2 Corinthians 12:9-10 - But He [Jesus] 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.
If you think you have trouble and know what it is to bend under the weight of affliction, take a look at the apostle Paul's list of trials. Five times he had been severely whipped, each time receiving 39 stripes across his bare back. Three times he had been beaten with rods. Once he had been stoned so viciously that those who threw the stones were certain they had killed him. Three times he had been shipwrecked. He had suffered sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure. Especially trying had been the daily pressure of anxiety for all the churches he loved and served. Talk about trouble! He was a missionary, one of God's heroes, ready to risk and sacrifice everything, even life itself, for the building of the Savior's kingdom.
One thing, however, seems to have distressed him more than anything else. What his thorn in the flesh was (see 2 Corinthians 12:7), we do not know exactly. Some say he had trouble with his eyes; others think he may have had malaria. At any rate, his thorn interfered with his work and it annoyed him. Here he was, burning with zeal and love for his Savior, consumed by a holy boldness and a sanctified restlessness to serve his Master, but this thorn, this persistent irritant, cramped his style, driving him to pray to God for its removal.
But God said, "No!" and instead gave the apostle a truth for all mankind down to the present moment. "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." That is to say, "Paul, the more you appreciate your own weakness, the less you'll be tempted to be proud, and the more you'll find strength in Me."
To be sure, life sometimes feels like a journey through a dark tunnel. And it may be that for the Christian, too, but believers see a bright opening at the other end. More than that, Jesus' followers hold His hand, walk with their Savior, and trust in His abiding love. Jesus knows something about suffering. He saw all kinds of it in the people who flocked to His side for relief. And on the cross, He experienced the pain that none of us could endure.
But notice what came of Jesus' suffering! It turned to imperishable gold: the salvation of the world. As you by faith learn to know Christ as your Savior, may you accept in humility whatever suffering must be borne, as it draws you closer to God. Then may you, like the apostle Paul, echo his remarkable confession: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, draw us closer to You through the pains we suffer. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "The Gift of Suffering," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Do you have a thorn in your flesh (or mind) that impacts your quality of life?
2. What's the relationship-to-God idea behind Paul boasting in his weaknesses?
3. Paul endured so much for the faith-do his perils and afflictions empower your faith in any way?
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