Perry Duggar |
God used suffering in Paul's life and He does in ours as well.
Sufficiency in Christ - Message 9
November 14, 2021
I. Introduction: We continue our survey of 2 Corinthians, Sufficiency in Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 11:16-33; Acts 9:15-16
A. The title to today’s message is, Suffering.
- Theme: 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NLT)…For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- I think many of us wonder sometimes, “If God loves us, and is all-powerful, why do we endure disappointment, heartache, pain and suffering?”
- We wonder whether God is punishing us for something we have done or failed to do.
- Certainly, no one served God with greater effort or more sacrifice than Paul, yet he encountered many problems and endured many trials.
- In today’s passage, 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10, Paul continued to defend his authority as the apostle over the Corinthian church, against criticisms and false accusations.
- He was reluctant to defend himself; it was distasteful, even embarrassing, to him.
- Paul could have argued his accomplishments—personally called by Jesus; planted at least 20 churches and wrote thirteen books of the N.T. (14 including Hebrews)— instead, he presented the suffering he had endured serving Jesus as his qualification.
- 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 (NLT)—23Are they [false teachers] servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served Him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 28Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. [When led away from truth into sin by false teaching.]
- With all of Paul’s accomplishments for God, planting churches and writing scripture, he certainly pleased God with his life, yet he suffered greatly, painfully, and not rarely.
- Perhaps the deepest pain Paul suffered was being rejected by the Corinthians he loved, evangelized, cared for, ministered to, taught, and nurtured their faith. [Apply to you?]
- So let’s explore the subject of suffering, to discover whether there is purpose in our pain.
II. Suffering… (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)
A. #1 - Doesn’t deny faith. (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; C/R; John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 2:19-21; 4:12-13)
- The Greeks thought people who represented the gods would experience mystical visions, so Paul related the most amazing of his many visions. (6 recorded in Acts.)
- 2 Corinthians 12:1 (NLT)—This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord.
- Paul was reluctant to tell about his vision; he knew it wouldn’t benefit the church, because it couldn’t be proven and wouldn’t be repeated, but still, he persisted.
- 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (NLT)—2I was caught up to the third heaven [highest heaven, where God dwells] fourteen years ago. [AD 41-43] Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows.[Unsure whether in physical body or merely spiritual or mental experience] 3Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4that I was caught up [prophetic language referring to Holy Spirit taking over] to paradise [highest heaven] and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
- Paul gave no detailed description of what he saw or heard in heaven; only said he did not have words or permission to repeat what he heard. (God has secrets; Dt.29:29)
- Paul had wonderful, supernatural, experiences with the Lord, but also suffered greatly.
- Disappointment, pain, and suffering don’t deny or refute our faith; in fact, persevering through the pain with Christ’s help actually PROVES the reality of our faith!
- Some people believe and teach that Christians do not suffer unless there is some unconfessed sin, or a lack of faith, in their lives—but that is not biblical teaching.
- God does discipline believers for sin (Heb.12:5-11), but all suffering is not due to sin.
- Bad things happen to all people because we live in a fallen world corrupted by sin.
- APP.: Are you enduring pain? Do you know your ability to endure proves your faith?
B. #2 - Displays my spiritual condition. (2 Corinthians 12:5-7; C/R: Romans 5:3-4; 12:3; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7)
- Trouble is the truest test of a person’s spiritual character or maturity. (1Pet.1:6-7)
- 2 Corinthians 12:5-7 (NLT)—5That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. [personal characteristics] 6If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. [about the vision] But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. [Didn’t want others to view him as special because of what God had done for him.] So to keep me from becoming proud [of God’s special treatment], I was given a thorn [skŏlŏps, sharp stake used for torturing or impaling] in my flesh, a messenger [Gk. aggĕlŏs, angel] from Satan [Gk. Satanas, Satan, accuser, devil] to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
- There is much debate about the meaning of the thorn in the flesh!
- Most commentators assume it was a physical ailment, such as an eye or speech problem.
- Galatians 4:15 says, you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me.
- At Galatians 6:11, Paul referred to writing in large letters with his own hand.
- He did not describe the thorn (perhaps the Corinthians knew what it was); he implied it was given by God, but came from Satan, to prevent him from the sin of pride or conceit.
- Was Paul literally saying God allowed Satan to torment him or that the suffering was so unpleasant that it was satanic? [Satan tormented Job (ch.s1-2) and Peter (Lk.22:31-34).]
- Is this messenger from Satan a reference to a demon who harassed or an evil human opponent in Corinth who caused Paul pain and hindered his work for God?
- One possibility is that the thorn was a demonic messenger sent to torment him by using the false teachers to deceive or seduce the Corinthians into rebelling against Paul.
- God’s goal in sending or allowing the thorn was to help Paul, who had received many wonderful revelations from God, remain humble. (Remain clear whose power at work!)
- Pride may be the worst of sins, and the starting point for all other sins, because it is turning away from God and turning toward self as the power, the authority, over life.
- Paul’s intense suffering kept him humble but also revealed his trust, reliance, dependence, on God—not himself—which established his credibility for all to see.
- APP.: What does your response to suffering reveal about your faith?
- Where do you turn when you suffer? Toward God or away? (ILL. Graham)
- Suffering reveals our spiritual condition, our maturity, but if we persevere, trusting God, our faith will be strengthened for even greater service. (Rom.5:3-4; Jas.1:2-4)
C. #3 - Draws believers to Christ. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10; C/R: Isaiah 43:2; Philippians 4:6-7,13; 1 Peter 5:10; Romans 8:18,28)
- 2 Corinthians 12:8-9a (NLT)—8Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9aEach time He said, “My grace [Gk. charis] is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” [God answered, but differently than Paul asked.]
- Paul sought God for relief from his suffering! He knew God could heal; he asked Him—three times!
- God granted Paul relief, not by removing his pain, but by giving him the grace he needed to endure it!
- God wanted Paul to remain weak, in pain, so he would rely on God’s power!
- Grace is God’s undeserved power that transforms the lives of believers who are in continual contact with Him. (5 minutes of prayer each morning changes each of us!)
- I wonder whether we sometimes give up too quickly on God’s powerful grace?
- Do we grow frustrated with God and seek quicker, more readily-available, solutions to our problems and pain such as distractions, diversions, even counseling and medication?
- I am decidedly NOT anti-counseling or medication, but have we spent sufficient time with God for Him to work or do we take a short-cut for relief and give upon God?
- God wanted to demonstrate His power in and through Paul’s life, but to do it, Paul had to endure on-going pain.
- 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10 (NLT)— 9b So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10That’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.
- My weakness provides the opportunity for God to show His power.
- Are we willing to suffer so people can see the power of God working in our lives?
- APP.: Will you embrace the trials God sends or allows because that suffering reveals your spiritual condition, strengthens your faith, humbles you so you draw closer to God in continual intimacy and allows Him to display His grace and power in your life?
- APP.: Are any of you suffering?
- Benediction: Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)—When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
[because God will never leave or forsake you; Heb.11:5]