“True, there is nothing to be gained by it, but [as I am obliged] to boast, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this man–whether in the body or away from the body I do not know, God knows–was caught up into paradise, and he heard utterances beyond the power of man to put into words, which man is not permitted to utter. Of this same [man’s experiences] I will boast, but of myself (personally) I will not boast, except as regards my infirmities (my weaknesses). Should I desire to boast, I shall not be a witless braggart, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I abstain [from it] so that no one may form a higher estimate of me than [is justified by] what he sees in me or hears from me.
And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted.
Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!
So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).”—2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (AMP)
“There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought.”—Charles Kingsley
Happy Good Friday, y’all.
I was just saying this morning, that I am awed by how thorough Scripture is. On the 6th Day (the day that biblically symbolizes “man”, “labor” and “beast”, Genesis 1:26-28), Christ died. On the 7th Day, even he thought enough of the Sabbath to honor it by resting (Isaiah 56:2, Mark 2:27-28). And on the 1st Day, the day that light was created (Genesis 1:2, Matthew 28), Christ rose again. How can we not love the “decent order” (I Corinthians 14:40) of how Theotes, the Godhead, does things? I stand amazed. Daily.
And as I thought about the message that the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:12) would deem appropriate for this week, I was led to an “off the cuff” conversation I had with a friend of mine (who I thank for letting me share this part of their testimony). Truly, we are healed by our confession (James 5:16). Truly, and in some ways, like our Savior, what we deem as potentially unbearable, can turn a life—or series of lives (I Timothy 4:14-16)—around.
We were having a conversation about something that they (I am choosing to protect the gender identity) wanted me to pray about. During a season of their life, they were involved in risky sexual behavior (and to be honest, any sex outside of covenant would qualify, Hebrews 13:4) which resulted in them contracting herpes. They were asking that I pray that they be healed of it before entering into another relationship. It was a trip what came out of my mouth: “I will pray that God’s will be done. Sometimes the thing that keeps us bound is what frees us.”
They were silent. I was screaming. I knew that was straight from the throne room. Cause here’s the thing: one Scripture that I hold so very closely to me in this season is Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NCV):
“God has given them a desire to know the future. He does everything just right and on time, but people can never completely understand what he is doing.”
I have watched my friend transition over the years and to be honest with you, I’m not so sure what would have happened had they not contracted herpes. I’ve watched my life over the years, too. Who knows what would have been my testimony had a bout with Chlamydia not stepped into my immune system some years ago. Because if there’s one thing I will testify to, it’s that sin is senseless, often robbing you (John 10:10) of your common sense (Proverbs 3:21-26-Message). You know how lust is a “dead ringer” (pun intended, James 1:14-16) counterfeit for love? The high of fearlessness that comes with following the flesh is a counterfeit for the fear our spirits are not supposed to have in serving the Lord (2 Timothy 1:7). Adonai did not give us a spirit of fear when it comes to honoring his will, but we should have a level of wisdom and discernment when it comes to the potential problems that can come when we step out of it (Romans 6:23).
And yet, from time-to-time, we all do it, don’t we (I John 1:10)? Because our flesh and spirit are ever at war with one another (Galatians 5:16-17), I’m sure there is at least three times a day (at least!) where we can relate to Paul’s following sentiments:
“Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them. I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do. So if I do things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things. So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind, I am happy with God’s law. But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner. What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful self I am a slave to the law of sin.”—Romans 7:18-25 (NCV)
Rules are not in place so we can’t live freely. Rules are in place so that we can experience a sense of liberty (freedom from external or foreign rule; freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice). Psalm 119:45 (NKJV) says, “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.” A precept is “an injunction as to moral conduct”. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV) tells us, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Enemy, THE LIAR (John 8:44) will tell you that freedom is doing what you want when you want. As the late English occultist, Aliester Crowley was famous for saying, “Do what thou wilt.” But real freedom, real liberty, real “freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.” comes in honoring our Father, as his children, by following his instructions…and in trusting him. It’s the last part that will serve as the main focus of today’s message.
I think most of us have spent some amount of time wondering what the “thorn in the flesh” of Paul was. The Bible appears cautious not to tell us although I’m sure we all (including myself) have our theories. But, I wonder how many of us have really spent time on the reason behind why he had it. Here was one of the most gifted-and-used men in biblical history. According to him, his “splinter” kept him humble; it kept him from serving his own gifts rather than the Giver of them (Romans 1). Hmph. Makes sense considering Luke 14:11 (NKJV) advises us that, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” IN ORDER TO SERVE THE LORD, HE ACCEPTED HIS INFIRMITY. HIS PHYSICAL POSITION ASSISTED HIS SPIRITUAL PURPOSE.
Reminds me of something one of my modern-day heroes, Michael J. Fox, said about his “thorn”, Parkinson’s Disease; that he was honored that God thought enough of him to give it to him (or as I would prefer to say, “allowed him to have it”). I just watched Michael on a You Tube interview last week and he was talking about how what he does now is changing lives so much more than when he was entertaining people for thirty minutes every Thursday night. If you’ve ever read his story, Michael was on a fast-and-destructive road for many years. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, yes. But look at him now. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Family, there are so many ways to “play God”…and all of them are no joke. Like King Solomon said, we don’t understand what the Lord is doing. When it was written that he can do “exceedingly above all that we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), no where does it say that it doesn’t come without a price…or that we know what that will be. Because 1) the Lord is far more interested in preserving our souls than our flesh (I Corinthians 15:51-53) and 2) because he is the end from the beginning (Revelation 22:13) and we can barely see from moment-to-moment, we often don’t humble ourselves enough to realize that often what is “binding” us now is for the purpose of “freeing” us later.
My Chlamydia came at a time, not when I was at my peak of promiscuity, but when I was actually hearing the Spirit talk to me more and more about stopping. My friend speaks of the difficulty it takes in telling someone they are interested in that they even have herpes. It’s intimate information, indeed. But aren’t our vessels, ill or not, intimate? Special? Sacred (I Corinthians 6:19)? We both had/have an STD. It could have been HIV or AIDS (praise the Lord for mercy, Lamentations 2:22-24). But the upside is that we are both practicing abstinence as a result. Who knows what the Lord will choose to do with my friend? Sometimes our consequences, our reaping, is far greater than our limited view expected upon choosing to sin (Galatians 6:7-9). But, I implore that we opt to look at life’s inconveniences, challenges, illnesses in a different light; that the healing of our spirit become the top priority with our flesh doing what it should do: follow. In other words, that we trust that, like Paul, if our particular “thorn” is what will keep us in the right spirit to follow the will of the Lord, that we will not “cast the demon out”, but pray for its purpose to be revealed.
Proverbs 15:33 (NKJV) states, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.” Don’t ask to be removed what you do not understand. The very thing that may seem like your flesh’s crutch could actually be your spirit’s ladder. What could be hurting your body could be saving your soul. Your present day sacrifice may be the investment into your eternal afterlife. It feels like a debt now, but here’s the thing…
Today is the day that we reflect on the ultimate debt that Christ paid. When he said “It is finished” (John 19:28-30), he took care of all of our debts. He made it to where we could confess our sins and be CLEANSED FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS (I John 1:9). We all have moments when we pray our version of Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”—Mark 14:36 (NKJV)
Christ was a gifted man. Gifts come without repentance (Romans 11:29). Yet there was a suffering that took place to fulfill a greater purpose. We are gifted people. Elohim knew just what he placed into all of us…but sometimes trials will come and he will not move in the way we deem fit…because they too serve a greater purpose. Ones that we don’t understand, but we can trust that are for our greater good. NOT OUR WILL BUT HIS BE DONE. ON EARTH. AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. We must be cautious to not even let our trials become our gods; that we are so focused on what we don’t want that we don’t see (or acknowledge or respect or honor) that it’s what we need.
Am I saying don’t pray for the “bad” to go away? No.
What I am saying is be open to the fact that what may “seem” bad to you is actually beneficial; that you put your soul’s preservation ahead of your physical comfort.
Just as the man we honor and follow did…years ago. Today.
Thank you, Christ. You are loved. And appreciated. And adored.
Free indeed. No longer bound.
COME WHAT MAY. NO MATTER WHAT.
©Shellie R. Warren/2010