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Grace for Christmas

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WEAKNESS

All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" is a novelty Christmas song written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner while teaching music at public schools in Smithtown, New York. He asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed that almost all of the students had at least one front tooth missing as they answered in a lisp. Gardner wrote the song in 30 minutes. In a 1995 interview, Gardner said, "I was amazed at the way that silly little song was picked up by the whole country." The song was published in 1948 after an employee of Witmark music company heard Gardner sing it at a music teachers conference.
While the issue is not really about missing your two front teeth this afternoon, let me make this observation: missing your front teeth could cause your communication skills to be weaken because you would be incapable of speaking correctly. The word weak or weakness is used repeatedly in the text and means "incapacity". It is used in the sense of the lack of physical, natural, or preternatural (surpassing the ordinary or normal; existing outside of or not in accordance with nature) qualification. It suggests a state of weakness or limitation.
That is exactly what the apostle was challenged with in dealing with these believers at Corinth. They said that he was, in essence, "weak" and did not rank or measure up to the other apostles or leaders. And so, Paul is finding himself having to defend his call and appointment to try to prove himself to these people that he should be acknowledged and respected along with the rest of the brethren.
Have you ever found yourself trying to prove yourself to other people?
The Bible Knowledge Commentary C. Apostolic Credentials (11:16–12:10)

Like most people, the Corinthians were slow to absorb the truth that divine standards differ radically from those of the world. Paul had tried to make this clear in his former letter concerning the message of the Cross: the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:18–25). If, however, the Corinthians persisted in looking at things from the world’s point of view, he would accommodate himself to their perspective. But he would still try to lead them to realize that divine accreditation should be seen not against the backdrop of human greatness but human weakness. The marks of an apostle were the marks of Christ, including weakness and suffering (2 Cor. 13:4; cf. Isa. 53:3–4; Mark 9:12). In this passage (2 Cor. 11:16–12:10) Paul recounted his frailties and with poignant irony said, in essence, “These are the credentials of an apostle” (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9–13).

Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

WANTING

See 2 Cor 12:7
2 Corinthians 12:7 NASB95
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!
Paul was not "boasting" for the sake of boasting. He says to his readers "y'all made me go there !" Because to dismiss Him as an illegitimate apostle was to dismiss his message about Christ. He says that his experiences with the Lord far exceeded what they thought they knew about him. I know you've heard it before you, so you ought to be able to help me preach right here: tell your neighbor...there's more to me than what you see! You were not there when He saved my soul, you were not there when He made me whole, you were not there when He brought me out, you were not there when He turned me around, You were not there when he lifted my head, dried my tear, and gave me a new song". Tell them..."Don't make me go there!" You see my glory, but you don't know my story.
He had been privileged to have visions that he could not even talk about. These privileges had the capability of causing him to become lifted up in pride; (be careful: spiritual victories can give you the big head) and so, the Lord allowed a messenger of Satan to afflict him with what he termed a "thorn in the flesh".

Countless explanations concerning the nature of his thorn in the flesh have been offered. They range from incessant temptation, dogged opponents, chronic maladies (such as ophthalmia, malaria, migraine headaches, and epilepsy), to a disability in speech. No one can say for sure what his was, but it probably was a physical affliction (for the work of Satan in this, cf. 1 Cor. 5:5; 10:10). It is understandable that Paul would consider this thorn a hindrance to wider or more effective ministry (cf. Gal. 4:14–16) and that he would repeatedly petition God for its removal (2 Cor. 12:8).

See 1 Cor 5:5; 10:10
1 Corinthians 5:5 NASB95
I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1 Corinthians 10:10 NASB95
Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
Lowery, D. K. (1985). 2 Corinthians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 583). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Paul's desire, his want, was to have this uncomfortable, debilitating, incapacitating, limiting issue removed. So much so that the text says he went to the Lord 3 times asking, requesting, begging for it's removal. Notice that Paul has been telling these readers that he has been used by God. He has endured hardships and trials, he has served God even in the face of death...Looks like the Lord could have granted him this small request. This man, who was reported to have power over demons is vexed by a messenger of Satan, a thorn in the flesh and cannot get God to give him what he is asking for.
Can I pull over to curb momentarily and park parenthetically? You all know that is enough to make some of us stop walking with the Lord. Am I right about it? We all know somebody who quit believing in God, because they didn't get what they wanted. That's one of the reasons i have a problem with "Jesus will never say no preaching"...I don't believe that we ought to expect God (who know the end at the beginning) to step and fetch and jump to our command. That would make us God and Him the servant.
Instead of getting upset and mad with the Lord, instead throwing his hands into the air and quitting on God, instead of him trying to make things work on his own; he learns a vital lesson, that each of us should learn. He learned from this experience the lesson that pervades this letter: divine power (My power, v. 8; Christ’s power, v. 9) is best displayed against the backdrop of human weaknesses (cf. 4:7).
See 2 Cor 4:7
2 Corinthians 4:7 NASB95
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
Lowery, D. K. (1985). 2 Corinthians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 583). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

WAITING

See 2 Cor 12:8
2 Corinthians 12:8 NASB95
Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
In order for the Child of God to experience divine power, we must learn to wait on God. Notice the text Paul says "concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me."

FOR A MOVE OF GOD

Paul recognized what we all must come to realize. If real deliverance is to take place in our lives it will take a "move of God". We sometimes get in a hurry because we feel that God is not moving fast enough. Paul's experience confirms the truth of the songwriters pen: "You can't hurry God", no you just have to wait. You've got to trust Him and give him time...No matter how long it takes...He may not come when you want him but He is always on time.

FOR THE WORD OF GOD

Paul was being buffeted, harassed by a messenger of Satan. The text does not tell us what the devil was saying; but, can I use my sanctified imagination for a minute and suggest that maybe the messenger said to Paul that he had betrayed everything that he ever believed in by having this ministry to these dogs (Gentiles). Maybe he was telling Paul that it just wasn't worth it, or maybe he was saying that Paul should start a movement where He would be the Great One and people would look up to and worship him. WHATEVER this messenger was saying was having an effect on the apostle. And Paul's response was to go to God and wait for a word from the Lord.
We too, like Paul, have those times when we need to wait for the word of God. When the devil begins to accuse us and threaten us, what we need is a word from the Lord. Gospel recording artist Micah Stampley sang Oh Lord, speak into my life... he says:
One word I’m living this moment on a word Not just any word but a word from you A word that says I’m healed, delivered, and set free There are no more chains holding me. Could have been lost on that rocky road If I would have kept my eyes on the problem I would have surely fell, I heard a voice say whose report do you believe I said oh Lord one word is all I need.
Is there anybody who is Waiting on a Word from the Lord?

FOR THE FAVOR OF GOD

The phrase ‘he has said to me’ is translated ‘his answer was’ [REB, TEV]. The perfect tense may indicate an act which has ongoing effect, i.e., the answer given continues to be valid

Paul said that the Lord answered him by saying "My grace is sufficient for you". We might ask the question: What is the primary meaning of ‘grace’ here?
In this context it primarily refers to Christ’s power, or is closely associated with it. Power and grace are synonyms here. It is Christ’s enabling strength . His grace is revealed in his power. It is the enabling power present in Christ’s love that gives strength to endure suffering and hardship. It is that which enables Christian faith and service and which assures a believer of his standing with God. God’s grace is his love that enables faith and endurance. It is the force by which God sustains believers throughout their lives. It is God’s unmerited favor. It is God’s movement in love toward human beings.
God’s power is best displayed or manifested when human weakness is most evident . It becomes more visible as it works through Paul’s weakness. God’s power is more conspicuous and no one is confused about whose power is at work. Paul’s weakness is the means by which God’s power is revealed . God’s power becomes a reality in weakness . The more a Christian recognizes weakness, the more Christ’s enabling strength is evident ]. Because of the problems Paul experienced, the divine power at work in his preaching and ministry is shown to be God’s, not Paul’s . His power is able to work best when Paul is weak. Christ’s power becomes complete in the weak person who depends on him. God’s grace is poured out in greater measure where the weakness and need are greater. Because of Paul’s weaknesses God’s power is now the focus of his work. God’s power finishes its work of humbling Paul when Paul is completely weak.
Abernathy, D. (2008). An Exegetical Summary of 2 Corinthians (2nd ed., p. 387). Dallas, TX: SIL International.

WORSHIP

See 2 Cor 12:9-10
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NASB95
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul says that he came to the conclusion that he would switch his focus from what he wanted to what he needed. And I believe that this is where the Lord wants us to get to; to the place that we can say "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want". I don't know who I'm talking to today, but God's word to you today is that "where you are deficient, His Grace is sufficient."
Some people have set their hearts on getting the best gifts that can be found under the Christmas tree. The Top 10 Reviews says that Amazon Echo Dot, the Apple Watch Series 2, the Play Station VR, The Tivo Roamio, the Asus Chromebook flip, or the Nintendo 3DS XL are among some of the best gifts to give this Christmas, and there are a whole lot of people who will be very unhappy if they don't get what they want. But, let's just say that you do get it; you do realize that by time we reach February, it will no longer have the same appeal, the people you were trying to impress won't even care that you stood in the long lines and put your life in danger of black Friday.
But can I tell you about one gift that keeps on giving? It is Jesus Christ, God's Son. God in his gracious compassion gave His Son that we who are weak might be able to become strong. I'm reminded of the old church hymn: Guide me O thou Great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land....I am weak, but thou art mighty, hold me with thy powerful hand. Thank God for Grace!
We ought to tell the Lord this afternoon: That's all I need! Paul says God alone is to be praised (10:17). Rather than removing the problem God gave him grace in it. This grace is sufficient (arkei, i.e., adequate in the sense of providing contentment).
God’s grace transformed Paul’s perspective. Experiences in his ministry he would naturally abhor, he could welcome supernaturally because the evidence of Christ’s power in the midst of them brought glory to Him, not Paul. When Paul came to the end of himself, Christ alone was seen. When he was weak, then Christ, by His strength, could make Paul spiritually strong.
Lowery, D. K. (1985). 2 Corinthians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 583). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
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