30 Apr 2023

Paradise * Pain * Power [2 Corinthians 12:1-10]


Are you suffering and God does not seem to answer your prayers? Are you struggling with questions like "why me? ", "why this? " Paul received a vision of the third heaven or paradise. And God followed that up by giving him a thorn in the flesh. Whilst it may seem strange to receive this huge blessing of the vision of heaven coupled with a debilitating pain, God's ways are higher and better than our ways. God is immunising Paul from pride. It is when we are weak (and really know we are weak), that God's power may be most manifest in us. Paul therefore rejoices in his sufferings and weakness. He trusts that God's grace is sufficient for him



Sermon Transcript

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Today let's come back to 2 Corinthians and Chapter 12. So we're coming to the end of this book and we are moving on to a new book in the Old Testament in about a month's time or so. So we come now to 2 Corinthians and Chapter 12.

Last week I spoke about how I was a bully in my school bus. I like to order people around, boss people around and somehow people strangely like to follow and get bossed around. I do not understand why but that happened.

Well, after service I went downstairs, I met my son Matthias and he said, aiyah, I hate you for saying that. I said, why? I didn't mention you. Well he said, because after service people came and asked me, are you also like that? They somehow see a father and son semblance. I asked him then, what did you say? Are you also a bully like that? Did you tell them that? He said, well, I told them that if I add up all the kids where we stay and where I go to school and in the church, I'll have an army. So, he tells me he's one up, he does it better than I do. I control the school bus; he controls everybody everywhere he goes.

It's a strange thing that people somehow love to be part of a gang and love to be bossed around, love to be dominated, love to be abused. But that's what's happening to the people at Corinth. The Corinthians are somehow bewitched, seduced and dazzled by the impressive boasts of the false teachers.

Now Paul is deeply concerned for their spiritual lives. He's concerned that they will be led astray, not really from himself per se, but away from the Lord Jesus Christ. So he's doing everything he can to warn them of the false teachers and to win back their trust.

So what does Paul do? Amongst many things, we read now in Chapters 11 and 12, Paul resorting to boasting. He's going to fight fire with fire. He's going to play the opponent's game. And he's going to boast just like the false teachers have been boasting. But the difference is this, Paul is not going to boast about his own accomplishments or his capabilities or his intelligence and so on and so forth. Paul is going to boast about his weakness.

So last week we saw that Paul boasted of weakness because he understands that weakness and suffering is the path and the preparation and the proof of the servant of God.

Today, we're going to move on to Chapter 12 and he's going to continue that train of thought as he tells us about paradise and pain and power. These three things come together in these ten verses right here. So let me go straight to the first segment on paradise.

[1] Paradise
Paul says in verse 1, I must go on boasting. Now he doesn't really want to boast. He knows it's foolish. But he has to do it, to win back the Corinthians and to warn them from straying from Christ. So he says I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

So he doesn't really want to boast about this vision that he has received. He knows ultimately boasting about this vision - this impressive, supernatural, miraculous manifestation is not really profitable for the Corinthians. Nevertheless, he will have to go on and you'll see why.

He says I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.

So this is a vision that is fourteen years ago. That's the time. What is this vision about? Someone being caught up to the third heaven. You say what's the third heaven? Well in Jewish writings, there are seven levels, ten levels, three levels and this is taking it, I think, by the 'three levels' Jewish writing custom.

They believe that the first heaven is what you see with your eye today, with your naked eye. The sky, the clouds - that's the atmosphere; we live in first heaven. The second heaven is beyond this atmosphere, it's outer space where your telescopes will go to - the galaxies and the stars and the planets. Then the third heaven is beyond that, that's where God in particular dwells, the special dwelling place of God.

So Paul says, I.. I did better than what Elon Musk or whatever, who else can invent; I went to the third heaven. He says I'm not sure if I went there in the body, that is I was transported totally body and soul to this third heaven; or is this an out of body experience in that my body remains here but my soul goes to third heaven. I can't tell, only God can know.

So when did this happen? Fourteen years ago. Where is this? Third heaven, the special dwelling place of God. Who went there? He said, I know a man in Christ. Very strange. You may immediately think that this is Paul talking about his friend, his buddy. Is it Peter, James, John? Nope, actually this man in Christ is none other than himself. So to keep me from becoming conceited - this is Paul speaking about the vision God has given to him.

So you may ask, why does he then write in a third person form? What a strange fellow Paul is. Well the best answer or explanation is that Paul really wants to make a distance from, keep a distance from appearing as arrogant or proud, boasting about these privileges he has.

And the literary device he chooses is therefore to speak of it in a third person form rather than me, so that when people think about Paul, they do not immediately think about someone who is proud and arrogant, who boasts about these supernatural revelations. That's the best way we can look at it. He's really keeping a distance from appearing as proud or boastful.

And I know that this man was caught up into paradise. So this is another word to describe the place he went to. It's called paradise. A paradise in the original language refers to a walled up enclosure or a walled garden. So it's a beautiful place, that's all we know. Third heaven. It's a beautiful place. Do you see birds? Do you see trees? Do you see rivers? Is there a sea? Well he doesn't say anything like that, he just tells us it's paradise.

Well Paul, what did you hear in that place? At least tell us something. He said, and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. Well the phrase 'which man may not utter' in the Greek originally or literally reads, which is unlawful for man to speak. It's not allowed for man to speak.

So very interestingly he says he went up to the third heaven, to paradise. He doesn't tell you what he saw exactly. Neither does he tell you what he heard, because he says this is classified information, SAF style. Cannot be revealed to you.

He goes on to say, on behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast except of my weaknesses. So he says, this I write in a sense a third person format to keep a distance from appearing as boastful. Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool for I would not, I would be speaking the truth.

So he's saying all that I'm telling you so far, my supernatural revelation, vision, it's.. it's not a cooked up story, it's real. But I refrain from it so that no one may think of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

So it's very interesting. We only know that he had a vision of paradise, third heaven, but as to what he saw, what he heard, very little details are being revealed.

Now I want to ask you. Suppose it's you who had this vision, what would you do when you come back? Huh? What? Ah, post on TikTok, wow Jill very up to date, very good. I think that is what people will do. You take your hand phone and you start filming yourself and say, wah this is what I did and you want to find out more, come to my talk. Not TikTok only, come to my talk.

And you start to organise speaking engagements, world tours, write books. Don't you think you will do that? Short films, documentaries, talk shows. I think we will really milk it because, been there done that - you're the only one who can say so. I've been to heaven and come back, have you?

Wow, I think people will merchandise this. They.. they will make money out of this. TikTok, Facebook, YouTube. They will go onto mugs, they will go onto T-shirts, sell everything, boast, so that you get money and fame and glory. I think this is very natural for anyone to think about.

But it's remarkable that Paul did not do anything like that. In fact I think he kept it hush-hush for fourteen years. We don't read of him mentioning this event anywhere else. It's almost like he is forced right now to say something about it, that's all. Otherwise he wouldn't have mentioned it. He gave very little details and I think this is key.

I think it is not proper to read Chapter 12 verses 1 to 6 and say, oh Paul was boasting about his weaknesses in Chapter 11 and then when he comes to Chapter 12, he now boasts about the big things, the impressive things. I don't think that's what he's doing because if he's doing that, he should have given more details.

But I think Paul is simply saying, this event of going to paradise sets the context as to why I will have the thorn in the flesh that is to come. So this is actually not the main thing. The thorn in the flesh that we are going to read of is the main thing. Because from the beginning to the end in this 'fool's speech' of Paul, this boast of Paul, he has already said, my goal is to boast not about my accomplishments or my greatness or my privileges but I want to boast about my weakness.

He also said in this text that I know there's nothing profitable to boast about my supernatural visions and revelation. And if I want to boast, I want to boast about my weakness. So Paul speaks about paradise not as the main thing, even though I think we will all be very enthralled and excited about hearing more. But this is merely the context, for now the main thing, which is the thorn - the pain.

[2] Pain
So, I've been.. I've been to paradise, that's really the context. And now to keep me from being conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh. So the thorn is the main thing here. The weakness is the main thing here, that's what I'm saying.

The thorn is an instrument of humbling. The thorn is an instrument to help Paul stay weak. The thorn is like a COVID vaccination to keep you from pride. This thorn is meant to puncture your pride.

The word 'thorn' means something sharp. It can be a splinter, a thorn or a stick - something to poke you. And for many, many generations, for many years and for many preachers, they've always tried to find out what exactly is this thorn.

Some say it's a disease like malaria or dengue, not dengue, huh huh, malaria or epilepsy. Some say it's an eye disease. They.. they say that because of Galatians 6:11 when Paul wrote the letter to Galatians and say, oh, see how big a letter I've written to you. Got eye problem, cannot see, so got to write very big. Just like our handphone for the old people, they.. the font's very big. So they say, oh, Paul had an eye problem.

Some say Paul had a speech problem because he's not eloquent. But no matter how you cut it, we just don't find enough evidence to be very conclusive as to the nature of this pain.

Some even say Paul struggled with a nagging wife. Not kidding, that's what some suggested. But I think the best response is what Spurgeon has said, "I generally find that each expositor has selected that particular thorn which had pierced his own bosom." So whoever said he has a naggy wife, well huh.

Uh anyway, so Paul was given this thorn in the flesh. Uh, it is mentioned to be a messenger of Satan. Let's be clear. This is not accidental or incidental from God. It's not like God didn't know about it. A thorn was given to Paul. God is intentional in giving this thorn to Paul. But at the same time, He uses the instrument, He uses Satan to be the one who brings this thorn to Paul.

So this is not rare or this is not the first time, this is not unusual in the Bible. God did allow and use Satan to test Job. God did allow and use Satan to tempt David and incite him to number the soldiers in Israel. God, in a sense, did use Satan, this is the hour of darkness, for the devil to inflict the pain on the Lord Jesus Christ in the crucifixion.

So here, the mediary is Satan and the purpose is to harass Paul. Now, harass, we think of it as 'kachiau', like yee irh.. irritate you. No.. no, the word 'harass' here is a lot stronger. It means to strike, to buffet, to batter, to hit. And the tense of the word 'harass' is in the present tense. So this is something that still bothers Paul, that inflicts pain on Paul right up to the time he's writing.

So this thorn is given to Paul. It's painful, we do not know exactly what. And initially, Paul doesn't know exactly why this pain was given to his life. He doesn't understand it.

So when you have pain and you don't really understand why, what would you do? What's the, for the Christian person, what's the first thing you would do if you are given a difficulty, a pain, a problem? Instinctively, we will pray. And that's what Paul did, nothing wrong with that.

Not knowing the intent, he said, three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. Now it's not wrong for any one of us who is sick to pray for healing. It's not wrong for any one of us meeting a trial to ask that God removes that trial. It's not wrong for us, if we should have a difficult family situation for, to ask God to help us, whether it's our relationship with our spouse or with our children. Nothing wrong to pray for these things. Paul certainly did that.

And mind you, he didn't say, I go to the devil and rebuke him. That's what a lot of Christians and churches even teach today. If you have a sickness, rebuke the devil. Well, Paul didn't do that. He prayed to the Lord.

And mind you, he prayed three times. Significant - means he asked God repeatedly. There's nothing wrong with praying that same prayer repeatedly, faithfully. He did all that.

But look at the answer God gave. You would have thought that a man of God like Paul, a righteous man like God (sic Paul), or man of God like Paul, would receive a favourable response. But God's answer to him is, in essence, if I may summarize it in another way, N-O - No. Lord, let this thorn be removed. No. Let this please be removed. No. Let this be removed. And again, no.

It's interesting, isn't it? That when you are sick and when you are deeply discomforted, and when you pray to God, He doesn't seem to answer you. He says in effect, no. It's very tempting for us to think that God is therefore incapable or unloving or He doesn't care. But that cannot be true. We're going to see why later on.

But another aspect which is, I think, important is, this is one example to show that God doesn't always heal all our sicknesses in this life. But you see that's what false teachings portray. They say that God will always heal Christians of every sickness. That's where you get the prosperity gospel or the false gospel. You have the health and wealth false teaching.

And then they will tell you, if you are not healed, it's not because God cannot heal you, but because you have not enough faith. So it's a double whammy, do you know that? Because not only are you sick, now you walk away thinking that I'm a man of little faith, that's why God never heals me.

So not only are you tormented physically, you're also tormented psychologically, spiritually. They blame you for not having enough faith. They say that you're a disgrace to Christianity because you are not a man of God or you're not a woman of God, that's why you're not healed. But Paul doesn't struggle with lack of faith, at least not here. Paul is not a disgrace by any means. Paul is the apostle but God said no to Paul.

It's not easy for us to grasp these things because somehow deep within us, we still wish we will be healed, still wish we will not have to suffer, still wish we will not have to go through chemotherapy, and so on and so forth. It's not easy.

This week, I got a text from a friend who follows our ministry here. He said, hi Pastor, thanks for the sermon on Sunday. I have been praying cos in a lot of pain. I know there's a reason God wants me to go through this but it's really a lot of pain. Do you think there is always a light at the end of the tunnel?

I take it to mean, will God ultimately heal me ay? Because I.. I.. I.. I'm really in a dark place right now and I wish there is light. Do you think God will heal me?

You know I think it's very easy for me to then text back and say, dear so and so, our God is faithful, our God is powerful, our God is loving, He will definitely heal you. Amen. Easy for.. for me to text something like that. And he will feel good. But I can never find in myself tenability to type something like that.

Because to me, though that may be encouraging and comforting and, and in a sense, helpful in a way, that's dishonest. Because I'm not God. And I don't have the promises in the Scriptures to back up what I'm going to say, that God will definitely heal you in this lifetime. I can't.

So, how should one respond? Well, I share with you how I responded. I don't think it's anything special, it's just probably a.. a restating of what we have been looking at so far. I said to him, I'm so sorry to hear about this, I'm sure you're already getting the best medical treatments. I know who he is, I know he's able to find the best options. No question about that in a medical sense.

But biblically speaking, I say God can heal. That's important to emphasize. The fact that you are not healed doesn't mean God is impotent. Or that the disease is so great He can't wrap His head around it or His power around it. God can heal but He does not always do so. I've got to make it clear to you.

He does not always do so. Why? Not because He doesn't love us, but because there are even greater reason or reasons for not healing if He should not. He is God, I am not. There are many considerations in His mind.

I'm sure as parents, you don't always do what your children ask you to do. Daddy, I want to go to Disneyland. Uh.. not very wise if you're struggling financially. Daddy, I don't want to eat vegetables. Well, it's good for you to eat vegetables. Mum, I don't want to go to vaccination, it's painful. I know it's painful but it's better for you.

We all as parents understand sometimes we allow our children to go through pain and maybe even live in pain. Go to that swimming coach who always 'tekan' you. You learn character. You learn endurance. It's better for you than for me to pluck you out of a difficult situation. I don't want to go to school, it's too hard. Which parent says, orh too hard, come out.. come out.. come out, don't study? Which of you? No one. But it's not because you do not love your kids, but exactly the opposite - you love them.

So God has a reason and a very good reason why the pain remains. There is no promise that all sicknesses will be healed in this lifetime. No. If there is, God will fulfil it. And if God fulfils it, no one would ever die. Whatever disease, you'll be healed. Your.. your coronary arteries may be super old but it will never be choked up. You'll never die. God will just heal and heal. Your hair gets grayer, you get weaker but you'll never die. He will heal you of all your sicknesses.

But I think in the resurrection, yes. In the resurrection, God will give us a glorious, incorruptible body that will never decay, that will never break down, that will never die. I think that is true, but not now.

So in the meanwhile, knowing these things, what should we do? I say the appropriate response is that though we can long and pray for healing, nothing wrong with that, Paul prayed for that; but more importantly, we should trust and obey even if there is no healing. Not to forsake God, not to say that He doesn't work, He is not faithful, I'll go my own way. Nope, we remain faithful because we believe in the promises that are to come.

So the apostle Paul is therefore now telling us about this humbling experience, this thorn. But in order for us to appreciate the relevance of this thorn, he begins with paradise. That's not the main thing, that's just the context. He's boasting about his weakness, that's his overall theme. And in the context of this paradise, we've got to know the pain that comes.

[3] Power
So why this thorn? What's that great reason that is so important that it trumps even my comfort, huh, my desire to be well and comfortable? The reason is that with this pain, you know power and real power resides in you. See how Paul explains this. He said to me (well I wish I prayed three times He will remove the thorn but He said to me), My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.

In other words, My power is most manifested, it's obvious in your weakness. As you are breaking down, as you are losing it, as you are struggling in life, it will be obvious to you and to everyone, it is My power who holds you together and who enables you to serve. My power is made perfect in weakness.

When someone is so strong and capable and got all things together, it's very hard for us to think about God, we think about him. You read about the Bible, it's so interesting. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God delights to use small little things. I mean the classic story is that of Gideon, isn't it? He had a big army and God says, too many people. Then, a lot of went back and then still a big army and He says, okay go to the river and see how they drink. Some drink like that, some.. I don't know uh. And then, and then God just chose the method of drinking, the people who drank with that method as the.. as the smallest group.

Some.. some say, oh it's because this one pagan or.. I don't buy that. I think the simple reason is God just chose the group that has the least number. He wants to use small weak things, so that we know power belongs to God. So, the thorn is given to you Paul to weaken you so that it's obvious it's My power.

And he says again, for the power of Christ, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. That's a very pictorial word - the word 'rest'. It's a word that means to spread the tent, to tabernacle. It's the idea somewhat of like the Shekinah glory of God coming upon the tabernacle. So Paul says when I'm weak, the power of God tabernacles, spreads His tent upon me.

So in a kind of a wrap-up or summary, what I'm saying here is, or Paul is saying here is: we want no pain. Nobody likes pain. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable. That's what we want, we understand. Nothing wrong to pray, Lord remove it from me three times. It's okay. But it's important also to grasp what God wants. God doesn't really say no pain. Not that He's a sadist but through pain, He can achieve something greater. And that greater thing is God wants no pride. That's even more important to God.

So we say to ourselves or say to God, please remove my pain. But in God's wisdom He says, I want to retain your pain. Not that He's cruel. We've got to ask what's the purpose? And God says so that My power may be made perfect in weakness.

In other words, God is bringing Paul or vaccinating Paul from the danger of sinful pride, so that his life may continue to manifest glorious power. That's God's purpose for Paul. So Paul says I boast in my weakness, because it is in my weakness that I am cured of that pride and that God's power may be fully manifest in my life.

So instead of pain, we should say Lord, take away my pride. And properly viewed, I think this is the paradigm shift we need to have. It's easy to talk about it now but I know it's not easy when you are experientially going through cancer or sleeplessness or a family breakup or a trial in your workplace. I know it's not easy but the paradigm shift we really need to grasp from the pages of Scripture is that the thorn is not really a problem.

If you trust that God is your Father, He is sovereign, He is in control and He loves you, then the trials of life are not necessarily problems. They are not. Like James, he will tell us to count it all joy when we fall into diverse temptations. Why? Because they are meant to be a blessing. They are a gift from God. Very strange gift. Not in a package I really want, but it's a gift. It's for your good.

So instead of grumbling bitterly, the right response in a Christian life is to boast gladly, to rejoice. Now I want to say that it is not true that every single trial in life is only meant to puncture your pride, because there are other reasons given in the Bible. To grow your faith, to increase hope, to chastise us so that we may turn from our sinful ways. There are many other reasons but one of the reasons here is that it may help us realize our weakness and God's power may be more manifest.

So, if we understand all that, then we will understand how Paul therefore says, therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses. Why? So that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I.. I see the wisdom now of that sickness. I see the wisdom now of that heartache. I see the wisdom now of that pain in my life. I'm walking with a limp but the power of God is with me.

That's the story of Jacob, isn't it? Jacob wrestled with God the whole night. He used all his energy, tried to overcome the angel of the LORD but he failed. No power, exhausted and his hip is now dislocated when the angel of the LORD just touched him there. And when he is empty, when he is zero in energy, when he's exhausted, when he's limping, now he says, I hang on to You, do not let, I will not let You go until You bless me.

It's when he realizes he's so weak, it's when he realizes he's at breaking point, that there is the blessing point. It is there when he ceases from his own efforts, when he knows that he has nothing left, that God says, I will bless you. Your name is now going to be no more Jacob, the heel grabber but Israel, the prince who prevails with God. You have learned to have power with God. What is the secret to having power with God? When you're walking with a limp, when you're weak and know it.

So today, you may be going through a pain. Can be your family, can be your work, can be your health, can be a kind of like a death sentence where the doctor says, it's a relapse. Can be sleeplessness. It's easy for us, it's instinctive for us to say, remove my pain Lord. But perhaps we should also pray, if God has not answered you the way that you've expected, to remove that pain, you may also have a paradigm shift to say Lord, maybe I'm not sure, but maybe You want to puncture my pride and reveal Your power through me. Then have Your own way.

If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will, borrowing the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

See my friends, pride is like that major choke that blocks up God's power in our lives. We are, the reason why God cannot use us is because we're too full of ourselves. Everything we do is our intellect, in.. intelligence, our resourcefulness, our experience. We don't need God and that can be a problem in my life, it can be a problem in your life, that can be a problem in this church. But weakness, pain, is often the occasion for God's power. My power is made perfect in weakness.

But let me encourage you with the earlier words here, My grace is sufficient for you. If you feel that your life is spinning out of control, this is too much for me, I will not be able to go through it. Now, these words are very encouraging - My grace IS sufficient. Not My grace will be, My grace should be, My grace hopefully will be. No, My grace IS sufficient for you. Whatever you need, as long as you are trusting and obeying, My grace is sufficient for you.

There are songs we sing to remind us of that. One song is 'How Firm a Foundation'. And in the particular stanza it reads, and when through fiery trials your pathways shall lie, His grace all sufficient shall be your supply. The flame shall not hurt you, He only designs the dross, the impurities to consume and your gold to refine.

Or a song that I think most of you do not know how to sing. Uh, but a song that we used to sing in Gospel Light years ago, is.. is a test of whether you're old-timer Gospel Light or not. And it's a song 'He Giveth More Grace'. I want to test how many old-timers here; I hear a lot of old-timers not here. How many of you know this song? One, two, three, four, five. Wah, really, 几只猫 (ji zhi mao - a few cats meaning only a few) urh you call this. Five, six, seven, urh less than ten! Are you kidding? How many of you know this song? I, can I see by a show of hands again, just to..? Maybe a little bit more than ten. Wah, jialat, later, the song leader will have a hard time.

But He Giveth More Grace says:
He giveth more grace when the burden grows greater;
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase. (You never lack, that's the point.)
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere (or before) the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

So whether Paul was lowered in a basket in Damascus in humiliation and vulnerability, or whether Paul was lifted up to the third heavens in glory and splendor, God's will for His children and His servants is weakness and an acknowledgment of it, so that the power of God may rest upon them.

Therefore, the thorn is not a problem but a provision. So that the power of God may rest. So that the supremacy does not belong to man but to God. Therefore, this is what Paul has been speaking about in a jars of clay. We are weak, vulnerable vessels and if there be anything to be praised, it is the excellency of the power of the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be in the triumphal procession, that our King is glorified as we are led captives as His servants.

So, this is the thematic approach to Paul in 2 Corinthians. And perhaps today you're still struggling with the question, why am I suffering? I hope you will not give up on God. I hope you will not be sold that false teaching that God must always heal our sicknesses because it relegates God's purposes to a very secular, mundane, temporal nature.

God's purpose is far greater than these things. God's purposes is that we may be sanctified and glorified. And therefore, sometimes He gives us thorns in the flesh. So instead of grumbling, resenting, being bitter, for the sake of Christ then, let us be content, let us boast gladly of weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.

They are not accidents, they are not just incidents; they are God's intentional design for your life. For all things work together for good to them that love God, even thorns and thistles.

And if there be any ministry success, blessings in our lives, oh let us learn that we are just weak vessels and if we should boast, let us boast in the Lord alone.

For those of you who are going through pains, let me again encourage you, remind you God's Word is true. My grace is sufficient - for today, for tomorrow and as long as we shall live, till we see Jesus face to face. This, I think, is the true light at the end of the tunnel. May God bless you, let's bow for a word of prayer together.

People often think that the Christian life is a bed of roses. In fact that's what some churches erroneously sell you. Come to Jesus, all your problems will melt away. Come to Jesus, all your sicknesses will be solved. Come to Jesus, all your financial woes will be done. That's not biblical. That's not what God says. Because God does have greater purposes than what we sinfully assume.

We are men, we have limited knowledge and our wisdom is finite. But our God is infinitely wise and His ways are higher than our ways. So though it is extremely uncomfortable and painful, we should surrender ourselves to the Surgeon's hand. He knows what to cut out in our lives. He knows how to heal us and to mend us.

So today, gladly come to this Spiritual Physician who seeks to purge out that cancer of sin, so that you may truly be well before the Lord. Come to this Spiritual Surgeon who cuts out sinful pride so that the flow of life, the power of God may course through your spiritual veins again. Let us as a people trust His grace is sufficient. Let us as a people boast gladly in our infirmities and even in our Lord.

My friends, there is light at the end of the tunnel. When we come to that day we meet Jesus face to face, we will look back at our lives and realize no pain is ever wasted in God's Kingdom. They all work for us an eternal weight of glory. This is the way of the Christian life. First sufferings, then future glory.

If you're here today and you do not know Jesus, our Lord Jesus Christ, prayed that prayer, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me but nevertheless not as I will but as You will." And so He voluntarily and gladly at the end of the day, drank in that cup of suffering that we as sinners should drink. But He took it all. He suffered and died on the cross to be the sacrifice, to be the substitute for your sins, that He may save you from your sins.

He is our Suffering Servant and yet also our Conquering Saviour. If you're here and you do not know Jesus, what we are saying here is Jesus suffered and died and rose again and you can believe on Him to receive forgiveness and eternal life as well.

So dear God, thank You so much. These things are so paradoxical in our minds, they are so counterintuitive. But we thank You that they are recorded clearly in the pages of Scripture.

And so we pray Your Spirit today will take Your Living Word and transform and renew our minds. That today we'll have a paradigm shift, as we encounter the thorns and trials and tribulations of life. Bless Your people and we pray all this in Jesus' Name. Amen.

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