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Spiritual Dangers And God's Grace

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, '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. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The dangers of spiritual pride are close to all of us. One compliment, one achievement, one dramatically answered prayer or personal revelation … and we become full of either praise or pride. Paul understood that. After some extraordinary revelation from God fourteen years previously, the apostle was attacked. We do not know if this was an illness or a very troublesome person, but his thorn in the flesh was profoundly tormenting. He recognised that God had allowed Satan to disturb his peace and sense of well-being, so that he would not become conceited.

This painful assault was continuous and drove Paul to prayer, pleading with the Lord to take the problem away and deal with the Tormenter. But the Lord did not. Even though the prayer was urgently repeated, the Lord answered with a clear, "No". His solution was not to remove the cause of the pain, but to promise His grace and sufficient power to carry on despite the incapacitating situation. Indeed, the Lord allowed Paul's discomfort so that He would demonstrate His own power through His servant's weakness.

Paul's response was to accept Satan's attack as a tool of God's surgical skill to cut out his pride, and to welcome the Lord's grace in his weakness. He put it even more strongly, saying that he delighted in those things which held him back because he would prove the power of God surging through his weakness. Paul's ambition was for Christ to be glorified, not him. He wanted the church and the world to see that the power of the gospel is not in the strength of the messenger, but on the Saviour. Paul modelled his life on the Lord Jesus who also accepted the insults and pain, knowing that God would use it to complete His greater plan (Isaiah 53:3-7). And he knew he must not grumble (1 Corinthians 10:10).

How do we react when life does not go our way? It is not wrong to ask the Lord to resolve the problem. But if, for a reason we cannot see, the Lord does not bring us ease, His grace is the only way forward. But promised grace must be grasped, the grace-giver must be trusted; and we will only do that if we agree with Jesus that His kingdom and His will matters most, and not ours. Many would like to be powerful in Christ's Name, but when He allows Satan's evil work to bring us to our knees – He knows what He is doing. His kingdom must have a greater glory than ours, and He grows our faith as we rely on His grace in the midst of suffering, displaying His heavenly power through earthly weakness (1 Peter 1:7). Through it all the Lord is not harsh, but compassionate; He has also suffered unjustly and knows what it is like (Hebrews 5:2). Simply trust and obey, and the Lord will work through Your weakness for His glory.

God of grace. Thank You for knowing the end from the beginning, and for working out all things according to the purpose of Your will. Forgive me for arrogance when things go well and grumbling in dark days. Please help me to grasp Your grace, trusting in Your compassion and wisdom which allows some pain for a while so that I will grow in faith and You will have greater glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams