Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
The apostle Paul was an unusual person, to say the least. He seems extremely intelligent. He apparently didn’t do anything halfway. He went from persecuting Christians very forcefully to being persecuted himself as a Christian. He had plenty that he could boast about, but rarely did so.
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul tells us that he had plenty of reason to think highly of himself, but that he endured suffering in such a way that it would keep him from becoming proud. He faced some sort of a weakness, which he called a “thorn in the flesh,” and which served as a reminder to him that we are weak and frail.
None of us likes suffering. Sometimes we are able to (sinfully) delight in the way we can complain about our suffering and gain sympathy from others. But given the choice, we want to feel well, be healthy, happy, well-fed, and in positive relationships with others. It’s decidedly a blessing when that happens.
What about when it doesn’t work out so very well? What do we do, how do we react, when we find we are frail, weak, and endure various trials. Over the years I have known many people who deal with chronic illnesses. I myself have a health issue which causes numerous side effects that are far from pleasant. The trials we endure can knock the wind out of our sails and draw us up very quickly. What’s going on? How should the Christian endure these trials?
First, as with the apostle Paul, we realize that our trials will help us avoid being proud. They show us that we are not the masters of our destiny. They show us that we are fragile. They show us that all our plans, our hopes, our dreams are subject to the sovereign and gracious will of our Lord. By his grace he will accomplish through us what he desires. We don’t need to worry about it too much. Our Lord can take care of it.
Second, as the Lord told Paul, his grace is sufficient. When we act in our weakness we find that God is the one who is strong. When we have no wisdom for our challenges we find that God’s wisdom is sufficient. When we are out of love, care, patience, and kindness we find that our Lord’s resources are abundant. When we fear for our health or even our life, we realize that Jesus is the one who has triumphed over death itself. When we endure suffering God shows us that his grace can carry us through, from beginning to end.
Most of us don’t have nearly the reasons for pride that the apostle Paul did. But we all have just as much reason to see that God’s grace is sufficient. We will never find it lacking.
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