
• Why is there suffering in the world and what does God do about it?
• How does it impact Christians and what do we do with it?
• The reason I want to go here is Paul suffered, huge.
I. PAINFUL AND PERMANENT
• Last week we talked about Paul’s traveling struggles.
• The truth is Paul’s were life struggles.
II Corinthians 11:23-29, “I more so…beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
• Wow that is a highlight list isn’t it?
• Whipped, stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, floating in the sea (sharks wanted to eat him!)
• This was all spoken beforehand by God when He first put His hand on Paul.
Acts 9:15-16, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine, to bear my name before the gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
• Paul understood the terms he served under.
• God Himself would lead him into situations of suffering, like one sent to a Roman arena to be devoured by lions.
• He said God did this to reveal His power in and through Paul.
II Corinthians 1:9-10, “Indeed, we had the sentence of death (some of you feel like this!) Within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.”
• But there is still more, more suffering for Paul.
• He was ill, long-term ill. It was painful and permanent.
II Corinthians 12:7-9 NLT, “...I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
• How can you deal with suffering?
• And believe in a God that allows pain and suffering in good people’s lives.
• Read II Corinthians 12:7-9 in NASB, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
• Hold it we need to read that closely…
• “I was given” = didômi = an opportunity, a gift is how it is usually used. Jesus was God’s gift.
• This was a good thing the word Paul chose
• God giving a good gift…and Paul says “in order” or “for this reason” there is a purpose
• I was given a gift. Really what? A thorn! Really that did what? Torment
• A thorn – a pointed stake, a sharp splinter
• That tormented me. Literally - “that struck me,” hit me with your fist.
• So a messenger of Satan. What? We don’t know what Paul meant here, but obviously Satan had attacked Paul.
• What is clear Paul had a sickness, an illness that wouldn’t leave.
• We don’t know what it was: epilepsy, blindness, we don’t know.
• But we know it was difficult to bear.
• It was permanent and painful.
II. SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
• You do what Paul did…ask God to take it away!
• This guy was almost single handedly responsible for the spread of the story of Jesus to the known world.
• He wrote one half the New Testament and so do what he did.