Sunday sermon 8 July @ 9.00am – Grace is sufficient….

Readings:

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Mark 6:1-13

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

A Prophet Without Honour

6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[1] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil[2] spirits.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Footnotes:

  1.  Mark 6:3  Greek Joses, a variant of Joseph
  2.  Mark 6:7 Greek unclean

Message                                                                                                                              8 July 9.00am

So you think you have problems.

Here’s Paul – who has the most amazing conversion experience AND is taken in to the third heaven in an ecstatic experience – the most amazing spiritual high, and he has this thorn in the flesh, something horrible that despite prayer just doesn’t go away.

Here’s Jesus – who himself came from heaven – who has his home town people protesting and insulting him (notice how they don’t refer to his father at all –  not a respectful way) – how they are offended by him – and how he can’t even do any miracles – how amazed he is by their lack of faith. Jesus here is the prophet without honour.

You think you have problems. Read about Paul’s other adventures and spells in prison, and of course Jesus’ trial and execution, and you know that our lives are not that bad really.

What do we learn about their responses?

We start with Jesus:

Jesus is undaunted! He leaves those who don’t believe and goes around teaching from village to village (verse 6 continued).

And he does some sending work! Missionary work! He appoints the Twelve to do his kind of stuff!

Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil[b] spirits.

And it’s all very practical:

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

I love verse 10. I do this in my own life – not literally as we wear closed shoes these days and vacuum our dust.  Mark 6:11

11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

It’s about people welcoming the message I bring!

As part of their training, and keeping on with his Mission – Jesus lets them do what he struggled do in his own home town because they did not believe.

Undaunted.

We too should not let people who oppose us stop the mission that God has given us!

And note that this was a good method – the two by two thing – for visiting people in their homes. The modern cults that knock on your door are modelling this at least, even though what they sell is dodgy and unbiblical.

Conversations about Jesus have always happened in homes. The early church carried on in homes too. So you should not be surprized that we have home groups.

And then there’s Paul:

Paul was never trained by Jesus like the twelve. But he went out too – on three major mission trips, speaking in market places, synagogues and homes!

He was God’s man – the 13th Apostle and the apostle to the non-Jewish world! That’s us! Yay for  Paul!

It’s Paul’s story that I am intrigued with today and want to focus on.

THE THORN IN THE FLESH

Do we know what this was? A physical ailment? A psychological one? He never married so we know it wasn’t his wife that was a pain!

People speculate about this.

WAS HE BAD AT PRAYING? (Only three times?)

Some suggest that he didn’t understand what it means to pray without ceasing. Is three times really enough? Listen again to verses 7 and 8:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

This was clearly a serious struggle – the problem is identified by Paul as a “messenger from Satan” which tormented him. And his prayer involved pleading.  Literally – parakaleo, not that different from parakletos, the comforter who is called alongside us.

There are some of us that call out, pleading in our prayers.

The Lord did answer his prayer. Here’s the answer:

. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ”

Grace sufficient for each occasion. Paul had his prayer answered. Not in the way he might have liked.

He did receive GRACE – in a promise and in reality. He understood that in weakness we can only depend on the power of God.

This would keep him from being conceited (verse 7). Instead humility and dependence became his strength.

What is this GRACE? We use the term all the time. We say it as a blessing to each other (we should open our eyes when we do as we are saying it to each other not to God!).

It’s the gift of God – by which we are saved – redeemed – set free – liberated.

Grace can also mean kindness, or favour. Paul kept using it because he knew it worked. Listen to his greetings and various statements:

Act_20:24  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

Rom_1:7  To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom_16:20  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

1Co_1:3  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1Co_16:23  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

2Co_1:2  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2Co_9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Gal_6:18  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Eph_1:2  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gal_1:3  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

1Th_5:28  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

2Th_1:2  Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

2Co_13:14  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And so it goes on.

And it is enough for us too. We can get through our struggles – we can face our thorns in the flesh – we can overcome through God’s grace. Grace ultimately reminds us that we are not alone.

Paul concludes with these words:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • This is not a “grin and bear it” attitude.
  • It’s also not a kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude. “All good” it is not.

This man was a giant of faith who has shaped our thinking as Christians with his many words that appear in the New Testament.

  • We don’t leave large thorns in our bodies that can be pulled out. Like teeth that have rotted away, some things need to be extracted!
  • Many things we can avoid – by not exposing ourselves to temptation.

Most of all – it’s about our walk with God. Our prayer life. Our knowledge of Scripture. And hearts that are open to God and His Holy Spirit.

Paul could say “for when I am weak, then I am strong” because he understood the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.

This whole discussion in 2 Corinthians is in the context of people who opposed him – just like Jesus.

SO WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What have you got that is a thorn in the flesh?

Have you asked God to speak to you – to give you an answer like He did to Paul?

If anything, our struggles also keep us humble and prayerful. Both are good.

Amen.

SILENT REFLECTION – perhaps you can reflect on these things:

  • What is your thorn?
  • Hope? Are you hopeful?
  • Grace? Do you understand it?
  • Do you want to experience his love and power?
  • Are you open to the Holy Spirit?
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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on July 8, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thank you Robin for these two sermons on healing and grace, both of which I am deeply grateful for. I have missed church for two weeks – in Alexandra I had just developed a cold and cough, and by last Sunday, both Pete and I had developed flu symptoms. We are now well medicated and I’ll stay at home until I’m not contagious. I gather you also have not been well, so I hope you are now fully recovered. All blessings, Fay

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