2 Corinthians 12 – Thorn in My Side

Read 2 Corinthians 12

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Have you ever had someone our something that was in your life that continually harassed you and never left you alone?  It’s so incredibly annoying and frustrating and it seems to go on and on making life more and more miserable.  Paul talks about this here, someone who has perhaps been talking behind his back or saying that Paul is somehow “less” of an Apostle than others.  It is possible that this is the person who Paul called to be disciplined in 1 Corinthians.

In any case, Paul’s reaction to this can be a learning experience for us as well. Rather than wallowing in misery over what was surely a rough situation, Paul allowed God to speak through it, realizing that the Spirit was teaching Him not to become conceited.

Being humble is an important lesson to be certain.  I think, however, Christians take things like this too far.  We focus on being humble, even making idols out of it.  God teaches Paul something deeper about humility, though, that is important for us too: His power in the midst of it.

Boasting about our humility doesn’t make much sense; it is the very opposite of what it means to be humble.  However, in our weakness, God’s strength is shown in ways we probably never thought imaginable.  Really, this is the point of humility, not to show how humble we are, but rather how great God is.

This seems to have been Paul’s point all along.  While the church in Corinth is questioning him based on human strengths, Paul continues to point them not to himself or what he has endured, but to the power of God and the message of the Gospel.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I wonder what would happen if our churches, rather than boasting in the strength of their programming,looked to and relied on the power of Christ…

I wonder what would happen if our churches, rather than boasting in the number of people they have in their seats on Sunday, looked to and relied on the power of Christ…

I wonder what would happen if our churches, rather than catering to the vocal few that have the most money, looked to and relied on the power of Christ…



Acts 23 – Take Courage

Read Acts 23

Even though Paul knew that he was following what God willed for him, I can imagine that he was probably getting a little tired of being fought over and accused by the Jewish religious leaders.  It is interesting, though, that in these moments when Paul was at his weakest and most vulnerable, that God provides exactly what Paul needs.

Have you ever experienced this in your life?  You find yourself in the midst of a battle, something pressing in on you, and it is in that moment that something happens or someone shows up and offers you the very encouragement that you need to help you move forward.  God always provides what we need and protects us; when we are at our weakest, God is at His strongest.

We never quite know how God is going to work in our circumstances either.  Paul’s situation seems rather bleak even though God has assured Him that he would be going to Rome to testify.

Behind the scenes, there is a plot that is unfolding.  This group of people that is planning a trap so that they can kill Paul probably thought that they were doing the Lord’s work by ridding their religion of Paul and his “lies.”  Little do they know how much of the Lord’s work they are actually doing here.

I always love the little ironies that crop up in Scripture.  If it wasn’t for this plot, Paul would have never been moved out of Jerusalem and his trip to Roman likely wouldn’t have taken place.  Yet, once again, like the story of Joseph being sold into Egyptian slavery and then becoming an instrument of salvation, what humans meant for evil, God meant for good, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might continue to spread throughout the Roman empire.



Matthew 4 – It is Written…

Read Matthew 4

Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He would face temptation from satan himself.  40 days later, the temptations begin, a point when Jesus would have been at His weakest point physically.  When temptations come, so often they come when we are at our lowest, weakest points.  Have you ever had that?  Life seems to just pile things on and then we start to slip:

Old temptations that you haven’t struggled with in years begin to resurface…

New temptations present themselves for the first time…

The words we don’t want to use become much more palatable…

Our tone of voice with family, friends, and coworkers becomes a bit more harsh…

This is likely how Jesus felt as satan approached.  All of what He had experienced and now this… reading this we think that He couldn’t possibly take any more.

However, physical weakness doesn’t necessarily imply spiritual weakness; Jesus demonstrates that.  As satan brings the temptation, touching on several points that would have been close to Jesus.  Yet our Lord responds in kind, not with human logic or philosophical defense, but rather with the enduring Word of God.

Reading this reminds me of other Scripture passages like Psalm 119:11 and 119:105.  David, in many other places in the Psalms as well as many of the prophets talk at length about the need to have the Word of God inside of us, on our hearts.

So often, when we start out a Bible reading plan with the mindset that it is “something to get through” or “something to conquer,” as if it was like a weight loss plan.  Maybe that is the wrong approach.  John Ortberg once said, “Our goal should not be to get through the Scriptures.  Our goal should be to let the Scriptures get through us!”