“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
–2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
Imagine you’ve been contacted for a job interview. You dress to impress, but you feel insecure, and you have mixed emotions about how this interview will turn out. You think you can give this company what they are looking for, but on the other hand you are quite nervous and full of doubt. As you walk in you try to look self-assured anyway, but if you’re honest with yourself, you know that you are weak in at least one area, and you feel that you can’t keep up the ruse. In spite of your emotions, you do your best to hide your weaknesses from the interviewer.
Then there’s that person you know who always seems to have it all together. They might walk with a swagger, or pretend that they can master any subject. But when the unexpected happens and tragedy or misfortune strikes, you learn that they weren’t really that strong. They were only wearing a mask all the time.
Life may sometimes be like these two scenarios, but it doesn’t have to be. The almighty God invites us to come to Him, bringing our thorns of weakness as we yield our lives in a greater way to Him. In this way, we let Him turn the painful experiences (or thorns, if you will), into thrones that He can rule from within our lives.
In doing this, God makes the amazing claim that His strength–not ours–is perfected in our weakness. But He takes this claim one step further. The ruler of the universe goes on to tell us another important thing. Don’t miss this point, because God never wastes words. He tells us that His grace is sufficient to help us surmount life’s hurdles.
If you really think about this statement, you’ll realize how mind-boggling it is. “And why is that?” you ask. All of us face difficulties and challenges, and His strength can carry us through them. We must appropriate this strength and grace by spending time in His presence.
This can only occur when we make God our friend above all friends. Just as you would schedule time to be with an earthly friend, it is even more imperative that you deliberately spend time with the creator and sustainer of the universe. I hope that the three steps I have listed below will act as a guide, drawing you closer to a loving God. Also, it is my prayer that these steps will help you find strength in His friendship.
The first step we need to look at is communication. When we usually think of communication with God, we imagine laying out a list of wants and/or needs to Him. Jesus invited us to share these in the prayer He taught His disciples, and Peter tells us to cast all of our cares on Him. So honest communication with our Lord is a must.
Like a little child talking to his parents, God wants us to bring our concerns to Him, although He knows all about them before we pray. In the same way, a good parent might listen, even when he or she is already aware of the situation.
The problem comes when we stop there. Communication is a two-way street. Besides pouring out my heart to Him, communication involves my listening to what our awesome God has to say to me. Just step back and think about it–the God of the Bible, who listens to millions every moment, invites you and me to come to Him, as if we were His only concern!
Jesus told us that he has every hair on our heads numbered. (If you are losing yours, don’t worry. Jesus just meant that he has everything in your life covered.)
In order to illustrate what I mean, and elaborate on the point I made about friendship earlier, let me tell you a true story. I hope it will offer some insight as to the close relationship God wants to have with you.
I had just gone through a period of great loss, and I was angry and bitter. But a friend who I can never repay selflessly came alongside me. He listened to me when others had just given advice, and it is no stretch to say that he changed my life forever. Needless to say, I drew strength from his support as he walked with me through the pain.
That is one way God wants to strengthen and support you and me today, my friend, so learn to spend quality time with Him. Just as God continues to change my heart, He wants to keep drawing us closer to Himself. It is not enough to come to Him once, or only whenever life gets tough. We must continually be molded and shaped, allowing Him to fashion us for His purposes.
Scripture says, “He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” So whatever you are going through, I urge you to listen to Him with your whole heart. Don’t be like me and let pain be your teacher. Allow Him to give you an infusion of strength and hope.
God wants to continually make you into something special, transforming you by the power of His Word. So transformation is the second topic we’ll deal with. Just as an artist must be allowed to work on each project, God waits for your consent to take you to the next level. In order to be continually transformed, we must continuously read, chew on and savor His Word.
Jesus, who is the living Word, called Himself the bread of life. Physical bread is essential for survival, but spiritual bread is no less important.
Think about it this way. The artist that we spoke about earlier will likely start his project with a slab of clay, or a rough piece of stone. Peter says that if we have come to know Christ, then we are living stones. From one rock to another, according to scripture, we all have a long way to go. While we have life through Him, we are unfinished by Him. The Word of God is like a chisel, which can make the rough areas of our lives smoother.
I have heard it said that God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. We live in an age of comfort and ease, but the situations we find ourselves in will not always be pleasant ones. However, God can turn our thorns of hardship into thrones of grace. He can also use your thorny, difficult experiences to bring about a new kind of strength–the strength to follow Him whatever the cost may be, knowing that His ways are perfect.
The final step I want to talk about today is motivation. I use this word loosely, because by “motivation” I am not talking about a sense of hype. I’m talking about another form of strength which God offers–namely, the peace He can provide in stormy situations.
When things seem upside down in our lives, we have a tendency to run from the situation. On the other hand, God gives us the ability to stand firm, helping us to learn and grow. This is the strength which empowered the early disciples to take a stand, helping them to champion the cause of Christ.
So next time you feel weak, I challenge you to try the three stages of communication, transformation, and motivation. Let God turn those thorns into thrones by following those steps, and you will find the dynamics of His strength and grace flowing into your life.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 6:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 313-209-8800. Our PIN is 8699032. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.