June 3rd 2018: Norman Rees

Norman Rees-May18II Corinthians 12: 1-10

Paul is one of the greatest, dearest men of God, yet he probably suffered more than any other Christian. He suffered for the Lord as He lived for Christ. He was very modest, not even referring to himself by name in this passage, but calling himself ‘a man in Christ.’

The Lord has ways of keeping us humble. Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (verse 7). He prayed to God three times to have it removed. His prayer is very earnest. We are not told what the thorn in the flesh was, but the Lord did not remove it. Instead, Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9). The emphasis is on ‘My.’ We have no grace of ourselves. Without the grace of God we wouldn’t be sitting here today, we wouldn’t have the strength to worship Him.

It’s a lovely day. The grace of God brings the weather, the water of the Spirit, the water of the gospel. It is easy to worship when all is well. However, when we go through trials God is in control. When we are not in trouble and trials, when the sun shines, we are not persecuted, our health is well, our bank balance is good, it is easy to be a Christian.

Sometimes Christians can slip into an easier road and can start to doubt what God has done. They may slip back into wordly things. We are in the world but not of the world. We need to glorify God. Jesus prayed, in John 17, we could be of use in the world.

Spurgeon urged us not to pray to be out of our troubles. Our citizenship is in heaven but Christ wants to keep us in the world that, even in times of trials, we can be a witness. His grace is sufficient. Jesus will not lose one of His sheep, bought with His precious blood. He has paid too high a price. He gives us eternal life.

When sickness and difficulties comes we ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Paul asks the same questions. Sometimes, trials are sent to test our faith. We don’t know where to turn, everything seems to be against us. Don’t despair. It is easy to despair when we can’t see an answer to a problem. Jesus knows all our ways (Psalm 139). He knows everything. He understands us.

If we stand before God without Jesus standing with us as our Lord and Saviour, our Lord and advocate, we have no hope. God has brought us to this situation. When the devil brings doubt, look to Christ.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
a great High Priest, whose name is Love
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
my name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.

Charitie Lees Bancroft

Problems may come. Paul boasts that he could suffer for Christ. He suffered because he simply preached the gospel of God, being beaten 195 times, imprisoned and much more. Yet he could still rely on God’s grace and strength. When you reach the end of your tether, remember God is at the other end, He will never leave or forsake you.

Jesus wants us to be closer to Him. Nothing that makes you pray more earnestly than if you’re suffering. Pray that you may seek His face and know His grace upon you. You’ll pass through your trials (Isaiah 43). He will give you grace to go through. The devil schemes, he will attack, but God’s strength redeems. The Lord allows Satan to go so far, but Jesus defeated the devil. “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9).

When you’re blessed of God you can seem so full of your own pride. Be full of Christ. We’re sometimes like vessels – full of ourselves. We need to be filled with grace. When we recognise we have nothing of ourselves, it brings us closer to Christ and we walk more closely with the Lord. Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what He will do. The grace of the God, who made the world, can supply all our needs. If you are struggling, He wants us to recognise we are nothing of ourselves, that His grace is fully sufficient. Don’t worry about the problem, the future. Trust the Lord and you’ll find Him all sufficient. He has ways of sending storms in our life to get rid of what we don’t need. All we will ever need will be given to us by God.

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