A Pain in the…Soul

Sermon for April 30, 2017

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

The Blessing of Pain

 

I begin this morning with a bit of Did You Know regarding hip surgery and hip replacements:

 

According to Wikipedia, the earliest recorded attempts at hip replacements were carried out what year?

 

1877

1925

1891

1775

 

The correct answer is: 1891

 

The earliest recorded attempts at hip replacement “were carried out in Germany in 1891 by Themistocles Gluck (1853–1942), who used ivory to replace the femoral head (the ball on the femur), attaching it with nickel-plated screws, Plaster of Paris, and glue.”

 

Now, which year, according to Wikipedia, was the first the first metallic hip replacement surgery performed?

 

1940

1967

1954

1960

 

On September 28, 1940 at Columbia Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, American surgeon Dr. Austin T. Moore (1899–1963) performed the first metallic hip replacement surgery.

 

Final question, in 2011 how many joint replacements procedures were carried out here in the US?

 

2 million

1 million

4 million

750,000

 

According to the website of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “In 2011, almost 1 million total joint replacements were performed in the United States. Hip and knee replacements are the most commonly performed joint replacements, but replacement surgery can be performed on other joints, as well, including the ankle, wrist, shoulder, and elbow.”

 

Bonus question, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons was founded in what year?

 

1957

1933

1902

1965

 

1933

 

Some of us here this morning have had hip surgery or hip replacement surgery or some kind of joint replacement surgery. It is truly amazing what can be done these days although the risks are there as with any surgery.

 

Now taking a different direction this morning in speaking about joints and hips and shoulders and the like

 

One of the things that is often said to people who are upset about something is

 

“Don’t get bent out of shape.”

 

One source I looked at said this about the phrase:

 

“To get bent out of shape became a popular idiom in the 1900s and some people speculate that it may have originated from the dreaded, yet unavoidable SCUBA diving condition of the bends.”

 

And the bends come when divers rise too quickly to the surface of the water and it “describes a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside the body on depressurization.” It is painful and can be fatal if not treated. The joints are often the most affected by the situation.

 

Can we get “the bends” in our soul?

 

If so, how do we treat it? How do we prevent it from happening?

 

Here is the first reflection question for this morning:

 

In what way(s) has God put your life or plans “out of joint” so that you might depend on him?

 

We are continuing in the series “A Resurrection Faith is an Emotionally Healthy Faith.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has, praise God, made possible the forgiveness of our sins and promised us eternal life with the Lord.

 

But what about all the issues we face here on earth until then? What about the conflicts we face? What about the constant temptations to gossip, to hate, to judge; what about the addictions we face, to food, to sex, to money, to work, to power, that cause our lives to fall apart.

 

Are we to simply endure to the end, or is part of the resurrection story the resurrection of our character as well as our souls?

 

Jesus made clear in Matthew 5 about the danger of anger which can lead to murder; the lust in the mind and heart that can lead to adultery; and divorce for the sake of convenience or personal preference only. These are issues which have affected us as well. They cause us pain, they create fear in us, they damage relationships, and they affect our souls.

 

In most, if not all, of his letters Paul wrote about these issues:

 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

 

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Ephesians 4:31

 

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

 

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

“…you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:8

 

These are issues that are still problems for Christians today because Paul was writing to Christians in the churches that he had helped start!

 

And how many of them do each of us struggle with? And how many of us have found ourselves living defeated lives day and after day?

 

God cares about these issues as well. He wants to us to live victoriously and we can do that!

 

But it requires some things from us otherwise the Lord can’t help us not because He is powerless but because without our cooperation, He can’t help us if we will not yield to His move and work in our lives.

 

Last week, I spoke about “hitting the wall” about those moments, sometimes called the “dark night of the soul” when we experience the powerless that sweeps us off our feet and causes us to face the deep places of our lives and our soul and allow Christ to get in there and begin to make necessary changes such as letting go of pride.

 

That sermon, based on the thematic outline I am following, should have been given in a few weeks. I threw us all in the deep end…on purpose.

 

Today, I want to begin at the start of the thematic outline and speak to the why an emotionally healthy faith is necessary.

 

The text which have been read this morning speak to the ability of God to comfort and sustain us:

 

pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

 

They also speak to the need to not love the ways of the world because they are at odds with the love of God:

 

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:17

 

And the very real story of one who finally had face himself, and God, in an unforgettable way as he wrestled with perhaps God Himself or at least a heavenly being

 

When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

 

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

 

Our main text for this morning is about another man who wrestled with a pain in the soul that he struggled to overcome. It is 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

 

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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.

 

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.

 

Two sentences in this verse have gotten a lot of attention over the years:

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

But this morning, I want to focus on these sentences

 

in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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.”

 

I don’t know about you, but these two sentences challenge me today. They challenge me about some of my assumptions of what God allows and does not allow in our lives. They make me re-think the differences between the consequences of sin and the consequences of the Lord acting in a manner that seeks to spare us from sin.

 

What are you saying pastor?

 

We need to add back in the opening phrase of verse 7 to get the full meaning of what Paul means

 

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited

 

There is that word “therefore” again!

 

I have spoken of the significance this transitional word and I simply remind us it means “for that reason; consequently.”

 

So we can say, “For this reason, in order to keep me from being conceited I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me…

 

or

 

“Consequently, in order to keep me from being conceited I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me…

 

So, this segment of scripture is a conclusion to be drawn from what has previously taken place and what has previously taken place appears in verses 1 through the opening segment of verse 7 in chapter 12

 

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 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 and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is 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, or because of these surpassingly great revelations.

 

Paul is facing his critics in an argument that really begins back in chapter 10 where he addresses his critics about his ministry against what he calls in chapter 11 “super-apostles.” He says in verse 7 of chapter 10:

 

You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do.

 

This is a common problem for Paul. Everywhere he went, he faced opposition about his ministry, his message, his methods, his ability, even his appearance.

 

The comparison game is a game that has been played by human beings for a long time! And it is NOT part of a healthy faith. It is damaging to a healthy faith.

 

Have you heard the saying…

 

Our insides never match the outsides of others.

 

In other words, what I feel about myself, what I think about the successes or good fortune of others, the inside of me, never matches what I see about others.

 

Such comparisons are deadly for our spiritual health.

 

Now back to where we need to be…

 

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 and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is 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, or because of these surpassingly great revelations.

 

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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.”

 

What is Paul saying here? Who is he talking about?

 

I believe that Paul is referring to himself as the man who experienced a significant spiritual experience many years earlier and was kept from becoming conceited about it by a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me…”

 

Why would God allow that to happen? Why couldn’t Paul be permitted to speak of his experiences? After all, it could help some people, couldn’t it? They could be encouraged by Paul’s experience. They could be helped in their understanding of heaven and God’s purposes for us. They could be provided with new understandings that would increase their knowledge of many things because Paul would be able to share those things because of his experience!

 

Why wasn’t he allowed Pastor? Think about the possibilities!

 

A new book, probably to be on the New York Times best seller list!

 

A marketing plan that would include advanced reader copies to bloggers and reviewers with them sharing their links to their reviews on Twitter, Facebook, and even Amazon.com!

 

A new video series could come out and be available for use by churches!

 

A website could be part of all of this so that special offers could be made to those who signed up for weekly emails to your inbox and a free e-book given that provides new material that goes beyond the book!

 

You get where I am going with this, right?

 

The important word here in this passage is conceited.

 

The Lord knew Paul. He knew that He was an intense man.

 

He knew that he could write well and convince many people of God’s new way.

 

His conversion experience was dramatic, beyond belief.

 

He could be greater than Jesus Himself!

 

Ah…there’s the problem

 

in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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.”

 

But if Paul would had gotten conceited who would have written the verses we have read today? Chances are he would not have written a great portion of the New Testament.

 

So God, think about this for a moment, God sent him a

 

C R I T I C

 

Lots of them…

 

It kept Paul humble and relying on the Lord…

 

God says ‘No’ you are not going to tell of that experience. It will drive you away from me. You will become the center, not me.

 

The Lord put Paul’s life “out of joint.”

 

There is a purpose in pain and the Lord uses pain as a way of drawing us back to Him and staying close to Him.

 

We don’t like to hear “No.” What do you mean God, no, you don’t want me to do that?

 

Two questions for this morning

 

What internal or external storm might God be sending into your life as a sign that something is not right spiritually?

 

What are you angry about today? Sad about? Afraid of? Pour out your responses before God, trusting in him as David did.

 

As you reflect listen to Hillary Scott sing about the four hardest words to pray and live out on a daily basis.

 

God’s no is not always a punishment. Many times, His no is a detour around a grave danger or poor decision.

 

It is also part of having a healthy and mature faith.

 

Thanks be to God for that!

 

Amen

Note: The three questions are from the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality workbook. All copyright is to Peter and Geri Scazzaro

 

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