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May 22, 2022 1:00 am
Have you ever begged God to remove a heavy trial in your life? Paul did, and the Lord said “no.” We have a choice: these times can either make you resentful or they can increase your faith. In this message, you receive three life-changing lessons as you bear that burden. You will discover that even the “no” answers are still answers from a gracious God.
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We all rejoice when God answers a prayer in a way that's unmistakable a new job when unemployed healing from a long disease reconciliation after years of separation, but there are prayers we can pray for which the answer is no. The apostle Paul begged the Lord three times to relieve his thorn in the flesh, and was told that he had to bear it in the sufficient grace of God from Chicago. This is The Moody Church.
Our weekly service of worship and teaching with pastor Erwin Blitzer. Today we continue a series on the triumph of unanswered prayer and our focus on this broadcast comes from the book of second Corinthians on how to handle times when the answer is denied, the Moody choir comes now to open today's service will you join me as we pray together and then we shall stand to sing our father, we thank you today that you are holy and we come into your presence. Recognizing that all access to. You must be mediated through Jesus Christ our Lord. And today, as we think of boasting and boasting in the right things were reminded of the words of the apostle Paul. God forbid that I should boast, except for the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.
We thank you today that because of the cross you have displayed in our lives. Awesome power and boundless grace we receive these with gratitude and accept our worship. We pray in the blessed name of Jesus. Amen. This is the word of the Lord from Jeremiah chapter 9 in first Corinthians chapter 1. Please join me at they read a book length, thus saith the Lord that not the wise man both in his wisdom that not know my man both in his mind that not every man both riches but let him blow all the understand and know me that I will practice that unrighteousness in the law. In these things.
The line declares the Lord, your calling routers. Not many of you will live according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God so that it's foolish in the world to shame the wise God souls, what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not to bring to nothing things that are so that no human being might boast in the presence of God and because of him.
You are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God. Righteousness and thanked the dictation and redemption so that it is written, let the one who both both in the Lord and in and in and will and will will and in if you're to ask people why they don't pray seriously and why prayer isn't really that big a part in their lives. I believe that 90 or 95% would say it's because of unanswered prayer. That's the reason. It can happen even when you're small little a little girl prayed that the doll that was in her arms would become a real baby and when that didn't happen.
She was disappointed with God. Aren't you glad that God often doesn't give us what we ask for the teenager who prays that his teeth will be straightened out so they won't have to wear braces and then discovers that God doesn't answer begins to think well what is there to this business of prayer, but usually, of course, the issue is much more severe and much greater it has to do with a young mother dying of cancer. It has to do with Johnny Erickson tied up in a diving accident in the late 60s existing for 40 years by now I'm sure in a wheelchair. That's what it has to do with has to do with families and abuse send all of those things, but at the end of the day, people would say it's because God doesn't answer prayer. Why should I bother when there's a very interesting and famous on answered prayer in second Corinthians 2nd Corinthians chapter 12 that I want you to turn to.
And if you didn't bring your Bible there's one there in the pew that you might be able to use this is not first Corinthians, this is second Corinthians chapter 12, the apostle Paul was caught up to the third heaven, he was caught up to paradise and therein paradise. God gave him specific revelations that were wonderful and great. In fact, Paul says I heard the things that I'm not even going to tell you about how different he is from some of the folks that we see from time to time on TV who would only be too quick to tell you what new revelation they received. Paul says them that I had this experience.
He's talking about himself in the opening verses. He says 14 years ago I was caught up to the third heaven first two. I don't know whether I was in the body or out of the body. I know that this man was cut up into paradise.
And he says in verse four he heard things that cannot be told which a man may not utter so the apostle Paul says that 10 in light of this, I received so many revelations and of course, he wrote 13 or 14 books of the New Testament book of Hebrews is disputed as to who the author is by attempt. Paul wrote a good part of the New Testament. And Paul says that if if I were to tell people of the revelation and if they know that I am that to me. This revelation is given they are going to honor me so much and when they honor me so much.
I'm going to be tempted to begin to think that I'm special and so God says Paul what I'm going to do is to give you a thorn in the flesh to keep you humble. That's why we pick up the text in verse seven and I'm going to read.
So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations at Bourne was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me but he said my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly because of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ and I'm content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Don't you want to say wow after reading that couple of introductory questions.
First of all, what is this thorn in the flesh. The Greek word's collapses. What is it what is the thorn well it's a stake and it was the kind of stake you know upon which people were impaled was a horrendous way to die. This leads people to think that maybe the thorn was a physical ailment may be an eye problem. There is some indication that Paul had problems with his eyes maybe malaria which evidently brings a pain to your head. It's like someone taking a hot iron bar and just pressing it against your four head. Someone has said maybe it was malaria. John MacArthur goes to great lengths to try to show that actually the thorn in the flesh was very probably a false apostle indwelt by a messenger of Satan, namely a demon who stirred up opposition against Paul. So the thorn in the flesh is not defined as so that we can insert our own born into that particular slot so the thorn may be a health problem. The thorn also may be a person. I hope it's not the one whom you married, but it could be a person and we've all known what it is like from time to time to having people who are thorns in the flesh. Paul gives us a lot of latitude pieces.
I'm content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities that pretty well covers what the thorn might be now. Normally we don't vote here at The Moody Church as to what I say I simply assume that you accept what I say.
I hope that it's biblical and if you disagree with me, that's no problem. You come up later and you have the opportunity to ask my forgiveness for disagreeing with me, but today we are going to vote. Let me ask you this question was that how many of you would say that the thorn was from Satan. Raise your hand. How many of you would say the thorn is from Satan. How many of you would say that the thorn was from God. Raise your hand even more hands for that. How many of you have no opinion at all about theological matters. Now here's the most important question how many of you raised your hand twice saying that it was both from Satan and from God.
Could I see your hands place your the theologians you're the theologians of course it's both the immediate because the text says was a messenger of Satan but the ultimate cause is God.
It was given to me of God to have a thorn in the flesh. If you don't understand the relationship between God and Satan.
In these kinds of trials.
You're never going to be able to exercise the kind of faith that you need the kind of faith that I'm going to describe at the end of this message, just like Joe was his trial from God or the devil. Well, it is the devil, who did all of the terrible things to his family, etc. but what does Job say the Lord to Gabe and the Lord heard took away because the ultimate cause is God. Satan cannot wiggle unless God gives them permission to wiggle and therefore this thorn was from God will now let's look at the prayer itself. The prayer itself.
First of all, the specific request. I'm here in verse eight he says in verse 83 times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me what we say about this request. First of all, it was very specific. God, you have given this to me whether it's a person or a health issue, you've given it to me Lord and I ask that it might leave me for your glory and God you'll get all the credit all talk about you as a result of this, you will receive in the glory Jewett, Lord. It was specific it was persistent. I pleaded with the Lord.
Same word that's used in the New Testament for people who came to Jesus, wanting to be healed and they played with Jesus to be healed. Paul says I am pleading with God. Take it away.
The first two times God said nothing dead silence from heaven, but then the third time, after praying the third time God spoke to the apostle Paul and gave him the reply and the reply. In effect, was Paul. The answer is no.
Now God didn't say that directly but God clearly said that that you will keep the thorn but that's not the end of the story. That's not the end of the story, God never leaves us stranded. He never leaves us without what we needed to endure a trial. Now notice what God says.
He says my grace. I'm in verse nine. Now is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. God says Paul, I've got something else for you. I've got grace, grace. Paul thinks to himself, surely there's a misunderstanding I asked you Lord very clearly we laid this on the line that my thorn was to leave God says keep your thorn, but I have grace and grace is heavenly strength for the need of the moment. Grace is a river that runs to the soul that brings healing grace is the river that runs to the soul and also provides columnists and a sense of acceptance and hope and even gladness. As Paul says he has after the answer. Grace is indeed given to us. God says I am going to take grace and it's going to be like an elastic band that is going to stretch over your thorn and over your difficulty in such a way that you are going to be able to endure it.
That's what I'm going to give you instead. Grace is a wonderful hello upon which many a weary traveler has laid his head so God says that I'm going to give you grace and I'm going to give you strength, my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. My power is completed. Paul if people want to honor me and give me glory. You have to be weak, and so I sent you this thorn so that when you are weak.
Then my power will be displayed and my strength will be made complete. Now, when I was out in the farm many years ago when I grew up as a child we used to actually use the catalog. People don't use catalogs nowadays, but we still order things and it would send the order away in a few weeks later it would come back and sometimes the company would substitute something. For example, if you ordered a sweater and they were out of sweaters. They might send you a light jacket and hope that you are satisfied with the substitution they usually did not say we won't fill the order. They filled it with something else and God is saying to the apostle Paul.
Here he saying I am not saying no to your request, but I'm giving you something else.
I am not indifferent to my answer. When God says no it isn't just plain know, it's always no. But there's something else that I have in mind. Grace is going to be given to I think of Johnny Erickson, to whom I referred earlier this young woman has blessed millions. Many of you know about her because she has Johnny and friends in that marvelous ministry and she's been here to The Moody Church many times and you member in that diving accident, there she is, she becomes a quadriplegic and after it happened is just a college student.
She wanted to die. She hoped and bagged that people would give her some kind of pills so that she could commit suicide and get out of her misery, but nobody did.
And so she went on the living and then because she was a Christian she learned that there were those who believed in faith healing. She attended the faith healing service. She attended these with hope and encouragement from friends and the passage of Scripture that she zeroed in on more particularly than any other was the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, where Jesus heals the paralytic that was there along the pool by the pool of Bethesda and he was there for 38 years, and Jesus comes along and says, take up your pallet and walk back was her passage. But even though she had faith even though this was her passage that she would be healed. The healing never came. One time at founders week a few years ago she was here at the church and she told this story and I could not even keep back the tears she said recently I was in Israel.
This is now 40 years later, 35 or 40 years later, she said I was in Israel and she said I went and I was wheeled next to the pool of Bethesda and she said when I looked at that pool. I thanked God that he had not healed me in those 35 years because of all the grace and because of all the ministry. He gave me as a result of my infirmity, God says Johnny I'm not going to heal you to just leave you there hopelessly. I am going to give you grace. I think of a family that has a child with a huge disability. I won't even describe it to you. It's not just a normal disability but far beyond that and how these parents lovingly take care of the child in exasperation and they watch the child suffer. But there's nothing they can do for that suffering they the best of medical care you so Pastor Lutzer do you have the grace to you have the grace to look after child like that I don't have that kind of grace. I don't, but hear me carefully. If God had given us a child like that.
I believe that God would supply the grace grace comes in the midst of our need and God says Paul.
The answer is no, but it isn't a harsh, uncaring know it is grace that I am giving you. So what is Paul's response. Now we look to the request. We looked at the reply.
What is Paul's response. He says in the middle of verse nine. Now therefore I will boast all the more because of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me is as if I received grace. I also receive power. I accept it. I've prayed that I might be rid of it. But now I've made friends with it now. Theologically, you need to think very carefully at this point. Remember that this thorn was a messenger of Satan, a demon in point of fact, if Paul had live today with some preachers, he would have been simply told all you just need to ask that demon to banish because we have authority over all evil spirits and were told that we can even cause all the evil spirits in Chicago to leave, etc. we do have some authority but our authority is not unlimited and there are times when God says I want you to live with your in Trinity stars. We know Paul died with it, but my strength is going to be perfected in that weakness and pulses that demon who is clearly my enemy, the demon who wants to destroy me, who is thoroughly redeemable.
He evil becomes an asset to me because of what God is going to do in my life. As a result of his persecution and harassment while that's what the apostle Paul says it is often been said you know that for what cannot be cured, must be endured. Paul as well. Beyond that, we can look at what the text says he says I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness.
This isn't simply a stoic endurance pulse as if through my weakness. The power of Christ is seen if through my weakness. Grace is given, then I can understand that I was asking for a kernel but it is God who gave me a harvest I was asking for a trinket God says Paul, I want to give you true wealth. I want to give you something far better than deliverance from your thorn. I want to show you my grace and my strength, and you'll notice that he says I will receive then God's power. Another two ways to make a burden terrible. Let's suppose that someone were to ask you to carry 100 pounds.
I don't know about you but I doubt very very much that I can carry 100 pounds, and quite frankly I don't want to try but to let suppose that you can't do it, and there are two ways to get us to do it.
One way is to lighten the load, God comes along and says that it's no longer 100 pounds, but now it's 30 and I say okay 30. I think I can do.
God lightens the load. Sometimes God does that in our lives. He lightens the load, but there are other times when God simply says I'm going to ask you to carry the load. But I'm going to give you the shoulders upon which you can carry it, I'm going to strengthen you. So God says that I will either either lighten the load, or I will supply the grace for you to Barrett and so the apostle Paul acknowledges that now what is the bottom line. Why should we be changed forever because we've heard this message. Why should this message be so transforming that we never look at our thorn in the flesh quite the same again. Let me give you some life-changing lessons. First of all with burdens, blessings God doesn't willy-nilly give you a burden without giving you grace and giving you a blessing. There is a reason why that thorn will not go away. There is a reason for it.
And God says yes I have a reason and the reason is grace and strength, perfect in weakness. Hudson Taylor said these interesting words. He says it matters little to my servant whether I send him to buy a few things or more expensive articles. In either case, I pay the bill God's as you walk close with me. Whether your burden is heavy or light. I will be there to meet your need and my grace will be sufficient.
It will fill up what it is that you need to walk with me so that's the first lesson first lesson is that burdens can bring blessings and do bring blessing.
Secondly, burdens are specifically chosen for us. They are specifically chosen for us. Notice that the apostle Paul says there was given to me by thorn in the flesh. That's in verse seven. Thank you very much, Lord, for your gift. I was expecting something else for Christmas. Quite frankly, God says Paul, this burden is for you specifically, you know, I all of my suits are but just off the rack, but many years ago. More than 20 years ago I was in Hong Kong that great and wonderful city and somebody convinced me to have a suit.
Taylor made so I had that suit tailor-made and it fit for a while, but afterwords as the years went by, it began to shrink so horribly that there was no possible way that I could get into it. Try as I might so I think we've given it away. But here's the point I want to make when God sends you a trial.
It is not one just off the rack. It is tailor made for you.
Remember you are number one on God's list of things to take care of in the universe. And so it is apportioned to you, Paul. It is given to you that you have this thorn in the flesh. This is yours. I have another one for others, but this is yours Paul do you realize that God is specifically interested in you is not just interested in the body of Christ. Somehow name Leslie is interested in the body, but is interested in individuals earlier, the choir sang so beautifully Jesus, a lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom, my hello. Love those words because that's what it's all about. At the end of the day it's relationship with Christ and he is the lover of your soul. You know him and so what God wants is for us to walk with him and to know that burdens are specifically chosen by God for us and the number three most importantly you can be changed forever. If you listen carefully sufficient grace comes with sufficient faith, sufficient grace comes with sufficient faith.
Because here's what some of you are saying you are saying to me be honest now I can read your mind like the innards of a clock. Be honest with me know what you're saying you're saying God's grace isn't sufficient for me.
You're like a widow by the name of Doris who loved her husband and he dropped over dead in his 40s and she looked at other women in the church weren't madly in love with her husband's and said to herself why mine. She parked her Buick in the church parking lot dried her tears came into church sang the songs did all the right things got back into her car and wept all the way home, saying, your grace is not sufficient. Your grace is not sufficient. Your grace is not sufficient.
Some of you are going through bitter divorces. Some of you are in situations which if we knew the details we would be amazed at the pain that is represented in this room and in our wider audience on the radio and Internet and what have you.
We would be amazed at the pain out there and there's some people saying God's grace is simply not sufficient. And the reason is because because and I'm not being judgmental because I've been there. I've been there, thinking God's grace wasn't sufficient, but the reason is because you and I simply do not have the kind of faith that embraces what God gives us an accept that as from his loving hand. Even if the devil is involved.
That becomes more complicated. I wish I could talk about that or I don't want you to be misunderstood should not have anything to do with the devil and I do believe in rebuking him, but instead of being able to accept accept our thorn and most gladly rejoice in our infirmities because we don't have the faith. What happened to Doris. She went into a prayer room in a time when the church was hot with revival. She stayed there an hour and that's about it. Good length of time to to get rid of the garbage out.
An hour and she spilled out all of her anger at God her loneliness and she said these are her words card. Of self-pity and she came out and she used to give her testimony in churches around the country and her theme was God's grace is sufficient. See what you and I won't do. We will fret with God, will pray the same prayers over again and then we investigate to see whether not God is doing anything and it goes on and on and on and what we will not do is commit and accept that we will not do God's as you know, for you, my grace doesn't appear to be sufficient in the fall I flew from Chicago to Frankfurt on American Airlines. Once you're on the runway and you're going up into the sky, you can holler, you can press all the buttons and it doesn't make any difference. Nobody stop in for you at this point you're committed.
The story of a woman who for the first time flying was frightened to death, looked out the window constantly at the motors constantly fretting about the motors until the young man said to her lady. If you want to sleep all watch over the motors for you for a while but now let us suppose that I'm on American Airlines and I say to the stewardess stewardess.
I think that may be because now were beginning to cross the ocean. I think that the pilots might fall asleep. Do you think would you go and check to see if the pilots are awake, you know, years ago, before security was such a big issue that was easier than it is today and I can imagine that she goes and she checks in six pieces in all three of them are awake. I say okay but half an hour passes and I say to myself, you know, people have fallen asleep in 1/2 an hour I find fallen asleep in less than 1/2 an hour, and if one falls asleep, the other will get drowsy and all three of them might be asleep waitress mean not waitress, but to flight attendant you know you're laughing but they sometimes do the duty of awake I say would you check to see whether or not the pilots are awake and she does it again and she comes back 20 minutes later I can ask her to do that again because she'll think I'm a little crazy. So what I say is, could you tell me what time the flight arrives in Frankfurt and she gives me the time and then I say well you know that's good that's good. And are we on time. Yet we are on time will you know since you and I are talking to check to see if the pilots are awake. Doesn't take long until she comes to me and says look I'll make you deal will pour you a cup of coffee if you go outside and drink it and what she says if she's really honest as you are insulting our pilots and you and I insult God, day after day after day we commit something to them and then when things go bad and they get worse before they get better was alone now, what's God doing so wake up early and we spent three or four hours worrying before we get out of bed and then we don't see God doing this we continue to pray, pray, pray, and our prayers are nothing but an expression of our unbelief because we refused to commit and we refuse to accept and to say this has come to me from God thank you God. I committed into your hands and I'm going to leave it there and I'm not to be checking every day to see whether God's awake and whether he's doing anything God is saying to many of us, myself included, you let me do it.
You wait on me and I will work for you. That's what the Bible says I will work for you all work it out but it has to be my timetable has to be my agenda and what you are doing is you're coming to me with your timetable, your agenda, your self will your desire to run your life. And then what you're saying is worse God's grace in all of this pulses okayed as a messenger of Satan. Okay, it does harass me.
That's the word in the text, but I asked God and God said no but God says Paul got something better for you. My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is perfect in weakness and pulses. I am so wholeheartedly committed to God. I believe in the greatness of God that this couldn't happen. Apart from his will, even if the devil is involved, that I'm going to accept it and I'm going to thank God for it. Most gladly I will therefore glory in mine infirmities and I'm not going to insult God by telling him that he's not doing anything I'm going to leave that with him. So where you today. What part of your circumstances or people have you not accepted what stands between you and God. Today, your husband, give them to God and then say good riddance. Your circumstance you committed to God. You're on the plane and the pilot never slumbers or sleeps. Father we ask in the name of Jesus that you will make us people of faith. So often we've insulted you because we've refused refused to give up the control of our lives, then you've not come on board and we blamed you give us father that sense of faith that says Lord as I wait on you all that you work for me. Oh we need that Lord granted. We ask in Jesus blessed name, amen, amen.
Were going to sing again 150 awesome power.
Boundless grace 150 will sing again awesome power on today's Moody Church. Our pastor looks or goes to second Corinthians to show us how best to deal with those times in prayer when the answer is denied. This has been the fifth of six messages on the triumph of unanswered prayer.
Next week, Dr. looks or wraps up this series by going to the book of Hebrews here will give guidance on what to do when the answer is disappointment. Don't miss our next broadcast our six part series on the triumph of unanswered prayer can be yours on CD for a gift of any amount to The Moody Church.
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Call 1-800-215-5001 or you can write to us at Moody Church media 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard Chicago, IL 60614 online go to Moody offeror.com that's Moody offeror.com. Join us next time for another Moody Church hour with pastor Erwin looks or in the congregation of historic Moody Church in Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry of The Moody Church