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By Jon Shonebarger

He was awestruck by the visions. The revelations were all glorious. Being ushered into paradise to hear words that were not lawful for a man to speak was incredible. Was this spectacular moment one where he was taken bodily into heaven, or was it his spirit that was ushered into the presence of God? Only God knew the answer!

The apostle was humbled by the experience of personally being taken into the glory and splendor of heaven. Certainly, this was a ministry-transforming moment! Should he now boast about this privilege? Should he take personal glory in this unspeakable experience?

The choice was clear to Paul. He would not boast of his experience in heaven nor take any glory in God’s choice of this servant of the Gospel. He understood that he was not better than any man, even though he was chosen to see and hear what others did not. He humbly testified that just like any other man, he had numerous infirmities, frailties and problems. These physical and emotional burdens would be a thorn in his flesh throughout the course of his lifetime.

Submitted photo
Jon Shonebarger

Paul beseeched God to remove a thorn in his flesh three times! In order to prevent Paul from becoming exalted and venerated by others for his heavenly experience, God issued a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan, to buffet him. The prayer requests for deliverance were denied three times. Almighty God, in His sovereignty, love and wisdom, taught His faithful servant that His grace was sufficient in all weakness. In other words, lean on Him in times of weakness and pain.

The grace of God is a marvelous thing. It is all we need through the course of our journey. Difficulties will come; messengers from Satan, authorized by God, will buffet our minds and bodies. Life is full of infirmities. We may petition God repeatedly for relief. We can cry out in pain and frustration, but God will often answer us, as he answered Paul, my grace is sufficient. I will not remove your illness. You need Christ more than you need relief!

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Perfect” here speaks of maturity. Our spiritual growth will come through the pain, difficulties and insufficiencies of our life. As a result of viewing these infirmities from God’s point of view, we should be thankful for what God is doing in our lives. He is maturing us in our love, dependence and knowledge of the Almighty. Our personal relationship deepens through suffering.

Paul saw the significance of God’s counsel. He testified, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul chose spiritual strength over physical strength! We should personally evaluate. What would we choose, the power of God to rest upon us or relief from the infirmity? Hmm, it doesn’t appear having both was an option! The Lord needed His apostle humble, dependent completely for his needs, and to have the power and presence of the Holy Spirit upon his life’s work. When Paul was the weakest, Christ was strongest. We recall a statement of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30).

It is the will of God to keep His children humble and dependent upon Him. The Lord wants His children to fully look to His grace to supply their needs. Finally, we must appreciate that when we are weak, then Jesus Christ is the strongest in our lives. Have a great week and remember, God loves YOU!

Contact Jon at jtshonebarger@gmail.com.