277. Secret to God's power.
'Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.'* ( 2 Corinthians 12:9) The infilling in the Holy Spirit is given freely to every believer who asks ( Luke 11:13) because it is needed to bear the fruit of the Spirit but the power of God is discreetly given only to those who have been tested and have overcome! Though being the Son of God, Jesus himself was tested with trials and temptations before he was Anointed with the power of God! How then can we advocate a different set of standards for his disciples? There are no double standards in the kingdom of God! It was said of Jesus that *'he was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering'* ( Isaiah 53:2) because he was born into a poor family ( Luke 2:24/ Leviticus 12:8) and he experienced poverty. *'For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that we may through his poverty might become rich'* ( 2 Corinthians 8:9). And with Joseph's early death, the burden of providing for his family was upon his shoulders and he had to toil hard as a carpenter being the eldest of the Carpenter's sons. ( Matthew 13:55) Then at the age of thirty, when he had to leave his work for the mission assigned to him, he was filled with the Holy Spirit after being baptized by John ( Luke 3:21-22) and *'was led by the Spirit in the desert where for forty days he was tempted by the devil'* ( 4:1-2) before he *'returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit'* (4:14). He was *'tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin'* ( Hebrews 4:15) but *'he himself suffered when he was tempted'.* ( 2:18). *'Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and one made perfect became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.'* ( Hebrews 5:8)
The Apostles too had their share of the sufferings for Christ, because Jesus said to them, *"Anyone who does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."* ( Luke 14:27) *"If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also"* ( John 15:20) and *"you will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues ..."* ( Mark13:9) As forewarned by Jesus, they were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin to be questioned and were flogged but *'the Apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name '* ( Acts 5: 18-41) The more they were persecuted, the more fruitful and powerful they became! *'Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.'* ( Vs 42) Later on, while writing to the Church, Peter wrote: *'Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude ... So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator ...'* ( 1 Peter 4:1,19)
Paul probably had a bigger share of the sufferings for Christ, because Jesus had told Ananias: *"This man is my choosen instrument ... I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."* ( Acts 9:15-16) Having been called to be an Apostle, Paul had been Anointed to receive power but it was channeled into his life through his many sufferings ( 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). Unable to overcome the *'thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan',* three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away but Jesus assured him saying,*"My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness".* - Some suspect that he probably suffered from an ailment to his eyes because of the bright light that flashed around him on the way to Damascus, which made him blind for three days ( Acts 9:3,8-9) and that is why he probably told the Galatians:*"If you could have done so, you would have torn your eyes and given them to me"*( 4:15). But we understand from Scriptures that he was healed when Ananias placed his hands on him ( Acts 9:17-18). However, Paul did suffer from an illness when he came to Galatia ( Galatians 4:13) but there are no Scriptural evidences to prove that he lived with that illness all his life. He overcame the *'thorn in his flesh',* just as Jesus did, when he too prayed thrice that the cup be taken from him (Matthew 26:44) but it was not! Then an Angel strengthened him ( Luke 22:43) and he prayed more earnestly and overcame the hour of trial. I believe Paul too overcame the illness by the grace of God. (However, there is no mention that the rest of the Apostles ever suffered from any sickness or disease because unconditional healing is a gospel promise. To believe that emissaries of the gospel were themselves sick, is absurdity ! Their sufferings for the Gospel were the difficulties and the oppositions they faced in taking the gospel to the nations and they gladly endured it. ) - Paul's *timeless* ( classic) response to the revelation is worth imitating! *'That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties* ( Note that he didn't mention sickness and disease in this list) *For when I am weak, then I am strong.'* ( 12:10) He began to see his sufferings as opportunities for God's power to rest upon him and rejoiced at the prospect of it! At a time when false teachers *deride* (express contempt; ridicule) sufferings, we ought to realise that God's power is made perfect in our sufferings. Then we will be able to rejoice at the prospect of his power resting upon us and we will begin to wear our sufferings for Christ as badges of honour, as Paul himself said: *"Let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus".* ( Galatians 6:17) Amen.