A year or two ago I had a discussion with a friend about a weakness he had with his back and we discussed 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and Paul’s thorn and my friend felt certain that he had not experienced anything sufficient to warrant a thorn of any type to keep him humble. Of course, there is no way for me to know if that is true. But all that runs through my head is “My grace is sufficient”. When I look around at our culture and wonder; we have so much isn’t it too easy to become proud and self-reliant instead of totally reliant on God.
I grew up learning that self-reliance was not only a good trait, anything less was lazy. You did not ask for help you offered. I grew up in a world of self-made men and you achieved that through hard work, being the best you could be. You took pride in your achievements but you did not showboat. You just did your work. Sometimes I was a hard man to work with because I expected a lot from anyone I worked with. But in the past several years God has shown me that pride does not require the level of vision that Paul had. I still had plenty of pride to spare myself.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
As I came to know God I came to realize how large He was and how small I was. He showed me so much in his Word that He humbled me. On top of that my hard-driving lifestyle caught up with me and my health took a dive. But the Holy Spirit gave me no time for self-pity instead He gave me a hunger for the Word and before long he brought me to 2 Corinthians 12.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV) 7 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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 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. 10 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.
He helped me see that my circumstances did not define who I was. What defined me was the relationship I had with God. He also reminded me that my focus determined direction. If I focused on the kingdom of God that was my destination. If I got lost in my circumstances I would get lost in this world. He filled my heart with a hunger for His Kindom.
Grace or Trust
As I was praying and studying this morning one of my devotionals was about fretting. One of the things that contradict that statement by Christ – “My grace is sufficient” is fretting. The devotional I was reading was in Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers for July 4th. It is an excellent wake-up and I would encourage you to read it. Two parts that stuck out to me were the following pieces.
“Worrying always results in sin. We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we really are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are”
“Have you been propping up that foolish soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God to handle? Set all your opinions and speculations aside and “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1)”
I was a chief worrier who came from a long line of worriers. I never considered it a sin until I started studying the scripture and realized that when I worried I was not trusting in God. I was doubting he could handle that problem I had. How arrogant is that?
More than once I have believed that I could better handle my circumstance than the God who had given me life… the God who spoke the universe into existence. Talk about pride; my goodness.
That whole process sent me to Revelation chapter 3. I read the letter to Philadelphia and Laodicea. I found it striking that God chose to place those to next to each other.
Revelation 3:14-17 To the Church in Laodicea
I read the first few verses of this letter to the church of Laodicea and I shuddered a bit because it is easy to fall into that body.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
We have so much as a nation, and it is so easy to lose sight as to how we obtained it. It is easy to think that we do not need God’s help in our lives. But we are so wrong when the adversary decieves us into thinking that. Then I looked back at Philadelphia in verses 7-13
Then I looked back at Philadelphia in verses 7-13
The message to Philadelphia is so much different.
Revelation 3:7-13 (ESV) To the Church in Philadelphia
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
I look at these two Churches and one was wealthy and felt they had need of nothing even from God. They knew who He was but they were in GOOD shape. The other was weak and yet they never denied Him. Those who held fast in spite of their trials had salvation. The others that lived in comfort forgetting where their prosperity came from God spit out. They just knew who He was they were neither hot nor cold and he spits them out.
But there is an amazing thing in the letter to Laodicea in verses 18-22. Again God shows this Church His Grace and Mercy, if they will call on Him.
Revelation 3:18-22 (ESV) To the Church in Laodicea
Jesus counsels them and shows a path to salvation even in this final hour.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
He still loves them enough to counsel them and discipline them and warn them to “be zealous and repent”
I look at all that God does for me and how he uses every situation I find myself in to show me that His grace is sufficient. He teaches me every day that there is no place in my life for foolish pride or arrogance but simply love for Him and a humble spirit that trusts in Him. I am thankful for a humble spirit and even more thankful that when I get out of hand God loves me enough to reprove and discipline me.
I give thanks for He is good and His mercy endures forever.
Father, thank you for today. Lord thank you for reminding me from where my strength comes from. I pray Lord that I might keep my focus on the path of Philadelphia, but if I wander into selfishness of a lukewarm heart please bring quick correction to me that I might not linger there.
Father God I love you and praise you in Jesus name.