Halfway into 2021, and many parts of the globe are still in some form of lockdown. Our hearts continue to go out to the people in places where COVID is still rampant.
Sydney, after enjoying months of freedom, is now in modified lockdown because of a small ‘outbreak’ of the Delta variant. Other states in Australia have closed the borders against Sydneysiders. I feel deep disappointment that I’m prevented from visiting Perth in Western Australia to speak at a conference for universities and churches. Many families had to cancel their school holiday plans. The tourism and hospitality industry grinds to a halt … again.
Lockdowns, disasters, unemployment, accidents and sickness are unpleasant and uninvited. They may knock us down, but they don’t need to knock us out!
They can even be beneficial if we learn to respond like the Apostle Paul.
Paul was imprisoned several times. He also suffered from what he described as a thorn in the flesh.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Excerpts from Redefining Success according to Jesus, page 147, 148:
While Paul did not reveal the nature of his ‘thorn in the will flesh’, we can guess it was intense! Paul was no wimp. He had been flogged, stoned, shipwrecked and imprisoned.
The ‘thorn’ most likely caused considerable pain and anguish—spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. It might have been embarrassing, shameful or debilitating. It probably hindered his work for the Kingdom. Three times he pleaded with Jesus to remove the tormenting thorn, but Jesus refused!
How would we respond if we were Paul and Jesus did not remove our torturing thorn? Would we become disillusioned, bitter or rebellious?
We might be tempted to cajole, persuade or manipulate God. Some of today’s Christians might have exhorted Paul to use a different prayer formula or have more faith — or go to a celebrity preacher. Others might throw away their faith altogether.
Astoundingly, Paul accepted Jesus’ refusal and surrendered to Christ’s decision. Convinced that nothing could separate him from the love of God, Paul remained dependent upon Christ. He discovered that with the ‘No’, Jesus follows with a comforting, loving and resounding ‘Yes’ — ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’
When we suffer, Jesus suffers with us. To rescue us, Jesus left the glory and holiness of heaven and became human, just like us.
In weakness, surrender and trust, Paul experienced more profoundly the grace and power of Jesus. In depending on God, he became strong. He learned the paradox of ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’ so well that he extended it to other hardships. Instead of resenting or hiding his weaknesses, Paul delighted in them: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
While in prison, I imagine he had many down days, but he was not knocked out and he didn’t stay down long. Instead of succumbing to despair, Paul made the most by worshipping, praying, witnessing and writing letters. We are beneficiaries of his letters.
Dependent upon God as His child is true success according to Jesus. Let’s be strong, not in ourselves, but in Christ and in His community. Let’s receive His presence, grace and power and make the most of whatever circumstance we face by worshipping, praying, witnessing and blessing others.
Maybe, now is a good time to read Redefining Success according to Jesus or to bless someone else. You can get the full benefit of the book for half of the price. In Australia, our financial year ends on the 30th of June. And the year is half over, so we’re having a