Let’s face it. Life can be very rough at times.Ê
It is only natural to ask good questions like:
How do I face these dark hours of life?
How do I face my own death?
Paul, the last member of my cabinet, gives us the answer to the first of these questions when he said, “God’s grace is sufficient, for my power is
made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9). To that you may reply, This is too easy an answer. Is it? Let’s see.
Kenneth Chafon, one of America’s great preachers, writes, “God doesn’t build a wall around us to isolate us from the risk of harm, but He does surround us with grace which enables us to transform anything that happens to us.” Paul would have said Amen to that statement for he had a “thorn in the flesh.” He had given a lot of thought as to why he had
this thorn. He concluded God was using it to keep him from being too elated. After all, Paul had experienced some marvelous times with the
Lord. No one had talked to the Lord as Paul did at the time of his conversion. God was directing him in a very specific way. There was a real temptation for Paul to become proud. This thorn would remind him that he was still a human being suffering as did the rest of humankind.
Paul also knew this thorn in the flesh had come not from God, but from Satan to bother him in his work. Satan was tormenting Paul and trying to
create doubt about the healing power of God. With all of these thoughts running around in his head, Paul asked the Lord to remove this affliction.
But the answer was, “No, Paul, my grace will be sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I wonder if he didn’t swallow hard receiving God’s answer. However, time and grace gave Paul the power to say, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
From that day to this, Paul has been teaching Christians that the hard knocks of life are too heavy for us to bear, but God’s grace is sufficient.
He will strengthen the believer and see us through whatever comes our way. Paul had seen God make good on this promise, and his witness was a great demonstration of God’s power in people’s lives.
Let’s see if we can make real this text by first showing how we live with our thorns.
My wife and I were eating in one of our favorite restaurants. The atmosphere was relaxing, the food was good, and our waitress that evening was especially charming. She had a great personality. I assumed she was a student working her way through college. I finally
began to ask her a few questions. In our discussion I learned she had recently graduated from college and would be taking a job in the mall. But right now she just wanted a less responsible job and was relaxing for a few months. The waitress also told us she had moved into a house and was having fun fixing it up just the way she wanted it to be. Soon she
told us that her boyfriend had moved in with her, and that made it extra nice.
In our visit, I learned she attended church regularly. She had been in a confirmation class, and memorized many Bible passages and parts of Luther’s catechism. This led to my pointed question, “Doesn’t it bother you to live with a person and not be married?” She replied, “No more than to break any of the other commandments.” It was as if her answer
had been rehearsed. She used the logic, Break one and you break them all. I had touched a soft spot and she reacted negatively.
Since she still wanted to talk about this subject, I told her that one sin did not justify another, and through all of this she could be hurt. This
young man with whom she was living had no commitment to her. He could walk out anytime he chose to do so. Typical of many, the young
lady replied, “No, not this fellow. He is genuine.”
As I was paying our bill, and because of her openness, I left her an extra tip. She still continued the discussion. “You know,” she said, “life is different today than when you were my age. About 60% of my friends live together before they are married. This behavior is accepted. My mom would not have done what I am doing, but my father was ‘naughty’
when he was young.” With that closing remark, she went on to the next customer after thanking me for talking with her.
Driving home, my wife and I concluded this woman is not very happy with her behavior. She knows it is wrong. Peers can tell her it is
permissible, but her training in God’s Word says such behavior is sin. However, she feels trapped. She has those sexual drives that are being
satisfied. There is security in having a man around. How did I get into this mess, and how do I get out of it? are bothering questions. She has a thorn in the flesh.
The Bible would counsel her to leave it with God. Accept His offer when He says, You don’t have the strength to break off the relationship, but I
will empower you to tell the young man that we either get married or he moves out.
Before we leave this illustration, I want to say that cohabiting is not just a sin of young people. Older people are also guilty, and then they justify
their behavior by saying they are lonesome, need a partner, and marriage will mess up their pension plan. Let me ask. Do you live contrary to
God’s Word just to enjoy a few extra dollars? Do grandparents teach their grandchildren by their example?
God’s grace is sufficient to deal with our thorns in the flesh. It also comforts us in facing our own death. Listen to these words, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Let’s talk about our own death.
We know that, through faith in Christ, God has promised us a heavenly home. However, leaving loved ones behind is difficult. A mother who
was dying and leaving young daughters behind told me, “I don’t want to die. I know that I can raise those two girls better than anyone else in the world. They are mine.” She was right! When our children are raised, we grandparents enjoy the grandchildren. My wife and I are spending the
winter in Iowa with snow a foot deep and temperatures below zero to watch our grandson play basketball on the high school team. We don’t want to die. A friend of mine who is 80, has suffered a stroke and doesn’t want to die. He preaches each Sunday in a small church and is
excited about the challenge. Most of us hang onto life as long as we can. It’s the natural thing to do.
Christians know we are going to heaven, but for some there is a bit of nervousness in going. There are so many unanswered questions about
life on the other side. Will we know each other? What will it be like to live in a perfect state? The list of questions is endless. One 90- year-
old woman says, “I’ll be all right once I get going to heaven. It’s just waiting around that makes me a little edgy. It’s kind of like going on a
long trip. It’s hard to sleep the night before you leave.” God has promised us everlasting life. It’s a free gift by grace through faith in
Christ Jesus. This is our peace. We do not depend on good deeds to earn our salvation. Listen again, “For by grace you have been saved
through faith — and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast.
Eight weeks ago we started this series of sermons. We have been building a Spiritual Cabinet, a Board of Directors to help us with our daily walk. Here are the names of my cabinet and what they tell me many times each day:
Abraham – Trust Him
Samuel – Listen to Him
Joseph – Forgive
Job – Be Patient
Moses – The Authority
Rahab – Availability
Mary and Martha – Differences
Paul – Grace
Who is on your list?Ê
Listen to your directors.ÊThey are God’s servants giving you spiritual help.Ê