Grace Wins Over Suffering

This past Sunday we talked about God’s grace and, more specifically, the privilege of God’s grace. This coming Sunday we will continue to think about God’s grace in bringing us new life and abundant life. But, for now, I want to remind you that it is also God’s grace which enables us to weather the storms of adversity and to move on to brighter days and calmer seas. Yes, dear Christian, we will all face dark days. You can count on it! It is also true, as author Jerry Bridges has said, “Our worst days are never so bad that we are beyond the reach of God’s grace.”

Paul found this to be true for himself when a thorn in the flesh, which he called a messenger of Satan, afflicted him. By the way, it makes sense that Satan would want to get at Paul. He knew about Paul and his great ministry. In fact, you could say that Paul was a thorn in the flesh to the Devil. We know that in the book of Acts when certain people tried to cast out demons, the spirits answered and said, “Jesus we know and Paul we know, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). So Paul was famous among the demons. Therefore, Satan afflicted him with a thorn. Moreover, God allowed it. It was as though God said, “Thank you, Satan. You have played right into my hands. I’m going to use this to better him.” Personally, I think if God could not use the Devil to accomplish His higher purposes, He would destroy him.

So Paul had a thorn (2 Corinthians 12:7). This word for thorn was the one used for a wooden stake that attached one to a cross. That hurts. That is about as helpless as one could be—I would imagine. Even so, he prayed about it three times, but nothing happened. (Incidentally, if I would want someone to pray for me, it would be Paul). Yet he could not get this prayer of his answered as he desired. Finally, the answer he received was, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What can we learn from this? God does not always help us out of our problems, but He helps us from within our problems. Even though we may not like it, God uses adversity to accomplish His purposes in our lives. Keep in mind His primary purpose is to make us into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). God’s concern is more about your character than your comfort. Thus, discomfort is allowed, at times, while the inner character is being made new. God’s focus is on the inside, not the outside. He is working to use outer conditions to change our inner character. So when bad things happen, our question should not be “Why is this happening to me?” But rather, “What is God up to inside of me as a result of what is happening outside of me?”
The important principle is that God allowed it so that He could fulfill a higher purpose. This teaches us that there is a rationality for adversity—there is a reason why God allows adversity. We may not understand it fully, but we can rest assured that it has something to do with God’s character building in our lives.

The answer Paul received for his dilemma was that of grace. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12: 9). We may receive a similar answer and find the victory over adversity comes through grace.

Paul concludes, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Boast” means “to shout”. Paul is saying, “I will give a shout of victory in my distress because God’s purpose is being accomplished in me and God’s power is resting upon on me.” This is all because of grace. Always remember this: Grace wins over suffering!

Devotedly yours,
Pastor Ron

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