January 19, 2014
Today’s Text of Encouragement:
“When thou wast weary with the length of the way thou didst not say ‘There is no hope,’ but there did come a quickening of thy strength; therefore thou didst not faint.”
Isaiah 57: 10
Today’s Study Text:
“But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked Him to take it away. But, His answer was: ‘My grace is all you need, for My power is greatest when you are weak.’”
II Corinthians 12: 7-9
The Good News Bible
“Thorns and God’s Sufficient Grace”
“There is a deep peace that grows out of illness and loneliness and a sense of failure. God cannot get close when everything is delightful. He seems to need these darker hours, these empty-hearted hours, to mean the most to people.”
Have I ever experienced a time in my life when I felt so alone that only God’s sufficient grace could carry me through my trial?
How does it make me feel to know that when I get to the end-of-my-strength, God is right there with me?
“In the storm the tree strikes deeper roots in the soil; in the hurricane the inhabitants of the house abide within, and rejoice in its shelter. So by suffering the Father would lead us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ.”
“The Lord’s appointments, to those who fear Him, are not only sovereign, but wise and gracious. He has connected their good with His own glory, and is engaged by promise, to make all things work together for their advantage. He chooses for His people better than they could choose for themselves – if they are in heaviness, there is a need-be for it, and He withholds nothing from them but what upon the whole it is better they should be without.”
I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. The reason I believe this is first found in II Timothy 3: 16, 17, (KJV) where the young champion for Christ, Timothy, writes: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man (and woman) of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
This precious truth, found in God’s Word would be enough for me, but there’s a second, even more personal reason I believe God’s Word, the Bible, is inspired. It is because over and over again, especially during the past five years as we have studied together, I’ve found the Bible to be such a treasure chest of encouragement, strength and knowledge, that this heavenly gift is the most cherished fortune I have. A perfect example of the thought I’m trying to reveal is found in the text we have studied this entire week, II Corinthians 12: 7-10.
Together, as we have dug deep to uncover God’s blessed message to each of our hearts in this encouraging and instructive passage, as I’ve read so many of your notes regarding the assurance of God’s presence on your personal “journey,” I’ve been renewed in my own walk, knowing that God’s inspired word was given to each of us to enable us to tackle, with heavenly faith, those tough times that sweep all of us off our feet.
The third reason I believe the Bible is inspired by God are the detailed revelations in the lives of many Bible writers – Moses, David, Isaiah, John and yes, the Apostle Paul, which give us heavenly insight into life, not only during good times, but also the bad.
It is this broad, deep view which we have received from II Corinthians 12: 7-10, where Paul opens up about a “thorn in his flesh,” which was “bestowed” upon him. There are some Biblical scholars who believe that at first, this handicap, whatever it was, certainly wasn’t appreciated by Paul. Frankly, his own words allude to this fact for Paul, himself, calls this “thorn” a torment. And then, Paul goes on to share the fact that three times be begged God to take this “thorn” away from him. One day, however, God answered Paul’s prayer, but not the way he thought or had asked that the prayer be answered.
Instead of telling Paul, “Yes, I’m going to take away this annoying ‘thorn’ and it won’t give you another moment’s concern,” God gave a different message to Paul and we find it in II Corinthians 12: 9: “But His answer was: “My grace is all you need, for My power is greatest when you are weak.” God told His chosen friend, “I’m not going to take away that thorn, but believe me, I’ll give you everything you need to bear it.” WOW! And just to get a clearer view of what God told Paul, I went to the Greek to see what the word “sufficient” means as translated in the King James Version of the Bible and it means: to raise a barrier, to ward off, to be content, to be enough, to suffice.”
The best way I can translate the meaning of sufficient, especially the phrase “to raise a barrier,” is to go back to a news interview Jim and I did a number of years ago about our car accident where the interviewer asked us, “Why did God let this happen to you?” This is a tough question because sometimes people miraculously escape terrible tragedy and other times innocent individuals are killed instantly without any warning.
In our case, neither of these options became the end result. But as Jim and I both believe, the hand of God placed a “barrier” around us. Jim had a fracture in his neck, yet he is not paralyzed. And I also sustained a fractured vertebrae in my back and a ruptured disc in my neck, but there’s no residual paralysis in my hands which would keep me from being able to “hand-write” the devotionals everyday. God’s grace, His barrier, surrounds us continually, making it possible for us to avail ourselves of His sufficient grace which carries us through each day right up to today!
This was exactly what Paul’s thorn taught him. And it is why he was able to call this torment, a gift, for through it he got a firsthand, close-up look at heaven’s immeasurable flow of grace. I love the way theologian C. S. Lewis explains this thought: “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
From the thorns in my own life, I’d like to offer a perspective I’ve gained which is eloquently explained by William Bridge who wrote, “So long as (we) have encouragement elsewhere, (we) do not encourage (ourselves) in the Lord (our) God. When God sees that His children fall in love more with the nurse than Himself, then He removes the nurse, and causes their peace to be suspended and interrupted.” To be completely honest with you, before our car accident, I had a lot of “nurses” that I relied on. Sad to say, my reliance on my Father’s total support was rather weak. I was a, “I can take care of myself,” type of girl. I was strong. Tough. And self-assured! I didn’t need anybody’s help, or so I thought.
But oh, what a different life I live now. And as my Father works within me, pouring through me heaven’s free gift of “sufficient grace” for each day, I find I’m still a work-in-progress. For as we are open each day to God’s work in our lives, His “sufficient grace” may call us to a place of service which you or I could never have imagined before our “thorn!” And we must never forget, wherever the will of God leads us, the grace of God will keep us.
As the Apostle Paul, in a humble, accepting spirit responded to his Father’s sufficient grace during the “thorny” times of his life, he left us with this tremendous message:
“Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
II Corinthians 12: 10,, K.J.V.
“I ask’d the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and ev’ry grace,
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust has answer’d pray’r:
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hop’d that in some favor’d hour,
At once He’d answer my request:
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in ev’ry part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seem’d
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Cross’d all the fair designs I schem’d,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low,
Lord, why is this, I trembling cry’d,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way,” the Lord reply’d,
I answer pray’r for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou mayst seek thy all in me.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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