Monday, July 28, 2014

Be Patient in Tribulation

Rejoice in hope. Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer. #HisWord
Almost a month ago, I was out of town and I was visiting a church on Sunday. I don't know about you, but sometimes visiting a new church can make me a little nervous. Walking in the doors of an unfamiliar church, I don't have any idea how they worship, if they tend to be more traditional or more modern, the way they handle "greeting time," or even the doctrine the church itself holds to. And this church was even in a different country. (Okay... Canada :) 

God taught me that I was trying to put him in a box. I somehow had this idea that the Spirit could only move in certain kinds of worship that were, as I thought, the "correct" way. Yet, at this church so far from my home and so different from what I am used to, God spoke to me in a powerful way. He captured my heart to the place where I was worshipping and praying with tears running down my face, totally amazed at the goodness and grace of God. 

The message was on this exact topic: being patient in tribulation. We studied a passage from 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul is speaking of all the ways that God has revealed himself to Paul. It even says that God brought Paul up to heaven in a vision. But then Paul goes on to say:

"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. 10 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."
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

So Paul received a "thorn in the flesh." We don't know what it was, but it is clear that it was something that hindered Paul in some way; it was something Paul would love to be rid of for good. This is how I often feel about tribulation or struggles— I just want to get rid of the problem. God does not work this way, however. When I see a struggle, be it physical, spiritual, or relational, I think that it is pointless, but God often has a deeper purpose. Many times it is to make me more reliant on him.  
my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness -- 2 corinthians 12:9
I love the above verse so much. It fills me with so much peace. In American culture, we are taught that we have to be strong. We have to fight our way to the top, get the good grades, be independent. The truth is that the more I try to fight through things on my own, the more I realize how weak I really am. This is the beautiful part. Because of God's power, it is okay that I am weak. I don't have to put up a facade and pretend that I have it all together. He is great and his power is made perfect in my weakness. 

This is why we can be patient in tribulation. The pattern is simple: tribulation comes and shows our weakness. God's power is made perfect in our weakness and is shown all the greater. He receives glory. Honestly, when everything is going great in my life, I can ignore the fact that I am weak. When I am healthy, making money, living a comfortable life, it is easy to pretend that I am strong. But when I fall to my knees and realize that I can't continue on my own, God's power becomes evident in my life in bigger and better ways. So while intense pain, spiritual attacks from the devil, struggles with people, etc, may not seem to be good things, I can choose to see them as blessings and let God's power shine in the midst of my weakness. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

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