Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When God Doesn't Cooperate

You may want that thorn to go away but it may be something that God wants to use.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."

So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  10  That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Apostle Paul has been wrestling with God about an unknown physical problem that was making his ministry difficult to do. He prayed for this difficulty to be removed so that he could do God's work with greater ease, what could be more noble than asking God to get something painful out of the way so that you could do more work for him?

One of the most used men of the Bible, wrote most of the New Testament, traveled great distances, saw Jesus in a vision, healed others, this guy was a big deal by human standards yet he couldn't heal himself. You would probably be tempted to tell God about all of the wonderful work that you have done for him and how much more useful you could be without this thorn, but we can't call in favors with God, with all of the good things that Paul did for the kingdom, he still didn't get the results that he wanted.
"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."
Instead of a cure Paul received a message from God, he was told that the thorn wasn't going away, instead of a healing Paul would have to rely on God's grace and power. God tells us that his unmerited favor and love and his power is more than enough to keep us going. At least Paul got an answer to his prayers many people have prayed for relief for many years without hearing from God, his lack of cooperation may make you wonder if he knows about you or you may wonder if he even exist, it is nice to hear from God but we know from the Bible that many people have waited on God for a long time.

Go to God to find grace

Hebrews 4:15-16  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin.  16  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Our Savior experienced what it is to be human, he experienced pain to the extreme, he knows what our weaknesses can do to us emotionally. Our High Priest invites us to come to God without any shame and experience God's mercy and grace.

We don't always know what is best for us and we don't always need to get what we ask God for. You have permission to ask but remember that God has permission to say no. We are to go boldly to our Savior with our request but we better not expect to always get what we want.
"So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power
of Christ can work through me."
We like to see God's power in our lives but we like for it to be manifest in our strengths. We like to see Christians at the top of their game giving glory to God while they are in the spotlight but sometimes God chooses to get glory in our weakness instead of in our talents and skills. We don't get to decide, it was God's decision to use Paul's weakness so that God would be glorified, and it was Paul's decision whether he would be at peace and let God work any way that he chose to use him.
2 Thessalonians 3:16  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.
Paul may have missed some ministry opportunities or some church meetings and it probably didn't make any sense to him why God would allow a hindrance to the work that he was called to do but he knew that God was in control and that he can be trusted in every situation.

The most impressive Christians that you know are probably the ones that kept on going through difficult times. When your weakness and pain get in the way of doing more for God and Satan tries to tell you that you are not useful for the kingdom, remember that God is working through you. If you can be at peace with God and allow him to be glorified in your weakness then you are being used for his purpose.

Inspired by an Andy Stanley podcast:  When God, Part Two - When God Is Uncooperative