1st Passage for Study: Acts 11: 25 … Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.
2nd Passage for Study: 2nd Cor. 12: 1 – 11 … Linked for your study …
My Journal for Today: Wow, … 2nd Corinthians 12 is one of my favorite Pauline application passages from God’s word, telling about Paul’s thorn in the flesh and Christ’s perfectly sufficient grace to give Paul (and us, by extension) strength in the midst of our weakness. Perhaps you’ve gleaned a lot of strength from this passage … as have I.
But Pastor Swindoll, this morning, helped give me more historical context on this passage. He helped me see that when Barnabas came and retrieved Paul from Tarsus, it was during that time in his home town that the former Saul was tortured, flogged several times, and even survived a stoning. And quite possibly, Swindoll speculates – and I think it could be so – Paul may have lapsed into the semi-conscious state he refers to in 2nd Cor. 12: 2, where Paul was given a vision of glory, which would lead him to be able to declare that he could boast only in his own weakness, discovering that God would pour His own strength into Paul’s weakened life, … Paul having been humbled by this experience in Tarsus.
And then Swindoll points to our own lives, speculating that some of us may have had our “times of Tarsus,” experiencing some devastating time of personal damage. Perhaps it was a devastating injury. I think of Joni Eeareckson Tada, who’s been a quadriplegic for over 40 years; but she is one who always declares God’s goodness and purpose for her “handicap.” Maybe you have had a devastating personal setback; … maybe it was an incarceration like that of Chuck Colson, whose salvation and ministry to prisoners resulted from his Watergate conviction. Maybe, like yours truly, you arose from years of habitual sin to discover that God’s mercy can – and does – heal and renew us to serve Him and to use His power to overcome our own weaknesses.
That’s what the Apostle Paul discovered in his time of privation in Tarsus; and it was during those horribly difficult times, his time of preparation, from which he arose, with the help of Barnabas, and came to Antioch to join the other Apostles and disciples of Christ in a church movement which had been growing. But, as we would see, God’s Church which would grow exponentially from Paul’s Spirit-imparted gifts which would be used, by God’s enabling grace, to spread the Gospel to much of the known world at that time.
But Paul had to learn – as he did in Tarsus and we need to learn now – that it is only in humility we can receive God’s enabling grace to overcome our own weaknesses. And prayerfully we are learning that lesson as we are living our lives … maybe in a Tarsus time right now.
My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the “Tarsus-time” in my life which led me to find and use Your strength so that I could serve You. Help me to be continually wrapped in that humility so that You can pour Your grace and strength into my weakness. Amen