I. REVEALING SITUATION:
II. SOURCE OF ATTACK:
I Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.”
James 1:13, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.” James 1:17, “With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
III. AVENUE OF EFFECTIVENESS:
II Corinthians 12:7a, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations…” Ezekiel 28:17, Lucifer’s sin was pride.
Protected Paul — us by the Holy Spirit and Word. If the enemy can’t keep you down, he will work on puffing you up.
World’s system is designed for man to do more himself, without looking to or trusting God.
IV. ACTION TAKEN:
II Corinthians 12:8, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.”
Answer shows prayer should have been for growth, not release. Persist when no definite promise. Surely Paul prayed earnestly first time and God heard, but must be His will. God’s answer often so different from what expecting, we can’t receive.
V. SOLUTION RECEIVED:
II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
I Corinthians 10:13, “But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
It is: Powerful — Present — Plentiful — Practical.
It was enough for Job, David, etc.
VI. BENEFITS DERIVED:
II Corinthians 12:9, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” — Reaches its end, wants nothing — complete.
“…that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” — Abides — takes — quarters — descends.
Glory — Glory — Glory
Receiving God’s Divine Strength
In this book we will consider God’s promise of strength, to the weak. Whenever you are weak, or whenever you need help, God will help you. The Bible says let the weak say they are strong (Joel 3:10b). When an individual is weak, he can say his is strong, because he is drawing from the strength of God. When you learn how to draw from God’s strength, you will really move in faith. Faith will take you past the point of endurance with physical pain, when you are drawing from the strength of God.
When the pressure is coming upon you with fear, frustration, family troubles, financial problems, or whatever it might be; when you learn how to draw from the strength of God, you will come to the end of your strength, and begin to walk into God’s. You will soon learn Jesus is the vine and you are the branch, and without Him you can do nothing. You will begin to confess, “When I’m weak, I’m strong. When I can’t, then I can lean upon the Lord.”
The Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians that not many mighty, not many noble, not many with intellect, not many of those who are exceptionally strong in the world, are chosen. Most of these will not be willing to die to their own ability, and let God’s ability rise up inside of them. If you have a lot of natural strength, let it die, in order for God to bring forth His strength. Then you can say, “Not I live, but Christ lives in me; Jesus Christ, the hope of glory.”
II Corinthians 12:7-10 reads: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
When I come against situations where I know I can’t, then I am strong because I know through the grace and strength of God I can do it. When the pressure gets so rough and I know I can’t go on, praise God, that is where I come into the strength of God. You must learn this principle, because as you continue to walk with God you can rest assured that the devil is going to bring things against you that would overtax all your strength, all your mental ability, all your physical ability, and put you in a position to rely on God. In those situations you must realize that Christ in you is the hope of glory.
God’s promise of strength in times of need is not just simply to enable you to survive, but to overcome triumphantly, and give a clear and strong witness. God has promised His children supernatural strength, divine strength, strength beyond what the natural man can claim.
An individual must have the power of God living in him before he will be able to draw from the strength of God. If a person is not born again, then he does not have the power of God in him. He does not have God inside of him, therefore he cannot draw and receive from the strength of God. God’s strength is not to enable you to just survive, for you to just make it over the hill. God wants you to come to a place where you can zoom over the hills. God desires you to be able to go through problems and difficulties, and not even slow up.
I. REVEALING SITUATION. Let’s observe the situation that exposed Paul’s need. You are always going to be coming across situations that will reveal and expose where you stand. It may expose a physical, mental, or material need.
There come times when the load will get so heavy you don’t know if you can go another day. You don’t think you can make it through the night. You just don’t see how you can go on. But praise God, He is right there. When you come to these times, you must remain steady, you must remain calm, you must remain cool; and realize and say, “God, I can’t but You now live in me; therefore, I can.”
The situation is revealed in the seventh verse — “A thorn in the flesh,” Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
1. Spiritual. Some people think Paul’s thorn was spiritual. They think Paul’s thorn in the flesh was that so much pressure was upon him, he began to doubt his apostolic calling, and shirk his duties. Paul was continually being beaten, run out of town, put in stocks, locked in jail. If ever a man thought about shirking his duties, Paul would have been a good man to do it. Many people think his thorn in the flesh was a spiritual thing, that he was thinking about shirking his duties because everywhere he went he was persecuted.
2. Carnal. Some think it was a carnal thing: Paul not being married, not having a wife — lust; that he had problems, and couldn’t keep his eyes off the women. A lot of people believe Paul had a problem with women because of what he says in his epistles concerning women. But in case you don’t know it, Paul didn’t write the Bible. Paul wrote just what God gave him, and God didn’t have a problem with women.
3. Appearance. Some say Paul’s thorn was his appearance, that he might have been disfigured. Some historical evidence seems to indicate he was bow-legged.
4. Physical. Some think it was physical. Some say it was epilepsy; some say headaches, some say his eyes were weak, some say he had malaria.
5. Opposition. Many think that it was caused by people continually persecuting him, because wherever he went people persecuted him. They mocked him, they talked about him, they stoned him, they would drive him out of town. They would do everything in order to get rid of him. This was Paul’s revealing situation.
II. SOURCE OF ATTACK. What was the source of this attack, this thorn in the flesh? The Scripture says it was a “Messenger (the word “messenger” in the Greek is “angelos” and it refers to a human being, demonic force, or to an angel) of Satan.” The Scripture says the source of the attack was a messenger of Satan.
Demons are a harassment of the mind. I believe primarily this was what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. It easily could have been demons working through people, having them come against him all the time. That would be a thorn in the flesh. Have you ever heard somebody say, “Man, they are a pain in the neck”? In Numbers 33:55 it talks about “Pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides,” and it’s referring to people.
The people that were coming against Paul were a pain in Paul’s neck. The Scripture says it was a messenger of Satan. I believe it was demonic harassment of the mind; it was the demons working through people coming against him all the time. Everywhere Paul went there was either revival or riot (usually both of them). They had a revival, then there was a riot.
The word “messenger” is never used as referring to a disease or sickness. I don’t know how in our denominational training we ever came to the place we said it was sickness or disease, because you just can’t get that from the Scripture.
John 10:10 says that Jesus came that you and I might have life, and have it more abundantly. The devil has come to steal, kill and destroy. I Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” We are considering the source of Paul’s attack.
James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” If God cannot be tempted with evil, He doesn’t tempt anyone with evil. The source of this attack was not God; it was a messenger of Satan.
James 1:17 says, “…with whom (God) is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” There is no variableness in God. God does not turn from His Word after He has already said and ordained. The source of the attack was the devil, Satan coming against him. Paul had an abundance of revelations, and I’m sure the reason for the thorn was as Paul says, “Lest I…be exalted.”
III. AVENUE OF EFFECTIVENESS. What was the avenue of effectiveness for the thorn in the flesh? As God begins to bless you, you must realize you are in a dangerous place. In II Corinthians 12:7 Paul says, “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations.” Paul had received an abundance of revelations, and because of the revelations Satan began to come against him. He began to torment him.
Ezekiel 28:17 says Lucifer’s sin was pride. Listen to Lucifer’s problem: “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.” Paul was about to have the same problem. Paul says this messenger of Satan was coming against him lest he be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations. God protected Paul. He protects us by the Holy Spirit and by the Word.
When the devil can’t keep you down, he will try to lift you up, and puff you up and knock your feet out from under you. I believe these demonic forces were attempting this with the Apostle Paul. I believe the most dangerous time for a man or woman is when they begin to get hold of the Word of God and begin to prosper spiritually, physically, mentally and financially. When you begin to walk successfully in these areas, the enemy will bring pride.
The whole world system is designed to have you be self-sufficient. “Do it yourself; stand on your own two feet; if you don’t take care of your own, nobody else will.” With this attitude ingrained in you, it is hard for you to yield and submit to God. You say, “I can submit to God easily.” You can’t submit to God and not submit to God’s men. Do you think you can be rebellious toward people, then turn back around and say, “Oh God, I’ll do anything You want”? Your submission must be a way of life.
The whole world is designed to make you rebellious, hardheaded, self-sufficient, independent, and stand upon your own two feet. As long as you’re trying to do it yourself you will never get to the place you will draw from the strength of God. You will always be carrying the load yourself — pride.
Lucifer’s sin was pride. He beheld his beauty. He looked and saw how beautiful he was. He noticed how great his authority was. He began to look at some of the other angels, then at himself. He became lifted up because of pride. Pride is the most dangerous thing of all. Paul said lest he be exalted above measure, a thorn in the flesh came.
IV. ACTION TAKEN. What did Paul do? He said, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me” (II Corinthians 12:8). Paul’s answer shows his prayer should have been for growth, and not for a release.
Many times we pray to try to get out of something, and God wants to grow us up in it. Right in the middle of troubles and problems is where you can grow. As a man lifts weights, he becomes strong. Most people, when troubles and problems come, say, “Get me out of here.” “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” You can stand and grow and mature in that particular situation.
Paul persisted in praying when there was no definite promise. If there’s a definite promise in the Bible, get it and hold to it. But when there is no definite promise, stick with it until you get an answer. For example, concerning guidance: you don’t know what God wants you to do or where He wants you to go. God’s answer is often different from what is expected; therefore, we don’t receive it. God was training the Apostle Paul at the time.
Paul was asking God to get him out of this situation (the thorn in the flesh). All the time God was saying, “Paul, I’ll give you strength to endure it.” Paul had his mind so set on getting out of that thing, that he couldn’t hear from God. That is how we are many times. We have our mind so set on a certain way of doing it; God is trying to give us another way, and we can’t hear it because we have our mind so set on our way. Our way might not be bad, but it’s not the perfect will of God. It is not what God wants. God has something better for you.
I’ve seen times when I was seeking God about something. He was speaking all the time, but I just couldn’t accept it. I wanted it to be a different way. God was trying to give me something better, that would benefit me farther down the road. God has told me more than anything else during the time I’ve been praying for something, “My son, be patient.” God’s answer is often so different from what you expect, you can’t receive it.
As you begin to seek God to lead you and guide you in the situations and circumstances you’re facing, keep your ears open for God to speak to you. Paul said, “God, get me out of this; take this off of me.” But God had something better in mind. God said, “Paul, I’m going to grow you up above that problem.”
V. SOLUTION RECEIVED. God’s grace is sufficient, and God will endue you with strength and begin to grow you up in the midst of the situations and circumstances you are facing. God was telling Paul, “I want you to grow above these things.” You can be assured it was tough for Paul to go before God three times. He went before God, and this is what God told him: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
I Corinthians 10:13 says, “But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” With the temptation, with the attack, with the pressure, God will make a way to escape. The way to escape is to study the Word of God, and confess the Word of God, allowing the Word of God to move inside of you.
This passage of Scripture is powerful, present, plentiful, and practical. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Powerful words! I John 4:4 says, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” “My grace is (Now, present tense) sufficient for thee.” He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world — NOW. The Holy Spirit is in you — NOW. I can do all things — NOW.
God’s power is present tense. God’s grace is present tense. “My grace is sufficient.” We haven’t been taught to believe that God’s grace is sufficient, no matter the problem or circumstance. God’s grace is plentiful, and practical. It will bring you out. God’s grace will give you the ability to hold to the Word of God.
What was the solution Paul received? God’s grace is sufficient. His grace is sufficient in your family situation, in your job situation, in your school situation. God’s grace is sufficient, now, presently, as you face the situations of life.
Do you think God’s grace was sufficient for Job? Do you believe Job went through some trying times? How about David? His own son tried to take over his kingdom and kill him. David had problems in his family, but God’s grace was sufficient.
God desires you to realize in everything that is coming your way, His grace is sufficient. He that is in you is able to take you through, whether it is spiritual, physical, mental or material. God’s grace is sufficient. The Almighty God abides in you, and His Word is true. When you come to the Red Seas, and the valleys and mountains of life, realize His grace is sufficient for you.
VI. BENEFITS DERIVED. What were the benefits Paul derived? II Corinthians 12:9, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God’s strength is made perfect in man’s weakness. In other words, God’s strength is made complete and reaches its end in you when you are weak and you can’t do it, and you begin to trust and rely on God.
God was saying to him, “Paul, in your weakness, in your inability, that is where My strength perfects itself.” That is where you learn how to lean back on God. “There is no way I can stand this pain in my body; but God, Your grace is sufficient, because by the stripes of Jesus I’m healed.”
Until you realize you can’t do it in your own strength, you are not going to be able to tap God’s strength. Many times the devil puts you under such a defeated, insecure, inferior situation, he keeps you from believing you can do anything. Satan says you are a number one failure, but God comes along to make you a number one success. God realizes you are weak, but He says, “In Me you can be strong.”
I finally realized it’s not by my might nor my power, but by the Spirit of God. I finally realized, and learned to rely on God, because I can’t do it.
Men, God’s grace is sufficient. Boys and girls, God’s grace is sufficient. Women, God’s grace is sufficient. At home, at the job, at school, in business, at play, at pleasure, whatever you are doing: GOD’S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!
DIVINE STRENGTH FOR CHRISTIANS
God always provides strength to live faithfully for him and then you benefit from it in the other areas of your life.
Deut. 33:24-25 — And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. (25) Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
Isa. 12:2-3 — Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (3) Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
Isa. 26:4 — Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.
Isa. 40:29 — He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Isa. 41:10 — Fear thou not for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea I will help thee: yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Ps. 18:2 — The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Ps. 18:32-33 — It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. (33) He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
Ps. 27:1 — The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?
Ps. 27:14 — Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
Ps. 27:12-13 — Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. (13) I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Ps. 31:24 — Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.
Ps. 28:7-8 — The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. (8) The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.
Ps. 37:39 — But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: He is their strength in the time of trouble.
Ps. 46:1 — God is our refuge, and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Ps. 46:2 — Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Ps. 73:26 — My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.
Ps. 84:5,7 — Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. (7) They go from strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
Ps. 29:11 — The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.
Ps. 138:3 — In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
Prov. 10:29 — The way of the Lord is strength to the upright; but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
Joel 3:10 — Beat your plowshares into swords; and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
Exodus 15:2 — The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Neh. 8:10 — Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry: for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Habakkuk 3:19 — The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.
Eph. 3:16 — That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.
II Tim. 4:17-18 — Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might fully be known, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (18) And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.