II CORINTHIANS 12:7-10: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Why do some struggles persist? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it seemed like your prayers were not being answered and the situation at hand was not changing? Perhaps our disappointment with this is misplaced. Perhaps we are looking at it all wrong? Perhaps God has a greater purpose in allowing the struggle to persist.
Paul gives his personal testimony of struggle in verses 7-10 of II Corinthians chapter 12. His opening statement is really the assessment he learned from this ongoing struggle.
- “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”
I am sure that when Paul began experiencing this ongoing attack of the enemy he did not know why it was happening. As any believer would do, Paul began to pray for victory over this struggle. Paul prayed…it did not come. Paul prayed again…it still evaded him. Paul prayed a third time…and then something happened.
Paul had an encounter with God and with His all-sufficient grace!
I am sure when Paul was praying he was looking for a direct answer. No doubt he was asking the Lord to remove this struggle from his life. When it persisted, Paul persisted. Yet, Paul had learned to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. When Paul paused after praying the third time, God spoke to him.
- “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
It was not the answer Paul was looking for. It was not the answer to his specific prayer. Yet, it was the answer that Paul needed in order to walk in the plan and purposes of God. Paul asked for a breakthrough and he received God’s grace. It was grace to endure, grace to learn, and grace to remain humble and teachable before the Spirit of God!
As Paul drew upon the all-sufficient grace of God in his life he discovered one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian faith. We are not strong when we are leaping from one victory to the next. Our true strength comes when we find ourselves without strength and fully reliant upon the grace of God. It is at that moment that we discover the power of God to live victoriously regardless of the circumstance.
Our victory is not in the outcome but in our relationship with Jesus Christ!
No one really knows what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. One can speculate but I think this is a pointless journey without a destination. The key was not in what it was. The key was the purpose that God had allowed it to persist in Paul’s life.
- To keep Paul humble and free from pride.
- To keep Paul in a place of submission to the will of God.
- To keep Paul filled with God’s grace.
- To keep Paul praying.
- To keep Paul’s heart open to receive continued revelation.
When you think about the upside of Paul’s struggle listed above, is it any wonder why Paul would then say,
- “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I will never forget a message I heard from Katherine Kuhlman on the cost of the anointing. She said – “It will cost you much. And, if you really want to know it will cost you everything!” She was referring to her willingness to lay down everything at the altar so that she could walk in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. I believe this is what Paul was saying also. Unless we come to the end of ourselves, unless we are in the place where we desperately need the grace of God, we are not positioned to receive the anointing and power of God.
Today I wonder – am I willing to boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me? Do I really count it all joy when I experience various trials and temptations – or do I find myself disappointed and wondering why the victory has not come? Have I paused long enough to hear God’s voice? I think when we have prayed about a thing over and over again, and nothing changes, it is time to stop talking and start listening.
It could mean the difference between walking in grace or failing the only grace that can truly sustain us.
Lord, forgive me for the many times I have grumbled over my present struggles. Help me to be still and know that Your grace is sufficient and that Your power is made perfect through my weakness. May I see the moment of my weakness as a great opportunity to receive Your grace and to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit!
When the struggle persists – let it always lead me closer to You!
In Jesus’ Name!