Sometimes, we go through things in life that may be hard for us to equate to the Scriptural ideals we have about not only who God is, but who we are in Him.
Is God a Provider? Yes, but that doesn't mean we will never have financial hardships.
Is God a Deliverer? Yes, but that doesn't mean you will never suffer.
Is God a Healer? Yes, but that doesn't mean we will never endure sickness.
Is God a Buckler? Yes, but that doesn't mean we will never undergo attack.
How is it that we say God is all of these things, yet our experiences don't always seem to reflect that reality in our lives? We look in His word and see one thing, but look at our lives and see another. Why is this?
Some will say you have to "name it and claim it". Simply confess that it is true and it will be true. As a result, people are walking around treating God like a genie in a bottle, converting His words into Buddhist mantras that are supposed to speak these promises into being.
Others may say perhaps you simply don't have enough faith. Jesus God paid for all at Calvary. He nailed every curse to the tree. If you have enough faith, God will deliver you from your situation. Another assertion is that there is some sin in your life. You must have somehow opened the door to allow Satan the opportunity to attack you. Therefore you need to seek God on what that is and repent, and then your situation will change.
The unspoken belief behind each of these perspectives is that God promises Christians an earthly walk which will be devoid of trial, sickness, discomfort, stress, hardship, or suffering. Therefore, when such things occur, it must be an indicator that something is wrong in your relationship with God. Yet, is this Biblical?
I am not downplaying the importance of faith or belittling the serious impacts of sin. I am saying that the realization of God's promises may not always be how we think. We cannot hold God hostage to how we believe He should resolve situations. Yes, we can make our petitions known to Him and remind Him of the promises put forth in His word. Yes, He commands us to ask, seek, & knock; and so we should. I am not talking about complacency here. I am encouraging us to take a broader view of the purpose behind circumstances God allows in our lives as He completes His perfect work in us.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." II Cor. 12:7-10
Paul is enduring some sort of satanic affliction - and while we are not told what this is, we know that it makes him feel weak. I say "feel" because Paul had to be shown that this physical condition of weakness did not define his spiritual reality. What he thought to be a physical detriment was actually a spiritual help that God was using to develop more of His strength within him.
Here is someone in the power of the Spirit, preaching the Gospel to the whole known world with mighty signs & wonders following...yet he was often poor, whipped, persecuted, afflicted, and suffering with infirmity.
This infirmity, this reproach, this necessity, this persecution, this distress so affected Paul that he had called repeatedly for the Lord to remove it...yet He did not.
Does God's refusal mean that Paul was not a believer? Does it mean that God was unable to deliver him? Did it mean that Paul simply didn't have enough faith? Was this thorn in the flesh the consequence of sin in Paul's life? Did the presence of this affliction mean he was not walking in the power of God? No. God was purposefully using this issue to disempower Paul in the flesh so that he could be empowered more in the spirit.
It is this truth which gave Paul the peace to say the following:
"...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:11b-13
So my question is, "Have we also learned the same?" People will often quote the "I can do all things through Christ" text, but Paul is NOT speaking here of our ability to be supermen. The "all things" Christ is strengthening us to do in this text is to endure hardships & sufferings just as well as when we are abounding & flourishing. It is our ability to lean on, and look to, the strength of Christ regardless of our situation.
Commentators have argued for years about exactly what this "thorn in the flesh" Paul experienced is. Some have said Paul was speaking of a person physically persecuting him. Others have surmised that he is referencing his own physical sickness of poor eyesight (Galatians 4:13-15). I happen to believe that God - in His wisdom - is deliberately vague about it. It simply doesn't matter.
The focus of that text is not Paul's infirmity, but that believers understand how our flesh is to be continually delivered unto death for the life of Christ to be made manifest (II Corinthians 4:10-11). And the mechanism God uses to accomplish this is often affliction.
"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." II Corinthians 4:16-18
We need to keep in mind why we are here and the work God is going within us. God is not trying to give us our "best life now". The things we endure in this world serve an important purpose; and God alone knows what each person needs to go through to have that purpose accomplished.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Romans 8:26-29
The mere fact that God has to tell us that all things work together for good to them that love Him & are called by His purpose testifies that it may not always look that way.
There may be situations we face which seem bleak, hopeless, and like anything but good. Yet, according to His word, we cannot look at the situation. Even our afflictions God is using to do a "good" work; conforming us into the image of His Son.
God's saving power is not only seen in Him delivering us FROM a situation, but Him delivering us IN the situation. We can also see this in the story of the Hebrew boys in the Book of Daniel.
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Daniel 3:16-18
Three little words..."But if not".
Was this an expression of doubt? Was it evidence that the Hebrew boys simply didn't have enough faith in God to be delivered? No. It expressed their knowledge that being servants of the Lord was not dependent upon, or defined by, what they had to go through in this present, temporal life.
These men had faith that their relationship with God transcended their worldly experiences and gave them power over those experiences; not because they were protected from the experience, but because He was with them through it. Subjecting themselves first to His will in their lives, they exalted Him as God regardless of how He worked out that present trial. And in fact, their reward in that faith was not that they were kept from the fire, but that God stood with them in the fire.
Don't let your situation define who you are in the Lord, but seek for His will to be done in all areas. Our victory lies primarily not in what we are going through, but in Who is bringing us through it. So regardless of how the earthly situation unfolds, we can stand victorious because we stand in Him.
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." I John 4:4