Summary: Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel and other great teachers of that day. But he learned far more from the UNIVERSITY OF HARD KNOCKS, for there he sat under God’s great teaching.
THE UNIVERSITY OF HARD KNOCKS
INTRO: There are many great universities in our land. Everyone knows about Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. In England there is Oxford University. But I want to tell you about another school. It has had more students and more graduates than any other school that ever existed. Its tuition fees are the costliest on earth, but the lessons we learn there do more for us than those in any other school. I am speaking of the University of Hard Knocks.
Paul received his degree from the University of Tarsus. He sat at the feet of Gamaliel and other great teachers of that day. But he learned far more from the UNIVERSITY OF HARD KNOCKS, for there he sat under God’s great teaching.
In the text he tells us that he had a “thorn in the flesh,” which buffeted him. We don’t know what it was, the Bible does not tell us. For some reason God has kept this knowledge from us. Surely that is best, for if He had revealed this knowledge, many of us would say, “That doesn’t apply to me, for I have no such thorn.”
As it is, the text could apply to any of us. The thorn could be any affliction, any trouble, anything that keeps us from being what we ought to be. But even though the thorns are there, God’s consolations are always available to us.
Paul prayed, “O father, remove this thorn from my flesh.” Did God do that? No, God doesn’t always answer our prayers exactly as we ask. He did say in effect, “No, Paul, I am not going to take away the thorn, but I’m going to give you more grace and power so that you can bear it.” And Paul, great man that he was, said, “Thank You, Lord. I’d rather have the thorn with Your added grace than to be without the thorn and not have Your grace.”
I. WE GROW THROUGH HARD KNOCKS.
Two couples marry. One couple has everything they need without ever having to work for it. The other couple has a hard time climbing up the ladder of life. The couple who has the hard time will have the greater chance of a successful marriage. Their hard knocks will bring them closer together and make them strong.
Our country became the great nation it is because of the hard knocks. When the early settlers arrived, they did not find an easy life. They had many hardships and struggles. It was a constant battle just to exist.
God’s servants grow in the same way. Often the growing process nearly kills us, but it always turns out to be for our good. If our early churches had started as magnificent temples, they would have perished. But the early Christians had to hide in caves and secret places of the earth. They were hounded by their enemies, and many of them died for their faith. But they grew stronger and more faithful because of these hardships.
Our churches are strong today because of the bitter experiences through which they have passed. It takes these things to make us. Maybe if our churches didn’t have it so easy, maybe if they were persecuted on every side, they would become stronger.
II. LOOK AT SOME OF THE HARD KNOCKS.
1. There is the hard knock of failure. A man said to me, “There are so many things I wanted and planned to do. But I am an old man now and it is too late. I feel that my life has been a failure.” But sometimes these failures bring success. It is said that Edison failed dozens of times before he invented the electric light bulb.
2. There in the hard knock of disappointment. Moses had a dream. God had appointed him to lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land. But Moses failed God on one occasion, so God allowed him to see the promised land but not enter it. How often our dreams are shattered when disappointments come.
3. There is the hard knock of bad health. When God made man, He gave him a wonderful body; but man fell into sin, then disease and sickness set their hold upon him. When Jesus comes back we will have no sickness and He will give us a perfect body, but now bad health seems a part of our education. In sickness we often learn the lessons of patience, sympathy, faith, and courage.
Some of the finest Christians in the world have grown spiritually because of bad health. They would never have had the influence for God they had if they had not lost their health. It brought them closer to Him.
4. There is the hard knock of deception. You trust a friend and feel that he is on your side, but he proves untrue. Think of those sad words in the Bible in Zechariah. 13:6. Some people put on the facade of being your best friends, but when they are away from you, they are your enemies.