My son, Samuel, celebrates his 7th birthday in about 2 weeks time. Last Saturday, while we were out, we decided to go shopping for his birthday present. Samuel loves cars, and so, after some pleading at the Lego store, I relented and bought him a set containing two cars instead of just one car. “I’m very happy”, summed up his reaction to the gift.
I got to thinking about birthday gifts. I don’t know about you, but while I was growing up, I believe that there came a point where I stopped receiving birthday presents. The celebration still went on, (having a family meal at a restaurant for example), but no gifts. Now, was it because my parents loved me less? No. Was it because the occasion had somehow lost its meaning? No. What changed? Possibly the fact that, I no longer needed to receive gifts in order for me to know my parents loved me.
I think this is similar to the Christian walk with God in a way. You see, as we grow as Christians particularly, the gifts God gives may take the form of something we don’t always recognise as a gift. Let me explain.
This morning’s bible verse is taking from the book of 2 Corinthians 12:9. The apostle Paul said this, “But he (God) 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The context of this verse is that the apostle Paul, was undergoing a trying time. He says that he was being afflicted, and though he had pleaded with God three times to remove the affliction, God in His wisdom allowed it to remain. We do not know what this affliction was, the Bible does not say. Bible scholars say it could have ranged from physical illness, to temptation, to persecution, to the pressures of Christian ministry. And it’s likely that Paul was deliberate in keeping this unknown so that whatever affliction we are going through, we can identify with him, in whatever we’re facing.
The puzzling thing about this verse is God saying to Paul that He was giving him grace and yet did not remove the affliction. We would think that God giving grace to Paul would mean removing the source of Paul’s affliction.
The reason why God did this is two-fold. First, it was to keep Paul humble and dependent on God. We too must recognise our limitations. We too, like Paul, need God. Trials teach us this. Second, it was so that Paul could experience the power of Christ. We too can experience God’s power in our weakness.
We guys in Singapore, after we complete our National Service, need to do army reservist training, and during our reservist training, we’ll take our IPPT (Physical Fitness Test). I remember some years back, in the time leading up to my reservist period, I wanted to start training for my IPPT. Normally, at least one month leading up to it, I would get down to running more intensely (because the 2.4km run is the only station I’m not confident in). The problem was that year, for some reason, I battled illness for an entire month.
I prayed to God several times for healing… “God, I need to recover so I can train for my IPPT!” But I only got well when my reservist training started. The result was I did not get to train for my 2.4km run at all. On the day of my IPPT, my prayer to God was simple, “God, give me strength to pass!”
I ran as best as I could. And… I passed. Not only did I pass, I did my best timing ever (10:20 or something like that). Better even than when I was in active National Service (which isn’t saying much), but still… good enough for a silver award. God’s strength and grace was demonstrated in my weakness.
God may not always remove the obstacles in our lives, although He can and He does; but God does give us grace and strength to go through these challenges.
This morning, I want to ask you this question: what challenges do you face? Studies? Family conflict? Relational issues with classmates or friends? Are there things in your life you wish you could just make it disappear or go away? God may not always remove the obstacles in our lives, although He can and He does; but God does give us grace and strength to go through these challenges.
Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we do not always understand why we go through difficult times. You do not always remove from us the trials we face in life. But You do promise to provide us with grace that is sufficient for us to face these trials. Help us to depend on You so that we may experience Your power which will carry us through. In Jesus name we pray, amen.