September 28, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 12)

Submitted by Chris P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 12:5-10

  • What two purposes did Apostle Paul’s “thorn” serve in his life?

The thorn on his side served to prevent A. Paul from becoming conceited. It also served to cause A. Paul to boast in Jesus’ strength. It caused A. Paul to experience God’s strength being made perfect in his weakness and desperation.

  • What are the “thorns” in my life and what is my view toward them?  Have they led me to experience the truth of v. 9?

The large thorn on my side, that messenger of Satan, that tormentor has been my addiction to internet. It started when I was in 4th grade. At first it was something that the kids at school talked about and I didn’t know what it was. But then when I searched it out and found it, I remember feeling that sense of shame and that sense of being so dirty for having done what I knew I wasn’t supposed to do. It was 4th grade… When I look at the other kids at church today who are that age, it’s so appalling that at that age I was exposed to these kinds of images that have haunted me throughout my life. Ever since then, it has been that thorn on my side that really tormented me. It was the voice of Satan telling me that I was worthless, that I was useless, that I was dirty.

In high school, I started going to church and when I heard the gospel message for the first time; I knew that I was sinner. I knew that I was ugly inside and that I was up to the brim, swimming in sin. In high school I remember crying out again and again, quite literally crying out to God to take this thorn from me. Late at night, after my parents had gone to sleep, I remember driving up the hill where my house was, hiking in to a secluded area and just praying to God. I remember asking again and again for God to take this sin away from me. Yet I kept on going back to the same sin again and again. Towards the end of high school, I didn’t understand. I thought God was supposed to save me, to rescue me. I thought that God was supposed to change me. I thought he was supposed to stop this from happening and take this thorn from me. When that didn’t happen, I thought I had somehow missed something that I had somehow not done something right that I had messed up Christianity some how. End of high school to beginning of College… that was the darkest parts of my life. I hated myself, hated my life, hated everything.

It wasn’t until in College that I began to understand this verse. “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. It was during Survival Kit 1 discipleship class, and Kelly was teaching our class. She talked about the gospel and the God of GRACE and not of the LAW. Through that time as well as the different lessons I had been learning from different messages, I remember having that sudden realization and moment of shock. I remember that sudden epiphany… that THIS is the Gospel. While I’m still a sinner, while I’m still THIS messed up inside and I can’t control this addiction that I had grown since 4th grade… that even me, God forgives and washes me clean when I receive God’s forgiveness. I don’t have to prove anything. I don’t have to be good enough, I don’t have to fix myself. Even in these sins that I so desperately wanted to find peace from I realized that Even if I can’t change, God’s grace IS sufficient. It’s SUFFICIENT to save me. It’s SUFFICENT to make me clean. It’s SUFFICIENT to give me life.

When I look back in to my life in hindsight. I realize how God has used this thorn on my side in my life to really teach me how desperately I needed God’s forgiveness. It has kept me from becoming conceited and it has brought me to know the all surpassing greatness of God’s grace. When I look back in to my life I see how it was this that had lead me to seek God and find him.

That lesson though I don’t think ended there. Right now, the thorn on my side and that weakness that I feel still continues in the form of my insecurities that I feel as a minister. I look at myself, and I feel like I just don’t have what it takes to be a good and mature spiritual leader. I feel so inadequate.

But as I really try to embrace the identity as a minister and an apostle that God has given me, I find this same verse coming alive in my life. “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. When I feel weak and insufficient, it’s that chance and opportunity to experience God at work in my life. When I feel weak and insufficient, it’s that chance to see the amazing glory of seeing God’s power. It’s the same concept from 2 Cor 4. It’s that feeling of being crushed, that feeling of being pressed on every side… and in that suffering, in that feeling of inadequacy, in that feeling of pressure as jars of clay, I HAVE the PRIVILEGE of experiencing God’s amazing power sustaining me.

So I don’t lose heart when I feel weak. I don’t lose heart when I feel inadequate. In Christ, In the cross, I have the ASSURANCE that in my weakness, I WILL experience God.

  • Reflect on the words: “My grace is sufficient for you.”  How deep has this truth taken root in my life?  How will this gospel truth give me strength in the midst of experiencing “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities?”  

It’s ALL about God’s grace. It’s enough. I don’t have to prove it. I don’t have to buy it. I don’t have to prove myself worthy of receiving such a gift. IT really is Christ sacrifice, really is the gospel, really is the GRACE of God that is sufficient. When I look at myself, I realize that this TRUTH is something that I keep on forgetting. So often I find myself going back to again and again to this performance driven mentality where I’m trying to EARN God’s love. When ministry doesn’t go well, I feel rejected by people, then I feel so utterly defeated. In does moments, it’s hard to remember that God’s GRACE really is sufficient. What’s worse, when I know that I’ve done something wrong, when I see that sin living in me that doesn’t easily go away. It’s hard to remember that God’s GRACE IS sufficient.

When I zoom out, I see how this gospel truth that has sprouted in my life when I made that decision to follow God 8 years ago, is taking ROOT in my life. It’s growing deeper in to my heart and in to my life. It was the times when I was really experiencing “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities”… it was the times when I was really experiencing some struggle, some suffering… when I was repenting over some sin and was struggling to let something go. It was during these times that the Gospel TRUTH came to life. It was during these times of such discouragement and on the verge of quitting that I had to CLING on to God’s promise of grace and forgiveness. It was during these times that I really experienced the truth of “My grace is sufficient for you”. And it was during these times that I really experienced the Gospel taking root in my life.

  • Reflect on the statement “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” and why this is the uniquely Christian view of power.

What’s the world’s view of power? It’s all about success. It’s all about out-performing others. It’s being smarter and getting better grades. It’s being a harder worker and getting that promotion. It’s all about success and being awesome at what you are doing. It’s all about success and showing others how great you are. That is the view of power in the world.

With Christ, there is a radical change in Christian’s view of power. It’s not about having power to be great, but it is about dependence on God. Being weak and dependent on God’s power. Being weak enough to throw your life to God. Being weak enough to admit that you give up and you need help. In that confession of weakness and casting yourself at the mercy seat of God is when Christians find power in the greatness of God’s love and forgiveness.

The thing about such power from God is that it gives Christians the courage to attempt everything and not lose heart. The truth of the matter is that everyone Christians or not feel weak. Everyone is inadequate. Fearing failure people who do not know God and who hold on to the world’s view of power, they attempt to find power by limiting their range. People don’t attempt things that they know they are not good at. They disengage and give up.

In the Christian view of power “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” gives me courage to attempt everything and all things even when I feel so weak and so bad at doing it. Loving people, caring, ministering, evangelizing, teaching the bible… are all things that I feel so weak at doing. And in the world’s view of power, I would just lose heart, give up and quit. But in light of the gospel and the fact that “when I am weak, then I am strong”.  I can attempt ALL things.

Submitted by Florence T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 12:5-10

  • What two purposes did Apostle Paul’s “thorn” serve in his life?

The two purposes Apostle Paul’s “thorn” served in his life are (1) to keep him from becoming conceited from having received visions and revelations from God (2) for Paul to experience that God’s grace is sufficient for him and that God’s power is displayed through his weakness.

  • What are the “thorns” in my life and what is my view toward them?  Have they led me to experience the truth of v. 9?

One source of weakness, a “thorn” in my life, is my anguish and burden over a close relative of mine who is not Christian.  I have been praying for his salvation since I first became Christian a decade ago.  When I was younger I actually pleaded with the Lord to take away this responsibility of personally sharing the gospel with him and pray that God would just send a faithful brother into his life.  As I got older, I realized I was such a coward and began to embrace this burden to share the gospel with him; I need not look elsewhere.  It has been an upward battle because he is preoccupied with other things in life, dismissive of Christianity, and always has a smart remarks or rebuttals in response to what I share.  Though I want so much for him to be open to the gospel and honest about his life, it is also something completely out of my control.  Carrying the burden makes me feel weak many times.  But it also helps me experience v9 where it says,“My grace is sufficient for me, for my power is made perfect in weakness”  God gives me grace to not despair and keep trying even though it’s tough because though I am powerless, God has the power to soften his heart and convict him of his need for the gospel.  I can only experience this when I have nothing of my own strength to rely on.

  • Reflect on the words: “My grace is sufficient for you.”  How deep has this truth taken root in my life?  How will this gospel truth give me strength in the midst of experiencing “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities?”

“My grace is sufficient for you.”  It means God’s mercy upon my life is enough for me – though I am a wretched sinner, stubborn and bent on rebelling against Him and His good boundaries, still He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for my sins, paying the penalty of my transgressions so that an unrighteous person like me can be counted righteous before a holy God.  Not only so, God’s grace allows me to struggle against my sins.

This truth has taken deeper root in my life over the years.  One significant marker came several years back when I really had to confess and struggle over this one particular sin.  Many times I prayed that God would take it away and just cleanse me once and for all because I hated this sin yet felt so powerless, as it says in Romans 7:15 “for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  During this period, the gospel became so concrete to me as I see that I really have no power to make myself clean, only through Jesus, who paid it all on the cross, was I given a clean slate, freeing me from my guilt and shame.  Indeed only his grace is sufficient to cover over my sins.  This truth gave me strength to struggle against this sin in the midst of many failures.  Each time I fell, rather than falling into despair or making empty promises to not sin again, I am reminded of God’s grace – how he has paid it all already and I am counted righteous, not only so, these struggles will come to an end in heaven when I will finally be set free.

  • Reflect on the statement “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” and why this is the uniquely Christian view of power.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong” is uniquely a Christian view of power because when we are running out of our own strength, that’s when we can turn to God and rely on His strength.  As a mother of two now, life has gotten really chaotic at times trying to take care of my children while not slowing down in ministry.  Sometimes it is hard to fight sleepiness and fatigue, I feel like I have very little time or strength to give to others.  During these times, God would break my heart by showing me sins and struggles that the people entrusted to me are dealing with, and He would open my eyes to see the spiritual reality that we are in where Satan is snatching people away with his cunning ways and twisted lies, derailing people from seeking God.  Through these realizations, God gives me renewed strength, strength I did not have on my own, to not focus on my lack but go and meet the needs of others.  And as I do so, I experience my spirit being lifted as I see people change and come closer to God.

Submitted by Jesse K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 12:5-10

  • What two purposes did Apostle Paul’s “thorn” serve in his life?

The two purposes that the thorn in Paul’s side served was to keep him from becoming conceited and to make Christ’s power perfect in Paul’s weakness.  This thorn–a persistent reminder of Paul’s weakness, frailty and/or sinfulness–-would keep him from ever thinking too highly of himself.  He would never become big headed or begin to believe his own hype because of this clear and persistent reminder.

At the same time, regarding this thorn, Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  It’s in this state of weakness that Jesus’ power is made evident.  As Paul endures the list of troubles in the previous chapter in his state of weakness, it’s probably very clear to him that it was God who pulled him through.  And as Paul experienced affliction in every way, but not being crushed, it served to shows others that the “surpassing power belong to God” and not to him.

  • What are the “thorns” in my life and what is my view toward them?  Have they led me to experience the truth of v. 9?

The thorns in my life that serve as a constant reminder of my weakness are the different ways my sins of passivity, my pride, lack of heart and selfish view of the world manifest.  Especially as I think about all the people whom I have been called and entrusted to minister to, this feeling of weakness becomes very acute.  I don’t like these things, and I pray against them, but at the same time, these things serve to humble me before God, make me come to him for forgiveness and keep the gospel fresh on my heart.  As I realize how again I’ve looked down on my friend, or again I’ve acted out of frustration towards somebody whom I’m called to minister to, or again how I’ve been rude and unloving towards my wife, whatever sense of ego and hype that I build up for myself vanishes.  And it comes back to the bottom line of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness.  That is why I am here.  That is why I have salvation, and have been entrusted with his ministry of reconciliation.  It’s not my merits, it’s not because I’m such a loving person, but it’s because of the grace of God.

But this kind of clarity comes only when I see these thorns and come to God in confession and repentance.  The problem is that I get so used to these thorns.  It’s ironic and tragic that the very things that should serve to remind me of my weakness, I get so accustomed to.  My natural tendency is to do things without slowing down to think.  So my sins and my weakness, much of the time go by unnoticed unless I take the time to think, or until they’re pointed out by people or by the Word of God.  I need to think much more and to allows these sins and thorns to remind me of my weakness since God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.”

  • Reflect on the words: “My grace is sufficient for you.”  How deep has this truth taken root in my life?  How will this gospel truth give me strength in the midst of experiencing “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities?”

More and more, I realize the truth of this verse.  As I get older, as I gain more responsibilities in life, at work and try to love more people, I come to see much more clearly my lacks and how weak I am.  More and more I see the limit of my love, as I see the limit of my generosity, as I see the limit of my discipline and my wisdom.  And yet I see God’s work being done in me, through me and around me in the lives of others.  Truly God’s grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in weakness.  And as I get older, and as life is bound to get harder, this fact gives me strength and hope to face it.  When persecution comes, when financial hardships and the daunting loan repayment kick in, when some unpredicted calamities happen, I can trust that in my weakness, Jesus’ power is made perfect.  So I will stay faithful to my Lord, and like Paul says, “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.”

  • Reflect on the statement “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” and why this is the uniquely Christian view of power.

To the rest of the world, power is the ability to do as you please, to push others around and to be completely unperturbed by whatever circumstance.  These days, it arises from financial stability, social prestige and status.  Being strong is having life all together.  Being strong is having everything under control and having no need or any lack.

In contrast, Paul says, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”  When he lacks the very things the rest of the world touts as strength, Paul says that he is strong.  And this is so because in weakness, Paul exhibits and shows God’s strength.  As he submits himself and stays faithful to God’s work in the face of hardships and insults, his strength is made evident.  And this strength is the strength that is able to defy what the rest of the world says.  It’s the strength that shows his trust in God.  It’s the strength that he receives from God to pull him through these circumstances.  It’s the strength that arises from the gospel.  Likewise as I experience this kind of weaknesses, insults and hardships, I can show God’s strength, as I remain faithful to him and the work he has given me.  And this serves as a powerful testimony to others.  For myself, as I saw the lives of those ahead of me in the faith, and how they experienced this kind of weakness, it was clear that their strength must be coming from something deeper than whatever worldly security they accumulated.  That kind of strength that I saw, could only come from God.

Personal Prayer

God, I thank you for your grace, for you say that your grace is sufficient and that your power is made perfect in weakness.  As I get older, as life gets busier and as I try to love people more, I see the truth of this verse.  Yet, at the same time, I know that my natural reaction is to run away from this weakness.  Though I know intellectually that this is true, in that way I still hold onto the worldly view of power and strength.  So help me to slows down and see the thorns in side, the flaws in my character, the sins in my heart, so that I can be brought back to the basic gospel.  Help me to embrace the hardships and the opportunities to be weak, because in those instances, is when I am strong.

Submitted by Vivian P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 12:5-10

  • What two purposes did Apostle Paul’s “thorn” serve in his life?

The two purposes of Apostle Paul’s “thorn” were to keep him from becoming conceited and so that so that Christ’s power would be made perfect in his weaknesses.

  • What are the “thorns” in my life and what is my view toward them?  Have they led me to experience the truth of v. 9?

One “thorn” that both plagued me and humbled me during my college years was improper view of my body which was caused by an obsession to be thin and attractive. It was sourced in a misplaced desire for love and approval, having bought into Satan’s lie that my worth lies in the outward appearance. It enslaved me in college.  This struggle brought me a lot of shame, and I felt unlovable. Yet it was this struggle helped me understand deeper that something deeply broken in me; there is a sinful nature within me to which I am helpless and that I need deliverance from. It was this struggle that humbled me and caused me to pray, to seek the help of my peers and leaders, and caused me to turn to God’s Word to renew my values regarding my source of significance. It was through this struggle that I had once wanted to take to the grave with me, that I was able to more deeply claim my true identity as a daughter of Christ, and be used to be a source of help and blessing to others with similar struggles. In a way that I didn’t expect, God used this thorn in my life to allow his power to be made manifest and made perfect.

Another thorn that prevents me from being conceited and turning to God’s power in my weakness is my sense of inadequacy to the tasks that God calls me to do. Often I feel tormented by Satan’s lies that question my competence in different aspects of ministry, magnifies my inadequacies, tries to cause me to doubt whether I can handle this responsibility. When I give into Satan’s lies, they paralyze me and cause me to become very inwardly bent and give into many negative thoughts. However, it’s also this sense of inadequacy, Satan’s attempts to magnify my lacks, that actually causes me to turn to God more desperately. As I engage in ministry this year, I feel weak because I lack wisdom, discernment, and experience, among other things. And actually this thorn humbles me to pray more desperately, to hunger for God’s guidance each day through his Word, and makes me eager to seek wisdom from my leaders who have much more experience and wisdom under their belt. In facing this thorn, I have learned to claim and appreciate the truths in God’s Word more deeply. As each year, rather than this sense of inadequacy decreasing, in some way, I feel like it’s been increasing. And I feel like God is really trying to teach me of his sufficiency in being my source of significance, in securing my competence as a minister, and in the moving of people’s hearts. I’ve experienced v. 9 of Gods’ grace being sufficient, in instances where it was clear that despite my bumbling words, God used the five loaves and two fish I brought to him, to communicate the gospel to a seeker. Because of my weaknesses, I could not claim that any results were because of my own competence and efforts, but really give glory to God, that his power was made manifest all the more in my weakness.

  • Reflect on the words: “My grace is sufficient for you.”  How deep has this truth taken root in my life?  How will this gospel truth give me strength in the midst of experiencing “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities?”

While this truth that God’s grace is sufficient is something I know to be true in my head and something that I have concretely experienced, I find myself looking inward for that source of sufficiency, and this causes me to fall into insecurities and negative thoughts. If I give into these thoughts, they paralyze me, causing me to be bent inward and stunts my ability to love and care for others. However, when I go back to God’s Word and the truths it proclaims, that it’s not because of who I am, or anything I’ve done, but solely because of what Christ did on the cross that I, as a wretched sinner, have been granted a righteous standing before God, allows me to experience security and peace to cast aside Satan’s lies. The fact that God is with me, and that his power is made perfect in weakness, helps me to not crumble at the weight of suffering, but all the more, I can turn to God for strength and hope.  As I am reassured of God’s love for me and I am reminded that my identity before him, that he has given me, is as a child of God, co-heir with Christ, and ambassador of Christ, Satan can throw all kinds of accusations at me, and I may face difficulties in this world, but I can have hope and be strengthened endure and obey to do his good work. Moreover it causes me to grow in longing for that day in heaven when I will be fully set free from my sins and shortcomings, and be fully at rest in him. It’s a daily battle I need to engage in again and again, to claim God’s truths against Satan’s lies, and in so doing, allow this truth to root deeper into my heart and identity.

  • Reflect on the statement “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” and why this is the uniquely Christian view of power.

According to the world’s notion of power, this statement is a paradox that makes no sense. This world’s notion of power is a very self-centered one that we need to derive our source of strength from our own competence and is fueled by a desire to exalt oneself, to make it to the top of the social rung, to prove one’s worth to others. However, the Christian view of power is actually that in our weakness, we can rely upon God and that his power would be manifest within us. The source of this power is God and not ourselves, it comes from a place of humility rather than pride, and it glorifies God rather than glorifying ourselves. It’s a power that sets us free from being fueled by anxiety to perform and out-do others, as we are free to admit our weaknesses and rely upon God’s strength. This power is embodied in the gospel where Jesus, in limiting himself, weakening himself in some ways, out of his love for us, and in so doing, demonstrates true power in being able to forgive a multitude of sins, reconcile sinful man to a holy God and conquer the greatest enemy, death. I’ve personally experienced that this power is stronger than worldly power. All throughout my life, seeking worldly power in academics, in popularity, and in whatever arena of life that I felt like I had some shred of potential in, I felt like it was a never-ending rat race to try to appear competent and impressive, that left me anxious and unfulfilled. It was through different struggles when I was able to recognize and admit my true weakness and helplessness, that I was able to be set free from the enslaving anxieties and fears of trying to appear impressive, and claim Jesus’ power to set me free from my sinful nature and give me the peace of being known, loved, forgiven, and given eternal assurance. There is still a pride in me just wants to perform and try to handle things on my own strength, which causes worry and anxiety. However when I come before God in prayer, bringing all my worries and anxieties at his feet, I can experience God’s strength providing me more than enough and restoring peace.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you so much for the sufficiency of your grace. I am reminded through today’s dt that my source of assurance for salvation, my worth as a daughter of Christ, my identity as a minister of the gospel, all comes from you, not by anything I have done, but by what you have done for me. I confess that I so often fall into sense of inadequacy that paralyzes me and bends me inward. Please help me to claim the truths in your word daily, to fight against this thorn and to pray more desperately for myself and for the people that you’ve paced in my life. You are the true source of power and to be weak before you is a good place to be. Thank you that this thorn can be used to keep me humble and dependent on you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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