2 Corinthians 12:6-7 “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. 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.”
So often we come to God and ask, “Why?”
And just as frequent, we feel Heaven is shut up to us – there is no answer.
The apostle Paul allows us to follow him through in the thought process of a trial that he had that many of us can relate to – affliction.
That affliction may come in many forms. Paul describes his past trials this way:
2 Corinthians 11:23-28 “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
Not many of us can say that of our life today.
I do not mean to belittle anyone’s affliction. In comparison to the agony, our Savior went through, though, we suffer little. My point is this: Paul saw that He was being used of God and he suffered for it. In his line of thing; remove the suffering, and I could do even more for God.
Seems logical, does it not?
But, not in God’s economy. You see, we often fall to a myopic view of life. What we can see, what we can touch, and with whom we can relate. But in the larger picture, seeing through the lens that God sees, we begin to take on a whole new perspective.
I cannot even begin to scratch the surface of Paul’s mindset when he had come to this place in his life. But we can relate to the truth that he gives us as we reason along those same lines.
Paul was afflicted. We are afflicted.
1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Paul had written these same at the church of Corinth to say that their trials and tribulations are going to happen; not just to them, but, to all of us.
We, in our flesh, will, at some point in time, want to make our way more comfortable, lighter, or to lessen the burden somehow. We fall in and out of favor with man. We succeed, and we fail. We gain, and we lose. We call it the ebb and flow of life.
But what of those whose favor is seemingly always negative? Why?
And those who feel trials are as waves so that we weather the first only to have the second wash us out. Wave after wave comes into our , and we ask God – Why?
When you dig a little deeper, you find that the apostle Paul was very secure in who he was in Christ.
He had studied since he was a child. He may have been a favorite of the teacher Gamaliel. He may have risen to a place of prominence in the leadership of the Pharisees. Yet, in all his education, he had never met a man such as Jesus. He heard of his teachings; listened to the other apostles preach and do miracles.
Now, having met this Christ as personal Savior, his relationship deepened as well. God had unique plans for Paul.
Acts 9:15-16 “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
As God showed Paul those things he must suffer, Paul had to figure it out. The process by which you and I reason in our minds of the grace and mercy we’ve been shown; the gifts and talents we’ve been given, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and our commission to carry out; can all come together when we seek wisdom and understanding.
Wisdom is the ability to see things as God sees them. Understanding is the ability to take that knowledge and do as God would want.
Paul saw the trials and tribulations as little as a nuisance, and as big as blockades to accomplishing what God had for him to do.
We see God’s work hindered by finances, and we think ‘If we could only win the lottery – we could fund God’s work more easily.’
We see our lack of time for the things of God and think, “If I quit my job, I could devote more time to the ministry and accomplish more for God’. We leave off the reasoning of other responsibilities like marriage, family, and the rest of life.
Our worldly ‘fixes’ to the problems we face divert us from seeing as God would have us see. Stepping back and allowing God to show us how to handle each of our trials would be far more prudent and wise than much of the zealous work done thinking we can do more “FOR” God when His intention all along was for us to do it “WITH” Him.
Proverbs lay bare our genuine need.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Paul saw his infirmities, this messenger of Satan, as a hindrance to what he was doing for God. God used it to show Paul his need and utter dependence upon God, and His power was vital for his continuance in the ministry.
I am beginning to find that the more I am allowed by God to do for Him, the more I need to spend time with Him; seeking His direction, His mind, and His words. If we ever come to the place where we think ourselves to be more than what we really are, we will be so quickly disqualified from growing any further and quite possibly washing out of the ministry altogether.
We are but a clay pot that God breathed life into. We have been fashioned by His hands to be made as He desired. When I want to get off of the potter’s wheel when He is still making me, I am in danger of being put into the fire untempered.
Anyone who has ever worked with clay knows, that if there are impurities and imperfections in the clay when it goes through the fire, it can break, or quite literally explode. For that clay to ever be usable again, it must be ground to powder and start all over.
So, then the question of ‘Why’ comes when we try and fail, or we try and come up against opposition and oppression that pushes us back, knocks us down and sometimes is allowed to hurt us and wound us.
We say we serve because we love God. When we are hurt or knocked down, we feel as if our love is rejected. But that could not be further from the truth. Most of the love you and I know is self-serving.
We do not know the type of love God has for us or the love He desires us to have for Him.
Agape or unconditional love goes beyond much of what we experience on a day to day basis. You and I cannot possess that type of love. It is God that loves ‘through’ us. The whole process we go through is to get us ready for that love to flow freely, unhindered by our emotions, desires, and understanding.
God told Paul:
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 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.”
Paul realized that in his state of utter weakness, the power of Christ was most evident in him. It is not in our nature to desire weakness. It is not in our minds to be utterly and totally humble. It must be a choice of our will that desires, above all, that God be glorified in our life.
Grace is not something I possess. It is something I seek to flow through me to others.
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Notice it says, “find grace.” That is the whole reason to approach the throne in the first place.
Notice also it says, “to help.” It does not say FOR help. For help would imply it was for selfish reasons. To help means that it is to be delivered; given freely to someone other than myself.
That hidden “Why” can only be found when we are devoid of any selfish motives and seeking His wisdom and understanding for His glory.
Even then, it just might be that God wants us to be humble and obedient without knowing the reason why.