Passage for Study: 2nd Corinthians 12: 1 – 10 … Linked for study …
My Journal for Today: Are we getting God’s perspective yet? The world would have us believe that weakness is a bad thing. But what is God’s perspective? Well this passage today, which is being repeated by Chuck Swindoll, certainly teaches that God’s perspective is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. So, let’s begin to get it … weakness is something God can use for His glory; and as Paul finally came to realize, … his recognition and realization of his weakness (i.e., “the thorn”) was God’s lesson that Paul could actually boast in his weakness; because it was that recognition (i.e. his humility) God sees it as the ticket to His grace. And we read, in Christ’s own words, that “… [His] grace is sufficient for…” anyone who desires for God’s strength to cover his/her weakness.
But is that what we hear or feel in this life? Is that what the world preaches? Do I hear a resounding, “NO!!!” … No, what the world wants us to internalize is the lesson that worldly success is the goal of our pursuits. And there is also the heavily touted lesson that PAIN IS BAD!! And finally there is Satan’s message that we are to avoid weakness and appear strong at all costs.
These messages are everywhere. Advertising and marketing sells so many pain relievers and drugs that we become obsessed with the reduction of physical and emotional pain. Have you ever seen a TV show that paints a message that men are weaklings and women are strong? Of course you have! And what about that patriotic mantra, the words of which formed the framework of our American independence … that mankind is “… endowed by their Creator” … with the “unalienable rights” … of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
And it’s that latter phrase that we believe … that we have the right of HAPPINESS, which has conned us into thinking that we should avoid pain at all costs and pursue a life that is characterized by the image of strength. So we live our lives thinking that anything painful is bad and we should avoid those painful elements of life in our “pursuit of happiness.” And so we honor strength and dishonor weakness. We pursue feelings of happiness and ignore the truth that it is the tough lessons of life where we glean the most strenght. We take a myriad of drugs so that we don’t have to experience anything painful in life; and many go to hell in this pursuit of happiness.
But that was not the lesson of our passage and Paul’s story today, was it? No, God had to allow Satan to buffet Paul with a permanent physical “thorn” so that Paul – and by extension, we – could learn the lesson that we must choose to humble ourselves before God as the ticket to God’s enabling grace. Unfortunately it took physical pain for Paul to learn this lesson; but in the end of our passage today, we read Paul having the attitude that if Satan’s torn was necessary to keep him humble to receive God’s grace, … well then, Paul would say, “Bring it on, Lord!”
So, where are our pursuits in life? Are we pursuing God’s grace; or are we pursuing painlessness? Are we recognizing and openly acknowledging our weaknesses; or are we trying to hide our selves behind masks of pseudo-strength? Are we in headlong pursuit of happiness to the exclusion of God getting His glory as we receive His strength to cover our weakness?
I’ll let you answer those questions for yourself; but the Apostle Paul certainly answered them for himself; didn’t he? He came to the place where he found that God’s grace won’t let go easily; and he actually decided to boast about God’s ability to give him strength in the place of his own weakness. And that’s my prayer for me (and for you, too) … that we recognize that pain can be a good thing if we learn from it and let it teach us that God ALWAYS has our good, as His children, in His plan for our lives. Another Pauline passage, in Romans 8: 28, teaches us this lesson in a powerful way, doesn’t it? AND … when we can internalize these truths, our lives will be oh-so-much more joyful, peaceful, and fruitful.
My Prayer for Today: Dear Lord, help us to understand and live with the challenges you allow into our lives to deepen our relationship with You … as You shape our lives for Your glory. Amen