Pain in the Side
The scripture we just read was from second Corinthians. There is another verse from 2 Corinthians that say, three times I beg the Lord to take the suffering away but he replied my grace is sufficient, for where you are weak I am strong.
So balance that with what we just read, For our hope for you is certain for we know that we partners in suffering, so we are partners in comfort.
They are both from the same book that Paul wrote. Paul loved the people of Cort. They were pretty nasty people, they we a Greek port city, so they were involved in a lot of things that would not want his people to participate in. Paul loved them anyway. He went there three times. That's why he wrote them not just one letter but two letters. First and Second Corinthians, because he loved the people.
There is a story about Paul filling in one day for St Peter at the gate of heaven.It seems that Peter was on vacation and one day Jesus was touring a part of heaven and noticed that there were people that maybe ought not be there. So, Jesus goes to Paul and says, Paul, you failed again. Paul says, what have I done now. Well, you let a lot of people in that may not belong. Paul says I didn't do it. Jesus asks, well who did? Pauls says you're not going to like it. Well, tell me anyway, say, Jesus. Well I turn they away from the front gate, and then they go around to the back door, and your mother lets them in.
Paul is the ultimate warrior yet he talks about his failures all the time. Also, he talks about his trails and stresses. Pauls says I have received 40 laces, three times; I have been beaten with rocks. Once I was stoned, and three times I was shipped wrecked. I faced dangers at sea and the wilderness and danger from false prophets. Besides all of that, there is the daily pressure that's on me, yet I don't boast for my own cause I boast for the Lord. Paul talks a lot about his sufferings and his failures and his thorn in his side. He does so, he says, to share the good news of Jesus.so that God is given glory so that in our weakness is Christ strength.
Remember the song I am weak but thou are strong? Have you ever thought about what it really means? I am weak, but in my weakness are God's strength. We read Paul talking about his failure, but scholars wonder what is the thorn he is talking about. What exactly is the thorn in the flesh that Paul writes about? No one really knows for sure. Paul at times brings it up, wrapped in a feeling of shame and suffering. Yet it doesn't stop him. That's what it means; Paul is made strong by his complete trust in God grace. Paul places his weakness in God' s hand and finds the strength to deal with whatever comes his way. He says I beg the Lord three times to take this suffering away from me. But he relied upon my grace is sufficient. My power is strongest when you are weak.God doesn't make the torn go away or the hurt or the pain or the grief. Nor the addiction, or disease or the fear. And that's not what God promised anyway. God gives us that in our weakness with might receive power from him.
I had a woodworking shop in my basement in my home before I came here. I make this or that, and many times I would run my hands down a board, and many time I would have splitters in my fingers. If I got one in my left hand, I could dig it out. BUt if it were to my right I would have to wait for Leslie to dig it out. Spillters just don't go away on their own.(8:23)If they are lodged in the right place in your finger, it seems like everything I did, press against them a sharp pain was felt. So every copy of minutes my attention was taken from what I was trying to do, to the pain in my finger. Pain in the flesh, just don't go away, they are a constant irritation. You want them removed. Paul was talking about something, and three times he asked for it to be removed and was told God's grace sufficient.
So, think for a moment. Whats your thorn? What is it you asked the Lord about, and it doesn't seem to be going away? You you're redirecting your vision and changing your thoughts? Maybe it arthritis pain. Pains in your knees and your hands and it get in the way to the things you want to do. Maybe you can't run like you us to or sew, or golf or whatever it was you so enjoyed? So days you can forget about it, but on those other days, those cold rainy day, it sticks you like a splitter deep in your finger. Perhaps it's a physical injury or handicap that has beaten you day exhausted you, until one day you say I give up. Or maybe you give in and say I can't change this pain in the flesh and I'm going to trust God to live with it. Only and only Paul asked for relief, and God said my grace is enough. May be for you it's a moral pain, a pain in your thoughts and feelings? Pauls say I do what I do and I don't do what I ought to do. Isn't it easy to find excuses and take actions that don't honor God? Maybe it's something very sad in your life. So sad tear swell in your eyes to think about. I sadness that so far there has been no answer for. No escape for that deep pain in your heart that makes it hard to find hope and difficult to pray. Maybe that is a missing loved one, a teenage, young adult, a soldier?
A thorn in the side. Jesus told us that the poor will always be with us. At the rescue missions every night the homeless come in to eat and shower and sleep on the floor on a mattress. A thorn in the flesh. Men come in with addiction for help some will recover many will not. A thorn. The poor will be with us always. Begging and helping Begging and feeding. A tear in our flesh for the churches and rescue missions, and I how it will always cause me pain every time I see someone sleeping under a bridge or hear a mother begging for food for her child. That because reminds us of that Jesus demand that we care for them> A pain that gives awareness to care for the lowly.
But beyond that pain I HAVE I HOPE IT PAINS THE CHURCH so that we go beyond simply paying a bill or handing off a bag of food, to something far greater. Maybe helping them grow their own food and finding a way to pay their own bills. Finding permanent housing rather coming into a rescue mission and sleeping on the floor with hundred others.
Over and over Paul begged and was told my grace is sufficient. What do we do with our thorns of pain? If we let them beat us down, which we sometimes do, life is a misery. But if we bring our weakness to God and place it entirely in his hands, then God is able to work and do great things in and through us. God has not promised that this life would be easy, nor painless. He didn't promise that you would have no suffering. He did promise that he will be with us, and be there to give us strength and lift us up. When we are weak, we can see His strength. God and us are in this together. The other verse said that we are a partner in suffering and partners in comfort. Every body needs some body. That's just we do as the Body of Christ we partner with each other in the joys of life an in the suffering. We provide comfort to the suffering. We keep on therefore in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, caring for the dying, and minister to the imprisoned. This is who we are and what we do. We are the Body of Christ.
People often won't join the church because they don't see the benefit. They want to know what's in it for them. They have pains and suffering, and they haven't seemed to notice that we do too, but we have power, a strength a love that gets us through the day. They do not see the Joy of the Lord from us. They often hear of the disunity and not the unity we have. They haven't experience how believer cares for the suffering and lift up the depressed. We haven't done a very good job of being noticed by the nonbelieving world, that we are the Body of Christ. I'm afraid so much of the communities just see us as a nothing social service location where they get a bill paid and a bag of food for the week. They haven't noticed that we have the characters of the Christ, its because we haven't shown to the community and the world the power of the Body of Christ. They won't believe what we have to say until they see us united in love and living what we are preaching.
This is a pain in our side. They don't want us to save them. They want us to love them.
It's about the relationships. Its one thing and a good thing to give a homeless man a mat to sleep on. It's another thing to sit on the floor with a homeless man and listen to his story. It's a good thing to give a family a bag of food and wishes them well, its a far greater thing to invite the homeless into the fellowship hall and sit with them as the eat a cooked meal. Jesus say, when you do this to the least of these you do it to me. The gospel is the good news that we share and we first need to share it with our action, love and tenderness.