READ: Joshua 22-24, Psalm 72, John 4, 2 Corinthians 12
Paul wisely did not flaunt his heavenly experience to the Corinthians (12 Cor. 12). He reveled instead in the paradoxes of the gospel. Thorns are given to keep us humble (v. 7). Grace is given to make us sufficient (v. 9). Weakness is given to make us complete (v. 9). Limitations are given to make us powerful (v. 9).
Biblically, suffering is a gift. It is granted to us to both believe on and suffer for the name of Christ. Thorns are given. We don’t accidentally step on our designated thorns; God lovingly selects a thorn for us. Our thorns are handpicked, God-made – and they are uniquely designed to keep us humble. Gifts are intended to be cherished, and if God is the giver, then our thorns should be precious to us. Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that He grants us the thorny means to stay lowly.
Grace, too, is a gift. Grace gives us the capacity to survive, to endure, and to complete. We are not intended to arrive at the end of the journey (the race) fresh. We are meant to die tired, to get to heaven with an empty tank and a depleted bank account. “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your sake,” Paul tells the Corinthians (v. 15). Grace helps us motor through the finish line, grace helps us take a few more breaths on the cross, grace helps us lay down our will one more time. Grace gives us the sufficiency to complete what is painful, to be poured out and spent – to the last drop.
We must rid ourselves of the notion of finishing strong. Not if it means we have reserve energy at the end. True runners use everything up – they finish strong by completing the task exhausted, their completeness is in their weakness. We have not arrived at Christian maturity until we have learned to live weak. The complete Christian is the perpetually weak (non-self-reliant) one. It is being poured out that fulfills us. Our limitations are in God’s mysterious ways what complete us. When lowliness has ushered in grace, grace helps us empty ourselves, and when we are empty, we are most powerful. It is indeed on the nothing in man that God builds His greatest works. It is our lowliness, not our greatness, that endears us to those we love and serve.