Have you ever been told “no” when you really needed a “yes”? Were you ever in desperate circumstances when your world was falling apart? You needed relief and were down to your last option? You were pleading, but no amount of pleading made a difference? Paul found himself in such a situation (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
We can learn from Paul’s example and be strengthened. Life can be hard for a child of God. We don’t always get what we want. Christians are not promised a carefree existence. Any hardship, trial, or trouble we face comes with this promise: God’s grace is enough.
The Apostle Paul Had Troubles
Paul had a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). It gave him physical pain and suffering. The level of agony was enough that the Holy Spirit guided him to use it as a lesson in the sacred text. It was an attack of Satan. The evil one sought to destroy or at least hinder Paul by the thorn in the flesh. The Lord allowed it to help keep Paul humble.
Paul faced many other troubles (2 Cor. 11:23-28). He experienced persecution; attacks against body and character because of his labor in the Lord (2 Cor. 11:23-25). He encountered hazards in his travels (2 Cor. 11:25, 26). False brethren opposed his preaching (2 Cor. 11:26). Physical deprivation was not uncommon: sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness (2 Cor. 11:27). As he worked with many different Christians, he was emotionally burdened with concern, worry, and anxiety over their spiritual well being (2 Cor. 11:28).
Job is another example of a man who faced incredible misery. He lost his possessions, children, and health (Job 1:13-2:8). Again, this was the result of a Satanic attack on the man (Job 1:6-12).
Christians face troubles and trials. Maybe they do not rank up there with the breadth and intensity of Paul or Job, but they are trials nonetheless. We have physical problems (heart, back, knees, stomach, eyes, etc.). Financial concerns are all too common (job loss, retirement loss, business downturn, increased bills). Our emotions are rocked by trouble at work, with the family, or in a congregation.
Contrary to what some popular televangelists portray in their preaching, Christians are not exempt from difficulties. Some of our problems may be time & chance (Ecc. 9:11, 12). Others are an assault by the devil. All of them ought to teach us a lesson.
Paul Prayed For Relief
When Paul was going through such a difficult, painful experience with his thorn in the flesh, he turned to God in prayer (2 Cor. 12:8). Prayer is the first and sometimes only recourse. The Bible directs us to pray when suffering (Jas. 5:13). It commands us to turn to God for help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). How often, though, do we neglect this?
Paul was persistent in his prayer; approaching God three times. This is a repeated principle in the word. Jesus told of a widow who persistently asked for justice from a king that was indifferent to her plight (Lk. 18:1-8). He ruled in her favor just to get rid of her. The lesson the Lord draws is that God loves us, willingly hears our petitions, and will respond in our best interests. Thus, do not lose heart.
Though Paul was a great man and repeated his prayer for relief three times, he was told no. Why? Because God gives what is good (Lk. 11:13). That might mean no. It might mean yes. God may answer with a “not now” or “in another way” than we expect and ask. Still, He does what is best for our souls.
Remember, Jesus prayed three times and was told no (Matt. 26:37-44). His sacrifice on the cross was to fulfill God’s will; the salvation of man. If Jesus was told no, is it any wonder we are?
Paul Found Strength In Weakness
Rather than continued suffering being a sign of defeat, Paul said it was where he found strength (2 Cor. 12:9, 10). The grace of the Lord sustained him and will sustain us.
God’s grace is sufficient support under any burden (Phil. 4:13). This is true for things some of us fear most like a loss of hearing, eyesight, or mobility. God’s grace will strengthen us when we are persecuted for our faith. It will carry us through any trial no matter how terrible or devastating.
Therefore, we can rejoice in hardship because it reveals our true strength (Jas. 1:2-4). It gives us opportunity to grow in faith. Difficulties bring us closer to God as we are more aware of our need for Him.
Life for a Christian can be very difficult at times. However, by being a faithful child of God, like Paul, we have the privilege of appealing to Him for help. If no change comes, we know without question His grace will get us through.