“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. 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.”
“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. I seek not what is yours but you. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls… This is the third time I am coming to you… Christ is powerful among you.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10,14-15; 13:1,3
Early in his life with Jesus, Paul had some remarkable revelations, and we can infer that God intended them to teach him profound lessons about God Himself. But God also had lessons for Paul: ‘Don’t ever touch My glory,’ ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ He touched Paul with an affliction that would prevent him from boasting in these supernatural encounters or relying on his own strength. Three times, Paul pled with Him to remove it, and three times, in mercy and without chastisement, God said ‘No, I have something deeper for you.’ ‘Deeper.’ ‘Deeper.’ With each request, Paul’s self-will diminished a bit smaller, his fists loosened a bit more, his heart was kneaded a bit softer, and he understood something deeper of his Savior. It took this successive process to bring the newest revelation about his Lord: in Paul’s weakness, God was strong, and more greatly glorified in that strength. (Isaiah 42:8)
When Christ goes deep with us, we learn to go deep with Him, and others.
What this season taught Paul inspired and fortified him to persist in building up the early churches. Not all would be easy, challenges would come, but his deep life with Christ enabled him to abound in grace and truth and persevere in ministry to His people.
When we bring the same issues to Him repeatedly, and over and over He declines to answer our way, what is He teaching us? How might He be changing our intentions, our desires, our plans or preferences? How is He reshaping our affections and will? Where has He taught us patience, or surrender, or deeper trust, through progressive disappointments or long obediences? What have we gleaned about His perfect and limitless character as we have waited on Him? What new and profound have we discovered through long seasons of prayer, and waiting? (Psalm 130:6; Isaiah 45:3)
Where and how are we sharing these treasures with others? How is God’s grand sufficiency, beautiful character, and bountiful love spreading through us to His Body, and to the world?
Lord God, keep me seeking and trusting You to teach great and unsearchable things I know not on my own. Compel me to spend myself for others, to go deep in ministering for their good, and the exaltation of Your power and glorious sufficiency. (Jeremiah 33:3)