Thorns and all!

A message of hope from a failed apostle

2 Corinthians 12:6-8 (CSB)
For if I want to boast, I wouldn’t be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself.
Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me.

Paul writes one of the most heartfelt messages of private confidence you could ask for in 2nd Corinthians.  The content of this section of scripture gives unlimited hope to all of us who struggle day to day with the gap between our expectation of who Jesus wills us to be and the pitiful offering we have rendered to Him at the close of each of those days.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (CSB)
So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else.  His pen, word  and conduct consistently encouraged, chastised, and challenged believers both Jew and Gentile.  He is perhaps the most prolific evangelist and missionary recorded in the Bible.

Despite all that, Paul felt profoundly the sting of not meeting the expectations of his convictions.  But, at the same time, while you can see in his writings he is cognizant of his failings, he also is abundantly aware of God’s ability to bridge the gap between what we are able to execute and what we are drawn to do. In fact, God expressly revels in using our flawed condition to exceed our greatest vision to bring glory to His name.

So the opening sentence of this article is written tongue in cheek, because Paul was far from a ‘failed apostle’.  He does remind us the measure of our usefulness in the Kingdom is not dependent on our raw abilities. Rather, the measure that God uses as His standard is based not on our ability but our willingness to be used to Glorify Him.

It is the willing heart that enables, the less than perfect worker, to become God’s champion through the strength He will imbue us with.

Mark 12:41-44 (CSB)
Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums.
Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.
Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had — all she had to live on.”

In this observation by Jesus, he makes clear that His measure of performance wasn’t the sum of funds being contributed; it had everything to with proportionality of the giving.

Paul, was all in as well.  But here in the passage above he underscores the thorn in the flesh that he battles with. Three times he pleaded with God to remove this perceived impediment to his mission from him but God did not! Instead Paul comes to the realization that what he saw as an impediment, was in fact an instrument of the Glory of God; transforming that which is marginal in mans eyes to something Glorious in the eyes of God!

Why?  Because Paul was already perfectly equipped for his mission. Just the way the Lord willed him to be.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (CSB)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”
Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

It’s not about the tool we present to the Lord’s service it is about the willing vessel willing to accept His Power and His Strength that matters to God!

Philippians 4:12-13 (CSB)
I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.

I am NOT limited by the skills and abilities I possess or train myself for.  God’s greatest power is made perfect in our greatest weakness.

Over Coming

The enemy is doing everything he can to defeat us. If he cannot distract us with the illusions of the world, he will stand there mocking us; telling us that we are not good enough to be doing what we are called to do.  That’s a partial truth, his favorite weapon. We are not good enough; but OUR LORD IS!!!

John 16:33 (CSB)
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

If He has conquered the world then why would we be discouraged?  It makes no sense and the only way it happens is when we allow the devil to convince us that we are not sufficient despite the empowerment provided by our Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CSB)
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Our Race to Run

God wants us in the game.  Not just standing by the sidelines or bringing in water for other players.  He wants us on the frontline; doing precisely what He has planned for us. Not some watered down compromised offering.  He wants us all in, and in for the duration; till he returns or calls us home to be with him.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (CSB)
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Devil: What do you think you’re going to do with that?
You: I’m going to do what God’s called me to do.
Devil: You must be kidding! You?  You are incapable of accomplishing anything, what makes you think that God would call you to this??
You: Because in His Word He tells me that His strength is made perfect in my weakness and I am to take up my cross daily and follow Him and that is exactly what I intend to do!
Devil: We’ll see.

Why you? Because He’s made plans for you that have been laid out since before the foundations of the earth.  Because, He loves you!  Because he wants you to be His champion, His marathon runner. His vessel; thorns and all!


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