Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Strong in Weakness 7/08/2102
Dearly beloved in Christ,

On Wednesday we celebrated our 236th birthday as a nation, for which we give thanks to the One who has made all things, Who has given us our nation and our freedoms and the One to whom we look to for the protection and preservation of our country's future.

A few weeks ago we heard a sermon which spoke of how God's people wanted Samuel to give them a king who would be like the kings that that other nations had and even though God was displeased with the motive of their request, He yielded to them and gave Saul to be their king. Saul did not work out as he disobeyed the Lord's will and he was removed as king in favor of King David who was anointed to be the new leader by Samuel (1 Samuel 16). He also was anointed by the elders of Israel, an occasion which is described in our Old Testament reading that Doug will read for us today. (2 Samuel 5:1-10)

The Psalm (48) that Dave will read certainly could have been the praise song of the people who were at the anointing of David as the new king, for praises are sung of the greatness of God, of the superiority of His kingdom over the kingdoms of men, and how it is established and will exist forever!

Our sermon today speaks of life within this eternal Kingdom of God.. Through the eyes of the Apostle Paul, we will be invited to consider as to how he responded to adversity that came his way as the result of his being a child of the Living God. May the Lord open up our understanding so that we may be assured, encouraged and directed in our Christian journey as we listen and think upon His Word as it is revealed into our hearts by His Spirit today.

2 Corinthians 12:9b My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.


Have Jesus ever spoken to you? Have you ever heard His voice by which He spoke directly to you? Has your sense of helplessness ever got to the point that you were at a loss as to how to proceed in life and then....and then, you heard His voice. I do not mean in the ordinary and usual manner through His Word and by His Spirit, but I am meaning a more direct manner in which you actually heard His voice speak into your mind, into your heart, into your soul, into your life.

If it has not happened to you or to me, could it happen in the future? According to the biblical record, it did happen to our brother Apostle Paul, who we will draw alongside today in order to consider an experience in his life which should give us encouragement as to the faithful care of the Lord toward our lives. Therefore, if it happened to him, it certainly can happen to us.

Our text is found in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12:1-10. Here is the Word of the Lord that we will meditate upon today.

KJV 2 Corinthians 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
(ESV 2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.)
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 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.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 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.
10 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.

As you and I spend time with our Lord and Saviour in His Word having fellowship with Him, we learn about those who lived before us, those who God raised up to be His witnesses and messengers through the years. As we spend time reading of that which they did and said, we in a sense get to know them from the heart. Because the Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament, we have opportunity to get to know him better than any other person (outside of Jesus) in the New Testament. As we think of this today, we are reminded that it takes time to sit down and to listen to another speak in order to get to know them from the heart. It requires us to listen. This is true in our relationship with God, with Jesus, and with all others whom we have opportunity to seek to build our relationship with.

In various epistles, the Apostle Paul writes of his former life as a religious Pharisee, of his conversion to Christianity and through many of his writings , we are then able to follow his life as a Christian, who lived his life for Christ and not for himself. There is so much written about him that it is easy to fall into the temptation to know him only on a superficial basis and lose the blessing of getting to know him from the heart. Our text today offers us a little insight into the struggles that he faced as a result of his calling as a Christian, a struggle which we should all be able to relate to. For sure, Paul was a chosen vessel of Christ, one who was called to suffer greatly on behalf of the name of Christ, and that is accurate to say that he was a great minister who was faithful unto death. But we need to remember that even though he was a chosen vessel, he was yet one of us, for we are all chosen vessels to bear witness of our Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Paul was a Christian, just like we are and in that sense we are all in the same boat.

The Apostle Paul has been defending the ministry into which he has been placed by Jesus. He began to write of this defense back in the beginning of chapter 10 and has, in short, emphasized that he wants those to whom he is writing, to come to follow Christ from the heart by the Spirit and hopes that he will not have to use stronger means to protect them from error. He continually resists the temptation to "toot his own horn," has not been afraid to speak of his sufferings which he has had because he is a minister of the Gospel of Christ, all the while contrasting his ministry with the ministry of the false teachers. We are given an insight into his heart at the close of chapter 11, where we hear the Apostle speak these words:

2 Cor 11:22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.


We then come to our text for today.

KJV 2 Corinthians 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
(ESV 2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.)
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

The KJV is very difficult to understand with its wording, so I have included the ESV version. The original says something like "to boast is necessary, but not to one's advantage, but I will go onto visions and revelations of the Lord." When we think of boasting we immediately get a negative sense of the use of the word, for the Scriptures continually speak against wrong thinking of ourselves, in that we be prone to think too highly of ourselves. Why is Paul taking this approach, even if he does say that there is no benefit to it, but yet the Holy Spirit has directed him to take this approach. Let us depend on the Spirit to show us our answer.

The first thing we notice is that this happened fourteen years ago......Secondly, he does not say "I", but he uses the third person. Wow....

Let us think about these two points that have been made. Even though he had that experience fourteen years ago, he apparently had never spoken it publicly until this time. Wow, wow! How could he not have told the world about such an experience?? What a private experience that must have been between God and himself!!! There are those things that are so close between our God and ourselves that they are not to be shared with just anyone, but yet there may come a time when it is necessary to do so. Lord, may you give us insight into this important truth that we have seen here today..


Wow....Then by using the third person, he put his own glory as far away from himself as possible as he was a man of humility, one who did not seek his own glory, which would be easy to do because of what he experienced. He distanced himself for fourteen years of silence by not speaking of that experience, and now when he did speak of it, it was from the third person.

Wow...Could I illustrate this place with a humorous personal experience but yet speaks directly to this example of humility? Within our family of my siblings and my children, there has been a bantering back and forth of the use of the term "a guy". Let me explain... In my former life as a logger, we would often plan the work ahead and when we would intend dictate as to how we/I would do something, rather than say, "I would do this or that" we/I would say, " A guy should do this here and that there," and those who have heard it have wondered why we do not say, "We/I should to this here and that there."

We have wondered as to how and why we have got into that practice, but have not really been able to determine its beginnings. It has been suggested that we got it from our uncles who were loggers, but we are not sure. Regardless, we have come to recognize that whenever "a guy" is said, that it is a reminder that it is always good to resist the temptation to point to much to ourselves and in so doing, think more highly of ourselves than we should. It is good to consider in our words and our writings as to how many times the word "I" is used.

Well, what about the "guy" that is being spoken of here? What is being said about the "guy?"

4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

He was caught up to paradise, a word that is used only three times in the Bible. Here are the other two...

Assuming that the “first heaven” would be atmospheric heaven (the sky) and “second heaven” the more distant stars and planets, “third heaven” would refer to the place where God dwells

KJV Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
KJV Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

He does not say what he saw, but only what he heard. That which he heard was "unspeakable" (too sacred to be spoken or unable to find words to properly describe it) It was not permitted for him to speak that which he had heard.........


Now he identifies the "guy"...as himself, Paul.

5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

Paul was not deluded into thinking that he was better than others, that he had more spirituality than others, for he yet knew that he was a sinner, yet saved by grace. He kept separate as to who he was outside of the saving grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was a nothing without Him.

May I illustrate this with a recent communication that I got from a dear friend, for in this short paragraph he reminds us how to think of ourselves in humility.

"Well I thank JESUS for the blessing that it is to be able to be here. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the incredible Grace and Mercy of my Jesus! I don't ever feel worthy to be here or to stand in front of anyone, and I know I'm not.. I just have to pray each time that God would use an unworthy, unprepared, wretch of a sinner like me to bless and help grow whoever is hearing, and not even take me into account. I'm so thankful for His patience with me, and the fact that He can use a twisted pot like myself. I am so thankful for the power of His Word, and the fact that it does NOT depend on me for Him to touch someone through the preaching of His Word! So ALL glory be to God for whatever little He has been able to use me for here. If it depended on me and my strength, who knows where I would be in this world! :)" Ryan Ruotsala, Zacapa, Guatemala

Now Paul goes onto speak of some of his inner experiences that came as a result of this revelation. He speaks of that which God has allowed to come into his life in order to keep him in a place where he is useful to the Lord in the ministry, as a result of his being given the vision and revelation which he describes as being heard only. He does not say anything about seeing.

Is Paul revealing this vision and revelation to the the hearers so that they can see that there is far more to being a witness and messenger of Jesus Christ than meets the eye? Possibly. It is like Paul is allowing us to see a very intimate part of his life in order that we/they will be instructed in this matter.

Illustration: "Some years ago I attended a ladies luncheon. The speaker that day was a lady, who had been through horrendous loss. Her three daughters were traveling to another city for their brothers weding and were killed in an auto accident. As she came on the stage and began sharing her story, I found myself a bit lost in thought. I was thinking that she was so pretty, and that she had such a clear and powerful way of presenting her message. Envy was creeping in as I witnessed her grace and poise and I had thoughts like, "boy, I wish I was like her, I wish I could share like she does."

Then the Holy Spirit came to me and I was hit with reality. "Do you really want to have walked her road? Do you wish to have lived through her tragedy? Do you want to go through the heartache and grief that has brought her to where she is today?"

I need to be reminded to be thankful and content with what and who God has made me. Beth Wirkkala

6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 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.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.


The tension between his pride and Christ's humility is seen here. He recognizes that temptation to be proud, but also realizes that to yield to that is to be a fool.

He speaks of how he cried unto the Lord three times, for the "thorn" to be taken away. What was his thorn? It is left for us
to wonder, but we do know that it was allowed for a specific purpose, which is detailed here. Did he plead with God over a long period of time in the fourteen years? We do not know, but we do know that it was three times that he pleaded with the Lord for its removal.

At first he looked at the thorn as an enemy of his, but then understood that it was given to him for his blessing so that he could be a blessing to others.

He got a response from the Lord and Paul responded rightly...
9a And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.


9b Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 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.

Application: Even though this mainly applies to difficulties which come into our lives as the result of our witness for Christ, it applies to all of us, for we stand with Christ not only in speaking the words of the Gospel, but when believe God and trust Him above all else, we will be tried and persecuted. It can be without, but it also can be within.


When I am at the end of my rope, I am weak

When the way ahead seems blocked, and I do not know what to do, I am weak.

When I have no one else to turn to, I am weak.

When we turn to the Lord, we are made strong in faith


I asked in the beginning if anyone had ever heard the Lord speak to them. I want to share some testimonies of those who have heard the Lord speak to them when they were weak, and as a result of their acknowledged weakness, they were made strong in faith

From Grandma
"When Annie was very sick and had recently been diagnosed with her sickness, I was awakened one night by an angel, whose appearance gave me comfort right away. And then I knew that Annie would be taken care of. Right after that, the angel went through the wall to Annie's room."

And now from Grandpa:
"There was a time when I was feeling discouragement with her sickness, as it was continuing on with no changes for the better, my hope was failing and I did not know what to do. I fell before the Lord in a desperate prayer and Karen to did the same. As we were before Him, crying out to Him for His help and comfort,I felt a hand touch my shoulder and I knew it was the hand of God being placed on me and I then felt comfort and peace. It was not just me that felt His hand, but my wife Karen also felt the touch of the hand of God at that time."

From Kevin, Doris' son, Pat's brother:
When Kevin woke up in the night, his father Kenny told him; "I had a visitor in the night, God came and said, "Everything is going to be ok."

What does it mean for you and I?
It means that we continue to be Christians and as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, or whoever we are in a world does not honor God's family design.

We continue to live in this kingdom of God regardless of the cost, knowing that whatever experiences we are given in life are designed to work for our good so that we may be a blessing to others.

It means that we allow the Lord to direct our life so that we may serve him first of all, and are ready to accept his training plan, even at the cost of our personal comforts, even hardship, tragedy, loss and so on.

It means that in our weakness God is able to bring encouragement and strength to our hearts and in our lives.

Jesus spoke these final words of encouragement to His disciples, speaking before the fact as if it was after the fact.
33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

KJV 1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who are the victors? We are the victors through Christ and in Christ, which is through faith!!

May the Lord add His blessing to this meditation today through the enlightenment of His Holy Spirit!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala




Posted on 08 Jul 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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Help is on the way Isaiah 40.1.11
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala


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