In an in-depth study of Philippians, I was totally drawn to the apostle named Paul. I identified with him. While still named Saul, he had an undeniable encounter with Jesus Christ and was transformed dramatically, not so unlike my teen-years experience.
In cross-referencing Scripture, I learned that Paul discusses his “thorn in my flesh.” This is my ultimate identification with the apostle. God’s response to Paul’s prayer for healing was, “My grace is sufficient for you,” which appears to translate to “no.”
For those of you who have grown up in the church, this story is old hat, a real yawner, groaning with the “duh factor.” But for me, at that point in my journey, it was the revelation I was seeking. God loved Paul, had a purpose for his life, and yet said no to his request for healing. I then must conclude that God could love me, have a purpose for me, and possibly have a purpose for leaving my pain with me. Oh glory!
There are those who question the faith of any suffering believer. But Paul states in Galatians, Chapter 4, “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.” Clearly God allows some circumstances for His purposes.
Paul faced many other hardships. He was persecuted, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. I cannot find any place in Scripture where Paul is angry, bitter or questioning God’s presence in his life. He carried out his ministry with incredible peace and joy.
Paul persevered. He lived joyfully through trial. How? Because of grace. Grace reigned in Paul’s heart because he was empty of self. Paul’s focus was on God’s purpose for his life, and this humility opened the floodgates of Paul’s heart to allow the Spirit’s full access.
People were drawn to Paul. Even his jailers came to faith in Christ because Paul sang songs of praise while in prison. God uses the miracle of grace to illuminate His children through trial.
Think about it: There is nothing remarkable about smiling faces on comfortable, over-indulged believers, but when the suffering believer exudes joy, the unbelieving world takes notice. Grace is a miracle. Grace is God’s megaphone to a lost world.
Clearly grace is the key to victorious living. Yet, it seemed elusive.
As I sought answers, I was led to the following Scriptures:
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
“As fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” (II Corinthians 6:1)
If we are to approach His throne for grace with confidence, how could we then receive that grace in vain? I sought my Lord in prayer for wisdom.
I felt compelled to ask myself, “Do I want grace or do I want a change in my circumstances?”
Aha! The truth was I was so focused on what I wanted (healing) that I wasn’t open to what God was offering – a truckload of amazing grace. I wanted change, not the grace to live under my current circumstances. This was a clear case of living in the flesh instead of living in the Spirit. I was focused on my comfort and convenience, not on His glory or purposes.
At a Joni Erickson Tada event, she shared that someone once asked her why God hadn’t healed her. Her response? To the best of my recollection, she said, “What is the greater miracle? That I be healed? Or that I am given the grace to face every day with joy?”
God has clearly used Joni’s circumstances, and His grace in her life, for His glory.
Do you think I love grace? Yes! It’s a miracle and a life changer! And it is clearly a precious gift from the Giver of Life and Lover of my soul.
Delight in Him – His plans and purposes. Find joy.
Joy in Jesus,