Pleasing God, Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Pain and the Christian Life

2 CORINTHIANS 12:7-10 – 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.”

All of it. All will have it. All rebel against it in some measure. Few come to the point of the Apostle Paul in today’s scripture but if Christians want to know the power of God, influence for the Lord, and a close walk with Him, they must be one of the few who model Paul–glad submission. And the “it” is pain. In some cases, it might be severe pain. I mean consider the Apostle Paul in two realms.

First the pain of “messenger of Satan.” Imagine that. The word “messenger” translates “angelos”  and means “angel.” There are scholars and theologians who interpret this as God assigning a messenger in the form of a fallen angel, or demon, to harass Paul and that for all of life! Or it was some debilitating physical ailment that was always painful.

Then consider the life of painful suffering Paul endured in addition to this messenger from Satan- Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches(2 Corinthians 11:23-28). That is a lot of pain. A lot of suffering.

Yet in all the spiritual, emotional, and physical suffering inflicted upon the Apostle Paul, how did he respond? Not complaining. Not crying to God, “Not fair.” Not crying to God, “Please remove my pain so I can serve you better.” No, he boasted. Yes, he bragged, not of his gifts or how God was using him but in his weaknesses that were revealed through his extreme pain. And the lesson is this–God never wastes pain. He brings it into our lives, yes, He does. When we get a chance, check out Job 1-2 to see this truth. He does so because there is nothing more effective to bring us to our knees in total dependency on Him. Pain empties us of ourselves. Pain empties us of self-sufficient pride. Pain is one of the choice “potter’s wheels” God places us on to mold us into the image of Christ.

Pain in the Christian life. Don’t rebel. It won’t go away. Learn to be Paul-like; submit to it by seeing beyond the pain to the glorious purposes of God in and through our pain.

PRAYER: “Father, help me to see, believe, and submit to the truth that no pain in my life is by chance or wasted.”
QUOTE: “God uses pain in our lives to show us our weaknesses and drive us to His strength.”

Because of Him,
Pastor Jim