Thursday of Pentecost 7– II Corinthians 12:1-10

I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The other day I was driving in Portland and I came up behind a car at a stop light sporting this bumper sticker “Don’t worry, God is in charge.” I understand the sentiment, but I am not sure that I always agree with the first part of the statement. Sometimes I think I need to worry a great deal because God is in charge. Paul brought his appeal three times to God for relief from the physical torment of the “thorn” he mentions here. God says that it serves a purpose and Paul should be content with that.

To my shame and Paul’s commendation, he deals with that better than I think I would. I still have a sense that being a believer, being on God’s team, should have some benefits and one of those benefits is that God helps you out. I would think this to be especially true if you are the Apostle Paul! Alas, it is not so, at least not like I imagine. God, in his loving wisdom, might see that the tornado, disease, accident, etc., which I fear and pray does not happen, in fact should happen. In short, I might suffer because God is in charge.

I will still pray for relief to God. He alone can relieve my greatest ailments and calm my gibbering fears, but I also must acknowledge that he might be saying yes to my prayer in my resurrection on the last day. For now, in this moment, my life is in complete service to his kingdom. Paul suffered and eventually was martyred for his confession of Christ. Through that life, death, and witness untold millions have been led to faith as they read his letters and the account of his ministry in Acts. I have no such grandiose plans for myself. But I am glad to be part of God’s kingdom and a small element in his good work in this world.

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