Text: 2 Corinthians 12:6-10
Rev. Kelly R. Jackson
3 Thoughts to consider:
- Spiritual humility
- Consistent prayer life
- Favor in spite of your weakness
How often do we really equate humility with godliness? While it may seem to be the perfect match, many people struggle with understanding why God humbles us and how we are blessed because of it. Humility requires submission. It requires keeping a low profile at times. It requires us to lean on God and ignore what we think. This particular text speaks to God keeping us all in check, sometimes physically and always spiritually.
The Apostle Paul is discussing with us how we should handle ourselves when we’re facing situations that aren’t the best. Who do you turn to when you’re weak? Where do you look to when it seems as if the devil is attacking you? When you’re attempting to walk in the ways of The Lord, how do you deal with the fact that something always seems to be weighing you down, causing you pain or just making you feel like giving up? According to this text, you can find joy in the midst of your trials.
6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure
When we examine Verse 6, we see that at times our fleshly desire is to exalt ourselves, even above the God that we’ve prayed to for whatever blessings or gifts that we have. But such thinking is foolishness. We should resist this mindset, lest other people begin to follow us and do the same thing. Whether we’re preaching or teaching the Word of God, our desire should be that man sees all of God and none of us. We’re so flawed that it would be spiritual injustice for anyone to ever give us credit for what The Almighty has done.
This is also where we get into itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3-5), where people love man’s message rather than God’s. The Apostle Paul is writing about speaking the truth. This truth means that it is not a watered down version of the gospel. It is not a message that always feels good or does not include teaching about sin and man’s involvement in his own downfall. However, as you will see when you study those Verses in 2 Timothy, we often run from the truth of God’s Word, looking for a message that suits our fleshly desires.
It shouldn’t be a preacher or teacher’s desire to sting you with the Word, but if that happens, they shouldn’t pull back. The loyalty of the called is to God. This is where the man or woman of God can either rise or fall. He can choose to deliver a crowd-pleasing message that gains him the adoration of man, or he can choose a God-pleasing message that may offend some, but will garner him favor with God and possibly point someone toward salvation.
Looking at Verse 7, Paul’s thorn in his flesh could’ve been a physical or a mental “thorn”. Maybe he was tempted of the devil by some weakness he was attempting to overcome. Or maybe it was a physical ailment, possible a visible one, that caused him to be self-conscious. Though he was called of God, Paul was still in his flesh and he no doubt was superficial at times, just as we are.
A study of Paul does reveal that he had some visible physical ailments. Either way, this “thorn” was there lest he began being too arrogant. However, Paul knew that he needed to pray about his condition. An ailment that keeps us in prayer, whether it’s physical or mental, keeps us humble and keeps us in the knowledge that we need God. In all of His wisdom, God knows that some people suffer from spiritual arrogance and would never pray unless they had an issue or a need. And in the event that everything was okay in their lives, they would take credit for the peace He has given.
Consistent prayer life
8 For this thing I besought The Lord thrice, that it might depart from me 9 And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me
How often do you really pray? In the 8th Verse, Paul talks about going to God three times about his condition. It’s not as though God is unaware or hard of hearing, but we still must approach God concerning our needs. Again, this requires humility. It requires us to submit our requests to a higher power, one that can supply what we need.
Another key component to this prayer is our understanding that God may deny a prayer request to fulfill His divine purposes. Whatever you’re dealing with is actually in God’s plan for purposes you may not understand yet. This is where His grace comes in.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor. What does that mean? Well, we aren’t worthy of God’s favor. We’re saved by His grace, even though we don’t deserve it and can do nothing to earn it. It is by His grace that we’re able to endure the tests of life. We aren’t even worthy of going directly to God in prayer. However, we have Jesus as our great intercessor. Through Him, we receive God’s grace. Not because we are worthy, but because Jesus has made the sacrifice of His life.
Through God’s grace, we are strengthened. If we never had a weakness, how would we ever know how mighty our God is? This is why Paul says “I rather glory in my infirmities”. He understands that God will enable him to do great things, despite his conditions (this is the true application of Philippians 4:13). He understands that as he goes through, it is God that gets him through. Knowing that God is the wind beneath your wings enables you to soar to greater heights!
We should never assume that God only chooses the “perfect” man to do His perfect will. In fact, God has often chosen the imperfect so that we all can understand that we can be a part of Kingdom building. Verse 9 speaks to that grace of God. It is all we need, even in the midst of physical and mental imperfection. We can find joy inside our tears each time the devil attacks us. When we go to God in prayer, we shouldn’t be reminded of how big the problem is. We should be reminded of how big our God is.
Then Paul speaks about the power of Christ resting upon him. 1 Peter 4:14 says: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified”. Therefore, if we’re enduring difficult times in the name of Jesus, we ought to count it joy. You wouldn’t be under attack from the enemy unless the Spirit of God was within you. As Jesus said, Satan can’t cast out Satan (Matthew 12:25-28). So if you’re already under the devil’s control, there’s no need for him to attack you.
Favor in spite of your weakness
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong
Never place all of your focus on what makes you weak if you aren’t going to look to what makes you strong. Every bit of drama in our lives should point us right back to Christ. Research Romans 5:3-5 and you’ll find that trials bring about patience. Through trials you’ll be better able to deal with difficult situations and difficult people, all because the power of Christ is within you.
Going through tough times in life is difficult when you’re going through them for yourself because we can’t adequately strengthen ourselves. But when you’re going through them for Christ’s sake, you can take pleasure in them. Jesus laid down His life for you. He has already come to your rescue by redeeming you to the Father. Don’t think that He won’t come to your rescue again. Consider all that He went through for us and you’ll realize that what we go through for Him pales in comparison. The reward for what you do for Christ is the gift (because we can’t earn it) of eternal life.
The Christian should never have a “woe is me” attitude. This can be difficult to manage at times because we’re still in the flesh. This is why I encourage Bible study so much, rather than just church attendance. The Word of God is a guide when you’re lost and strength when you think you can’t go on. You need to lean on it daily and move away from your flesh (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It is God’s grace, His Word and the Holy Spirit that can keep us from losing our focus when it seems that a little situation here or there is getting out of hand. In tough times, you have to trust God more than you trust yourself. The Apostle Paul gives us a powerful lesson in both humility and strength. It’s a reminder that if we lean on God, no matter what the financial situation, physical situation, mental situation, spiritual situation or church situation may be, if we go to God in prayer concerning that “thorn”, even if He doesn’t remove it, He will be there to help us to bear it. And isn’t that all we need when the load gets too heavy?