Faithlife Sermons

Discipline of Denial

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  • It was April 17, 1521 and Martin Luther (37) was standing in an improvised imperial hall in Worms, a modest city of 7,000.
  • Luther was appearing before Charles V (21) who was the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. This imperial diet (formal assembly) had gathered to attack Luther, specifically for his harsh writings.
  • Just in front of Luther was a large table, upon which sat all of his writings. Luther had been summoned to recant his writings. He was being asked to publicly confess to his mistakes in what he had written about the gospel, the nature of the church, and the current state of Christendom.
  • When they asked Luther to recant he claimed that his writings were of three types and that he would appreciate more time to reply. He was granted 24 hours.
  • It was 6:00 PM on April 18, 1521 when Martin Luther was led back into the imperial hall. As the crowd sat hanging on every moment to see what would happen. If Luther recanted, the Roman Catholic church would have won a stunning victory. If Luther did not, it could cost him his life.
  • The question came: "Do you wish to defend all your acknowledged books, or to retract some?"
  • Luther's response was poetic and powerful: "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted an my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience". The crowd grew into an uproar. The catholic representative fumed, and Protestantism was born.
  • You see, history is full of "turning points". Those decisive moments where denial is the order of the day. You've been denied something as big as a liberty or as little as a cup of soup, but you are forced into what I call the 3-D method of denial. Difficulty - Discovery - Decision.
  • I want to talk this morning on a much smaller scale. You are not about to start a reformation, but in your life you are faced with "thorns" which you want to leave you alone. But when you have been denied that what do you do? I want to walk you through the 3 D's of denial so you will understand that God has a plan and a purpose for you, even when it hurts.
  • 2 Cor. 12:7-10

Paul Felt Difficulty (7-8)

It came as a pressure that seemed unhelpful

  • Paul undoubetedly questioned why on earth he had received this debilitating difficulty
  • What did it look like? (spec. gr word means from pointy end of stick all the way to terminal illness: his eyesight (Gal 6:11): commentators can't agree).
      • I think it's obscure for a good reason. We all face different thorns. Paul didn't want the readers to interpret one ailment. The point is you may be facing something that you see as completely unhelpful
          • In the hospital with failing lungs, dealing with an addiction (alchohol, porn), a prodigal child, financial struggles, a tough situation at work.

Paul offers up a prayer that seems unheard

  • 3 seperate occassions Paul prays that the thorn will be taken. Do you think that frustrated Paul?
      • I can picture Paul saying, /"Lord, you know that I am sold out to you. You know that I am a humble servant, why won't you take this away so I'll be free to minister more effectively". Yet there seemed no response.
  • Let me ask; how have you dealt with your thorn? Have you cried out to what seems like no answer? Do you think that you are above the thorn and it has no purpose in your life?
  • You are at a position of difficulty, so where do you go next? It's time to make a discovery.

Paul Made A Discovery (9)

  • In our immediate context Paul is referring back to all the events described in vv. 1-6. Paul could have come out of that with a serious case of "look-at-me!" But there was a bigger plan for this vision and a bigger plan for the thorn (v. 9)

The Lord's Gracious Purpose

  • My grace is sufficient for you.
  • The purpose of God was to prove that God was all that Paul needed. Paul did not even need himself.
  • God wants us to know that His grace is the end-all of this life. We don't need money, we don't need power, we don't even need all the answers, all we need is God's grace.
  • Where are you looking for power in your difficulties? "If God would just heal my sickness." "If God would just give me more money." So Paul is making a powerful discovery

The Lord's Gracious Provision

  • My power is made perfect in your weakness.
  • There is a strange power-in-weakness relationship.
      • Rom 8:35-37
  • It is our weakness that allows God to provide for us and make us more than conquerors.
  • The greater the Christian's acknowledged weakness, the more evident Christ's enabling strength.
  • You want to see the best representation of the power-in-weakness, look no further than the cross. Jesus had a thorn, would you not agree? In his weakest moment, he had the greatest power.
  • In your throny situation, discover the purpose, discover the provision, God's grace is sufficient and it is in your weaknest moment, he is made strong.

Paul Made A Decision (10)

  • At this point Paul had to make a decision. Give up because of his thorn, or do something with it.

His attitude changed

  • Paul was now ready to face his thorn in a new light, but not only the one that was constantly with him but also, any more that would come.
  • Paul did not become a madman seeking dramatic events to expose his weakness, he is indicating that his attitude changed. He now knew that every difficult circumstance was an opportunity to see God in action. To see God work in you, through you, on you.

His acceptance is complete

  • You can live with this thorn, you can get through this thorn. But you can't do it by yourself. It taked accepting the one with the power


  • Have you been asking God to remove some pressure, some problem from your life?
  • To change your circumstances?
  • Maybe that's not the answer, maybe they are there to teach this lesson: with abiding pressure comes abudant provision
  • His grace is sufficient for you.
  • Unbeliever, you've been living your life apart from Christ, well, guess what, that's a pretty big thorn, and in your weakness you can see the greatest display of Jesus' strength. He can save you! His grace is sufficient for you.
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