Sunday, May 25, 2014

Learning through Suffering

    And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12)

          When I look at Apostle Paul, I often think of him as somehow super human, like a super apostle, a man who could do anything by faith.  And I believe he was, in many ways.  God spoke to him, teaching him deep things. Things He revealed to no one else. Even Peter said Paul's writings were sometimes hard to understand or grasp.  Through Paul, we have most of the New Testament.  I especially love Romans which shows us the miraculous mystery of being justified by faith.  All this came through the writings of Paul.
         These revelations came through much suffering.  Paul was imprisoned and beaten on numerous occasions. The letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians were written from prison. Paul writes, "in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—" (2 Cor. 11:23)
         Through much suffering, Paul walked with God.  And he learned to boast in his weaknesses, in his infirmities.  And he was faithful.  He finished the race and was ready to leave the earth.
         For the past one and half years, I have been struggling with sickness. I have two autoimmune diseases that pretty much incapacitated me. Four years prior, God had been teaching me many things and bringing much fruit through the discipleship ministry at our church.  Many people were coming to Christ, breaking free from addictions and finding true freedom.  Then sickness hit, and I was pulled out of everything in an instant.  I often wondered why God allowed this.  I wondered if I had sinned in some way and God was punishing me.  But I could find no known sin.  I wondered if perhaps it was like Job, a righteous man who was tested by God with extreme loss in his life.  Or was I like Paul, who was given a messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he be exalted above measure.
          Paul pleaded with God to remove the affliction.  I, and others, have asked God to heal me and remove this affliction, but the word I received was, "not now." God was allowing sickness for a reason.   What I have known about God held me. I know He is good.  All He does is from His goodness.  He loves me and all He allows is from this love. So the sickness I am enduring is from the loving hand of God. He is allowing it, for His purposes, for His glory.  I hold to Romans 8:28: 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

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