2. CORINTHIANS 12:7-10.
PROBLEMS are PART OF LIFE. They are INESCAPABLE. No one is immune. We all have to learn to COPE with problems.
Since the fall there has not been ONE FAMILY-INDIVIDUAL that hasn’t had to learn to deal with problems. Problems are part of life.
Problems are very DEMOCRATIC. They come to all kinds of people-rich-poor-unemployed-employed-highly educated-illiterate.
Problems come in different forms-intensities–some are mild-extremely painful. Some are short term–others drag on for years.
Problems can arise in 4 areas.
1.PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS- personality clashes-difficulties in relating .
2.PHYSICAL PROBLEMS: physical disabilities-handicaps-back pain-migraine- a whole host of physical problems.
3.EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS: hurts from past experiences. feelings of inadequacy-low self esteem-inferiority-rejection. These kinds of problems can affect our self perception-ability to relate to others.
4.MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS; unhealthy attitudes-though patterns-depression etc.
We all have to deal with problems-of one kind or another. And we are not EXEMPT just because we are Christians. In fact some problems may increase-INTENSIFY-SPIRITUAL WARFARE-TEMPTATION.
In the Bible reading we meet a man of God who had a problem-his name was Paul. We don’t know what his problem was. Paul doesn’t spell out the details. Scholars suggest it might have been malaria-failing eyesight-epilepsy.
Although we don’t’ for sure what it was. It was very real for Paul. He regarded it as a handicap in his work for the Lord. It obviously wasn’t a minor problem. Paul in fact called it his “thorn in the flesh” which implies something very painful-festering sore- a messenger of Satan. This was no minor thing. Paul felt that Satan was using this problem to attack him-to interfere with spreading the Gospel. Satan was using this problem to TORMENT-BUFFET Paul. The word used here literally means to be struck a blow from a fist. In other words it caused Paul a great deal of pain-suffering.
How did Paul deal with this situation? What can we learn from the way Paul handled the situation.
- The first thing Paul did was “3 TIMES I PLEADED WITH THE LORD”. You might think that to pray is rather obvious. But there are many who use prayer as a LAST RESORT, rather than being the first course of action. So Paul prayed and asked God to remove the problem that was causing him so much DISTRESS-BOTHER.
So did God answer Paul’s prayer? YES. verse 9.
Although it was not the answer Paul was looking for-hoped for. It was nevertheless an answer. The answer to Paul’s request was NO.
God has 3 answers to prayer- “YES” “NO” “WAIT”.
The answer Paul received was NO. Yet it wasn’t “NO” in a totally negative sense–an uncaring way.
In effect God said, “I WLL NOT REMOVE YOU THORN IN THE FLESH BUT I WILL HELP YOU COPE WITH IT”. “ I WILL USE YOU PROBLEM,YOUR DIFFICULTY IN A POSITIVE WAY”.
“ I WILL DO SOMETHING EVEN BETTER THAN REMOVING THE PROBLEM. I WILL GIVE YOU MY GRACE –UNCEASING FAVOUR”. So when ever the “thorn in the flesh gets to you, I WILL GIVE YOU THE POWER-COMFORT OF MY GRACE. AND I PROMISE THAT IT WILL BE QUITE SUFFICIENT. IN FACT IT WILL BE MORE THAN SUFFICIENT TO HELP YOU COPE”.
Do you see what God is saying? In effect he is saying that the difficulties thorns in the- flesh that we experience in life can be learning experiences. If the problem is simply taken away we wouldn’t learn anything from that experience. You don’t grow by running away-avoiding difficult situations.. You only learn to grow-mature in your faith-relationship with God by learning how to cope, by learning to be an ‘OVERCOMER’ (letters to 7 the churches Jesus concludes with the words ‘to him who overcomes”.
The people who have most impressed me in life are those who have had some real difficulty-hardship-thorn in the flesh. And yet they have not allowed that difficulty-hardship to stop them living a fulfilling-meaningful life. They have not allowed their personal difficulties to stop them serving God. I find such people a real inspiration.
Quote: “DIFFICULTIES-HARDSHIPS-TRAGEDIES- EITHER MAKE US BITTER OR BETTER PEOPLE. And the choice is ours.
Paul certainly didn’t become bitter when God said “ NO”. In fact he said,
“I WILL BOAST ALL THE MORE GLADLY ABOUT WEAKNESSES SO THAT CHRIST’S POWER MAY REST ON ME. THAT IS WHY FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, I DELIGHT IN WEAKNESSES, IN INSULTS, IN HARDSHIPS, IN PERSECUTION, IN DIFFICUCLTIES. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG”.
Now that is a most interesting paradox. On the surface that statement doesn’t seem to make sense. It seems to be a contradiction. What Paul is really saying is that “God’s power works best through human weakness”. It is when we are at the end of resources, that God provides his resources”.
Paul explains this in another passage where he says,
“ I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME”.In other words his strength came not from himself but from Christ. It is when our strength fails that Christ provides his strength.
How do you cope with your problems? Where do you get strength from in times of weakness?
Let us learn from the Apostle Paul here. Remember in times of weakness-stress-difficulties, to turn to God and gratefully receive his grace-power-strength that can meet our every human need.
“Remember that HUMAN WEAKNESS and DIVINE GRACE GO HAND IN HAND. In fact human weakness is a pre-requisite for Divine grace.
The thing to remember is this. The important thing is not that we are strong. But that we have a strong-gracious God. And that we call upon and rely upon HIM.
Let us thank God that we don’t’ need to be over come by life’s problems-difficulties, but that by his grace and through the strength that He supplies, we can become “OVERCOMERS”.
Pastor Haydn Blaess