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Summary: Five things to do when it doesn’t get better

When It Doesn’t Get Better

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Sermon by Rick Crandall

McClendon Baptist Church - July 8, 2007

*Have you ever been in a situation where there was nothing you could do to make it better?

-No matter how hard you tried, how much you spent, how much you argued, how much you pleaded, how much you prayed -- It just didn’t get better.

*One day you will be in a situation like that. What should we do when it doesn’t get better? The Apostle Paul can show us, because he found himself in a situation like this. In vs. 7, he called it “a thorn in the flesh.” We really don’t know what it was, but Paul’s thorn was probably some kind of physical problem. Some have guessed epilepsy, trouble with his eyes, or recurring fever from malaria.

*Bill Bouknight says that a thorn “is whatever causes you pain or frustration or sadness.” They “come in all shapes and sizes: migraine headaches, bad backs, arthritis, depression, anxiety spells, shingles, an unhappy marriage, an impossible boss, a child on drugs, and on and on.” (1)

*Maxie Dunnam wrote that “we all have thorns in the flesh. ‘Some are thorns of grief -- for the pointless death of a child, a husband, a wife. Others are thorns of betrayal.

*A thorn can be a divorce, long past, that still poisons the blood-stream of our lives. A thorn can be a child we think has disgraced us, or one we think we have disgraced. A thorn can be any lapse of judgment or mistake . . .

*In this world there are things hoped for, and things stuck with. The thorns are what we are stuck with. We cannot extract them. All of them cause pain, the real pain that is associated with loss: Loss of health; loss of faith and hope, as when we somehow feel ‘unblessed’; loss of joy; loss of love; and certainly loss of power.’” (2)

*What are we going to do when it doesn’t get better? Paul shows us what to do.

1. First, stand on the truth that God has a reason.

*God has a reason. We can always know that God has a purpose for every trouble He allows in our lives. Paul got to see the purpose for his problem, and he shared it with us in vs. 7, when he said, “Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”

*The Apostle Paul certainly had an abundance of revelations. On the road to Damascus, Paul saw Jesus shining in glory brighter than the sun! And God chose Paul as His instrument to write more New Testament books than any other person. Paul certainly wrote 13 (possibly 14) of the 27 books in the New Testament.

*And here at the beginning of 2 Corin 12, Paul tells us about being caught up to heaven. Speaking about himself modestly in the 3rd person in vs. 3&4, Paul said, “And I know such a man whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows, how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

*This abundance of revelation could easily have led Paul to be puffed up in his own mind or by other people. So God allowed his thorn in the flesh. There was a reason.

*Many times we don’t know why God allows us to suffer, but believers, we know that God loves us. And we know that He has a reason.

*King Duncan made a great point that applies to all suffering. Duncan said, “Let’s start with this: suffering destroys our illusions. This is a hard teaching, but stay with me. Suffering destroys our illusions. Most of us are under the illusion that our primary purpose in life is the pursuit of our own happiness. My life is all about me and my desires, me and my agenda, me and my self-actualization. Then something comes along that doesn’t fit in with our plan: a divorce, a diagnosis, a death, a disruption. And as our perfect self-centered world disintegrates right before our eyes, we wonder where to turn. It is then we realize that the world isn’t built around us and our desires. It is a beautiful world, a wonderful world, but it is not a world that caters to our every whim. (3)

*Pastor Paul Smith told of a young lady in his church who discovered part of God’s purpose for her suffering. She had developed cancer when she was very young. The disease left her unable to have children. But this young Christian responded to the heartbreak as believers often do -- with greater faith in God.

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