I have just finished my morning walk, one of the great blessings of not having to be in the office early! On that walk I had the privilege of listening to a great sermon, appreciating a beautiful nature trail, and feeling the coolest air of what is going to be a very hot day! Of course, I also get to sweat, feel aching joints, and think about the donuts I can never eat again for breakfast, if I am going to get fit.
Consider this: many of us spend much of our lives trying to make ourselves stronger. We go to the gym and run, peddle, lift, and sweat - all in an effort to strengthen and tone our bodies. There is nothing wrong with that, so long as our motive is to strengthen the outer man to make us more able to serve our Lord. We strive to strengthen our minds through education. Seeking education is a noble endeavor, but remember: the Bible teaches us that knowledge for knowledge’s sake puffs us up. Our motive in all that we do needs to be to strengthen ourselves so that we can better glorify God. In truth, though much of our effort goes into trying to make ourselves strong, God at times chooses to make us weak that He might ultimately make us strong in Him. In II Corinthians 12:9, we see one of those instances in the life of Paul.
II Corinthians 12:9 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.
We are familiar with the fact that Paul had an incredible experience of seeing great truths in a vision, or perhaps in reality, he could not tell. Our reaction to that would have been to think that he was now more suited for ministry than ever before. He had a story to tell, and it was well worth hearing! However, the Lord’s response was that Paul’s great experience needed to be tempered with humility that came through hurting. It is hard for us to get our minds around that concept. Sometimes God allows hurt in our lives to help us live for Him and serve Him. Paul’s reaction at first was exactly what ours would be: “Lord, please take this away!” God did not take the thorn away, but He did supply sufficient grace. Have you ever asked yourself, “What is sufficient grace?” It is hard to be definitive, but we might suggest:
It is the strength to go on when your physical strength is depleted
It is the ability to have hope when it seems there is no reason to have hope
It is the ability to love when you are rejected
It is the ability to serve when in truth you need to be served
It is the ability in the midst of the pain to acknowledge that God has been good in allowing it
Paul came to the place where not only did he stop asking for the thorn to be removed, he embraced the thorn. He realized that the thorn, which he thought was once a source of weakness, was actually a source of strength. The thorn had driven him to new heights of dependence on the Lord. In that new dependency, he found greater strength than he could have ever developed by himself.
Continue to strengthen your body and your mind but also be willing to embrace the thorns God allows along the way. At first they may appear to weaken, but ultimately they can make us strong in Him.