2 Corinthians 12:10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).
When we are strong in abilities or resources, we are tempted to do God's work on our own, and that can lead to pride. When we are weak, allowing God to fill us with his power, then we are stronger than we could ever be on our own. God does not intend for us to be weak, passive, or ineffective—life provides enough hindrances and setbacks without us creating them. When those obstacles come, we must depend on God. Only his power will make us effective for him and will help us do work that has lasting value.
We do not know what this thorn was, but the best suggestion is an eye ailment. Galatians 4:15 andGalatians 6:11 ("with what large letters") suggest eye trouble. This would have been a trial to Paul both physically and emotionally, and could honestly be called a thorn (stake) in the flesh. (Sometimes prisoners were impaled on stakes and left to die a horrible death.) Whatever the thorn was, it was a burden to him, and it brought pain. He asked to have it removed.
Commentator Warrer Wiersbe shares several very practical lessons to be learned from Paul’s experience with the thorn:
(1) Spiritual blessings are more important than physical ones. Paul thought he could be a better Christian if he were relieved of his weakness, but just the opposite was true.
(2) Unanswered prayer does not always mean the need is not met. Sometimes we get a greater blessing when God does not answer our prayers! God always answers the need even though it seems He is not answering the prayer.
(3) Weakness is strength if Christ is in it. Remember Gideon’s pitchers, David’s sling, and Moses’ rod.
(4) There is grace to meet every need. Grace enabled Paul to accept his weakness, glory in it, and take pleasure in it! Paul knew that his weakness would bring glory to Christ, and that is all that mattered.
Author Bob Gass says, that at first this verse doesn't seem to make sense. We want to be freed from our weaknesses, not boast about them!
But Paul gives us several reasons you may not have considered:
(1) Your weakness prevents arrogance. Paul writes, "So I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations" (2 Corinthians 12:7 TM). You'll often find a major weakness attached to a major strength, acting as a governor to keep us from getting exalted, or running ahead of God. Gideon chose 32,000 men to fight the Midianites. But God reduced his numbers to 300, making the odds 450 to 1. Why? So that Israel would know that it was God's power and not their own that saved them.
(2) Your weakness produces fellowship. While strength can breed an independent spirit ("I don't need anybody else"), our weakness shows us how much we need each other. When we weave the weak strands of our lives together, a rope of great strength is created. Vance Havner said, "Christians, like snowflakes, are frail, but when they stick together they can stop traffic."
(3) Your weakness creates compassion and ministry to others. People actually find healing in your wounds. Your greatest message and your most effective ministry will usually come out of your most difficult experiences. The things you're most embarrassed about, most ashamed of, most reluctant to share, are the very tools God can use most powerfully to help others.
"Lord, I am so thankful for Your faithfulness in spite of my faithlessness at times. When I am facing a 'thorn in my flesh' you are teaching me to keep trusting You and know that some how, some way, You will make the situaiton beautiful in Your time. Thank You for what You are teaching me. In Jesus' name, amen!"
Monday, March 5, 2012
Saturday, March 3, 2012
2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
The "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" takes us back toBethlehem, where He became poor for us (2 Co 8:9); "the love of God" takes us to Calvary, where God the Father gave His Son (Luke 23:33); and "the communion of the Holy Spirit" takes us to Pentecost, where the Spirit was poured out for all believers. (Acts 2:1-4)
As we take a closer look at this wonderful verse, I want us to begin to see that it is a picture, a snapshot if you will, of the spiritual development God desires for every Christian. The verse can be divided into three distinct parts:
1. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
The first phrase is "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ." This points us to Bethlehem where the "Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) Those who are sure of their salvation know that their spiritual journey began with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this marvelous grace we could not be born again and know God. Hence, the first part of this verse should be a picture of our first experience with the Lord. Paul refers to this first experience with the grace of God in Ephesians 2-8when he says, "For by grace are ye saved."
2. The love of God
Once this grace touches our lives, we are hurled forward to the second part of 2 Corinthians 13:14, which is indicative of our second phase of spiritual growth as a Christian -"the love of God." This points us to Calvarywhere "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus) that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16)
There is nothing with which to compare the love of God that a new believer experiences when he or she has just been saved. At that glorious moment when the burden of sin rolls away, you really know you are loved by God. I have often heard new believers say that when they were born again they felt as if they had been baptized in divine love It seemed so real at the moment that they were nearly able to reach out into the air and scoop it up with their hands.
This is one reason why it is such a joy to lead people to Christ. When brand-new Christians lift their heads and open their eyes, the look on their faces is worth more than all the money the world has to offer. Their faces gleam with joy because they know they are forgiven, cleansed, and that they are new creatures. Most of all, they know they are loved.
The problem is that this wonderful sense of love is so real and so life-changing that new and immature believers often try to reproduce that same feeling over and over again throughout the years to come. Rather than move forward in their spiritual growth, they get stuck on past emotions.
While we must never lose "the wonder of it all," neither must we seek to relive past experiences which were never intended to be relived over and over again. We must not stop our growth because we want to recapture the feelings we had when we were born again. God wants to move us from "feelings" to walking by FAITH.
If you find yourself in this rut, it is probably past time for you to press ahead into another realm of spiritual development - "the communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 13:14).
3. The communion of the Holy Spirit
In this third phase you will come to know new power, new strength, new ability, new discernment and, yes, new and more mature spiritual emotions. This points us toPentecost, where the Holy Spirit was poured out for all believers. (Acts 2:1-4)
This spiritual maturity is the very thing for which your heart is yearning. In this third realm, you learn how to walk in the Spirit, move in the power of God, know the voice of God, have the mind of Christ, pray effectively, receive direction, be sensitive to Him and much more. This third realm is where spiritual maturity begins - and it is available to everyone. That is why Paul prayed for the communion of the Holy Spirit to "be with you all."
The grace of God is where all this begins, and the realization of God's love is the foundation for everything we do. But this communion with the Holy Spirit is a launching pad for a life of supernatural power and consistency of godly character. Without this daily communion with the Holy Spirit it is impossible to live a victorious Christian life.
"Lord, I am so thankful for the Grace of Jesus, the Love of the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit. I want more in my walk with You. May I desire a deeper relationship with Your precious Holy Spirit today. In Jesus' name, amen!"
Friday, March 2, 2012
Psalm 17:3 Go ahead, examine me from inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night-- You'll find I'm just what I say I am. My words don't run loose.
Was David saying he was sinless? Far from a proud assumption of purity, David's claim was an understanding of his relationship with God. In Psalms 32 and 51, David freely acknowledged his own sins. Nevertheless his relationship with God was one of close fellowship and constant repentance and forgiveness. His claim to goodness, therefore, was based on his continual seeking after God. H e was asking God to search him from the inside out. His statement, "My words don't run loose" is a claim that every child of God should strive to be able to make.
As I read our verse this morning, I prayed, "Lord please forgive me for the times my words HAVE run loose, which is too often. I get frustrated or aggravated and run off with my mouth. I don't DIE to my flesh, I yield to my flesh and allow my words to run loose. The Holy Spirit brought the following verses to my mind this morning:
Ephesians 4:29-32 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. (30) Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted. (31) Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. (32) Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
We can bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit by the way we live. Paul warns us against unwholesome language, bitterness, improper use of anger, harsh words, slander, and bad attitudes toward others. Instead of acting that way, we should be forgiving, just as God has forgiven us. Are you bringing sorrow or pleasing God with your attitudes and actions? Act in love toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, just as God acted in love by sending his Son to die for your sins. Do I allow my words to "run loose"? I'm afraid way too often, I do.
When I allow my words to "run loose" I am breaking the heart of the Holy Spirit, I am grieving Him. I need to remember today that "the Holy Spirit, moving and breathing" in me is the most intimate part of my life. As He convicts me of the angry, frustrated, agitated words that I speak, I must repent of them because God is making me "fit for Himself" according to the verse above. Today...I choose to reign my words in by dying to my flesh, in Jesus' name!
"Lord, I ask you to forgive me for allowing my words to run loose and grieving Your Holy Spirit. Today, I want to please you and allow YOU to have control of my life today. This cannot happen if I do not make a conscious effort to "crucify my flesh." I refuse to allow my words to run rampant in my life. They hurt you and those who are around. I want my words to edify and encourage not tear down and discourage. In Jesus' name, amen!"
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Isaiah 6:3 And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
The throne, the attending seraphim (angels), and the threefold holy all stressed God's holiness. Seraphim were a type of angel whose name is derived from the word for "burn," perhaps indicating their purity as God's ministers. In a time when moral and spiritual decay had peaked, it was important for Isaiah to see God in his holiness. Holiness means "morally perfect, pure, and set apart from all sin." We also need to discover God's holiness. Our daily frustrations, society's pressures, and our shortcomings narrow our view of God. We need the Bible's view of God as high and lifted up to empower us to deal with our problems and concerns. God's moral perfection, properly seen, will purify us from sin, cleanse our mind of our problems, and enable us to worship and to serve.
Isaiah saw God in His holiness, then Peter reminds us that God requires for us to strive for holiness:
1 Peter 1:15-16 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; (16) for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Peter's words mean that all parts of our lives and character should be in the process of becoming conformed, both inwardly and outwardly, to God's standards. After people commit their lives to Christ, they sometimes still feel a pull back to their old ways. Peter tells us to be like our heavenly Father—holy in everything we do.
Holiness means being totally devoted or dedicated to God, set aside for his special use and set apart from sin and its influence. We cannot become holy on our own, but God gives us his Holy Spirit to help us obey and to give us power to overcome sin. Don't use the excuse that you can't help slipping into sin. Rely on God's power to free you from sin's grip.
There are three thoughts underlying the word "holy."
First, the idea of separation.
Third, moral purity
Isaiah saw God in His holiness and was vividly reminded of his own impurity. Then hundreds of years later, Simon Peter reminds us that we are to "be holy" as God is holy. The only way we can do this is through the precious blood of Jesus, and the influence of the Holy Spirit.
As we walk in holiness we need to be separated in the way we live. We talk differently, walk differently, live differently than those who are not Christians. Too often we are NO different than the unsaved. We will never be the influence that we are called to be if we do not allow the Lord to separate us. Their should be a marked difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
We should walk in brightness as well. Remember that Jesus told us we are to be the "light of the world." As we allow Jesus to be seen in our daily life, His light will shine through us.
Then we are to walk in purity. The Greek word is hagneia where we get our word "hygiene." It means pure from defilement, not contaminated, clean. Again, the only way we walk in "purity" is by and through the shed blood of Jesus. As the hymn goes, "what can wash away my sins...NOTHING, but the blood of Jesus." Thank God for His blood. But I must make the choice DAILY to walk in the purity that He brings into my life.
So, if I am to walk in holiness today, I must be separated and act, talk, and walk differently than those who are not living for the Lord, walk in the brightness of God's light, and live in the purity of God's blood. That is indeed HOLINESS.
"Lord, I choose to walk in Holiness today. Too often holiness has been associated with what one wears, or the style of their hair. But you have reminded me today that holiness starts in the heart. May I show this day that I am separated, and live, talk, and walk differently than I used to. May I let Your light shine through and before me, and may I walk in purity. Because You Word says plainly that only the "pure in heart shall see God." In Jesus name, amen!"