This morning during Hillside’s worship service, our campus pastor, Brad, began to talk before communion was passed. Brad told us the story of Paul in 2 Corinthians and his physical affliction, or his “thorn”. Paul states that he pleaded with The Lord to take away his thorn three times, but God didn’t do it. Instead, God promised to demonstrate His power in Paul. Brad continued to say that we too, have many “thorns”, or weaknesses. But Brad also reminded us that because of our weaknesses, He (our God) is strong. IN our weakness, God is strong!
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:7-10
From the text, we are unsure of what Paul’s thorn was. It could have been malaria, epilepsy, or even a chronic and/or debilitating condition. Whatever the case, though, this thorn was a hindrance to his ministry.
If Paul’s thorn really was some type of disease that was obviously hurting his ability to minister to others, you can only imagine how weak Paul felt. But God told Paul that His power is made perfect in weakness. It’s so encouraging to know that God’s power is displayed in weak people, such as myself.
I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed, begged, and pleaded with God to heal me from Cystic Fibrosis. I have cried myself to sleep many nights, just asking to wake up in the morning and be completely healed. Many more times, people have prayed over me, for me, and with me for the exact same reason. I have been a believer since I was seven years old. I have faith that my God can do absolutely anything. Yet, I still have this chronic condition that could one day take my life. Many people would have already lost their faith in Christ by now; in fact, several have done just that. Many have even asked me why I still believe in a God who “lets” me have this disease and doesn’t heal me.
Let’s go back to Paul.
He prayed for healing and did not receive it. However, Paul did receive things far greater because he received greater grace from God, a stronger character, humility, and an ability to empathize with others. In addition, it benefitted those around him as they saw God at work in his life.
According to His sovereign plan, God does not heal some believers of their physical ailments. We don’t know why some are spared and others aren’t, and we aren’t meant to know. God chooses according to His divine purposes. Our only task is to pray, to believe, and to trust. Paul is proof that holy living and courageous faith do not ensure instant physical healing. It’s come to my attention that when we pray for healing, we must trust our bodies to God’s care, recognize that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39), and know that our spiritual condition is much more important that our physical condition.
Many of you know my story. You know how depression and questioning God about my disease has played a major role in the woman that I am today. Paul’s story is my story.
I’m not afraid to tell others about my disease and how it affects my life because then I am also able to tell others how Christ has saved me from death. I can tell them that I am not afraid of death because of the work Christ has done in my heart and in my life. I can boast in my weaknesses because God’s power is made perfect in my weakness! I mentioned earlier how Paul received greater things from God than healing-grace, a stronger character, humility, etc. I believe that I too have received those gifts. I consider myself to be a strong woman of The Lord with a humble and gentle spirit. At least that’s what I’ve been told, and I believe it! I also believe that I could very well be a completely different person if I was never born with CF.
With this thought of knowing that Christ’s power is made strong in my weakness, comes the thought of being strong myself. This is great, but we have to be careful. When we are strong in abilities or resources, we are tempted to do God’s work on our own, and that can lead to pride. I have experience this myself, and am actually experiencing this today.
I tend to not be very good at taking my pills and doing my breathing treatments consistently, on a daily basis. I know, I know. Why on earth would I not do something that helps me feel good?! You can save your comments, questions, and concerns, because I have heard them all before. Believe me. I go through stages where I am really good about taking care of myself, then I hit a rut or two and I fall behind. I have had lecture after lecture from parents, family, and even friends. I know that they all care about me. If they didn’t, I would never hear a peep from them about this issue that I struggle with. What they don’t understand is how I struggle with this. Sometimes I don’t even know! But I have realized this, it’s a spiritual problem.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I am human, and therefore, sometimes I am enslaved to my own desires. What do I desire? I desire to not take pills and do hour-long breathing treatments on a daily basis. I desire to be “normal”, as some of us CFers would say. But when I became a Christian, the Holy Spirit filled me and continues to live inside me. Therefore, I am no longer my own body. “Bought at a price” refers to slaves purchased at an auction. Christ’s death freed us from sin, but also obligates us to His service. Look at it this way, if you live in a building owned by someone else, you try not to violate the building’s rules. In the same way, because your body now belongs to God, you must not violate his standards for living. I am called to be the best that I can be in order to honor God and live for Him.
It’s a hard thing, to go against your flesh and what it desires, and strive to live up to God’s standards. I struggle DAILY with this, and I know we all do! Maybe your flesh desires to sit on the couch all day and eat tubs of cookies and cream ice cream. Yet you know it’s time to go to the gym (I naturally tend to lean towards diet and exercise analogies…my apologies!).
But back to the point. Sometimes I am prideful in how I respond to taking care of my body. I tell God that I can do it all on my own, when it’s quite obvious that I can’t! But when we are weak and we allow God to fill us with HIS power, then we are stronger than we ever could be on our own. God does not intend for us to be weak, passive, or ineffective-life provides us with enough hindrances and setbacks without us creating them. But when those obstacles come, we must depend on God. Only His power will make us effective for Him and will help us do work that has lasting value.
So now back to the MAIN point (sorry my thoughts are everywhere). Yes, I have a chronic disease that sometimes hinders my daily tasks, but I also have a God whose power is displayed through this disease. I have seen Him work in others’ lives when I tell my testimony, and that is better than healing. For I know that one day, my Father will take me to be with Him forever, and it is that day that I will be healed from Cystic Fibrosis and be made perfect.