Summary: A sermon designed to encourage Christians to push through seasons of unanswered prayer
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – Thorns of Grace
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
“Thorns of Grace” – Let’s pray
We live in an age of “INSTANT” gratification. We want everything – NOW! Instant access, instant messaging, instant meals… and if we're not careful, that “ON-DEMAND” mentality will spill over into our spiritual life.
Like with prayer...Sometimes I think – “Wouldn’t it be nice to see quicker results when I pray???”
Not long ago, I went to my office to spend some time in study, but the power was out. I sat there in darkness, straining to read for 45 minutes. Finally I decided to call the power company, DUH, just in case no one else had.
The power company has an automated service for reporting outages. I called the number; you know the drill: “If you are calling to report an outage, press ‘1’ – our records show that the address to this phone number is - - - if THIS is your location, press ‘1.’”
It was that simple… took just a couple of minutes – and I had no more hung up the phone when “BAM” the lights came back on.
That’s the kind of results I’d like to see when I pray!!
That reminded me of ANOTHER story – a kitten belonging to a pastor climbed a tree but couldn’t get down. The pastor decided to throw a rope over the branch the little fella was on and tied the rope to the bumper of his car. Driving forward, he would pull the branch within reach and retrieve the terrified kitten.
It was a pretty good plan too - until the rope broke, sending the little fella flying through the air, over the fence and out of sight.
That pastor looked all over for his little kitten, but it was nowhere to be found.
The next day the pastor was met by his neighbor. “You are never gonna believe what happened yesterday!” she exclaimed. “My little girl had been begging for a kitten for months, but I told her that the only way she could have one is if the Lord gave it to her. She went outside, knelt down and prayed, “Dear Lord, PLEASE give me a kitty of my very own …Amen.” Just then, a kitten with paws outstretched fell right out of the sky!”
You gotta love results!
But prayer isn’t normally like that, is it??? Sometimes we pray for weeks, months, and even YEARS, and STILL – nothing happens – at least, nothing we can see. It’s frustrating when you pour your heart out week after week, with no results.
We might begin to question:
The effectiveness of prayer – “Does it really work?”
We question OURSELVES - “Maybe I don’t have enough faith?” “Maybe there is some sin in my life that is preventing the Lord from answering my prayers?”
And we may even find ourselves questioning God – “Does He really care about what I am going through?”
We ARE very impatient. We have been conditioned to expect quick results. If faced with the slightest inconvenience or delay, we fall apart. In this age of instant gratification, even the most mature in the faith struggle with God’s timing.
But here’s the rub: Some of the greatest lessons you will ever learn as a Christian come as a result of God’s deliberate delay.
Consider the example in our text.
Paul was a spiritual giant. He had performed miracles… he had seen countless souls saved… he shared his story before kings… and according to the verses PRIOR twas even allowed the unique opportunity of catching a glimpse of heaven. He had seen things no other human had been privileged to see. If anybody might have reason to expect instant results, it was Paul. He had seen God’s power displayed too many times.
But even HE was tested by God’s delay.
What we have before us this morning is Paul’s personal account of an occasion when he had prayed earnestly about a problem only to have God say “No.”
So - if you have poured out your soul before the Lord and wonder why nothing happens, Paul will show us why you should keep the faith even when God doesn’t answer in the way we want.