Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
January 21, 1999
Last Updated :
July 6, 2012
Solely Dependent Upon The Lord, That No Flesh Should Glory In His Presence, Unprofitable Servants Motivated By God's Will, Modern Worldly Preachers And Their Ilk, A Treasure In Earthen Vessels: God's Spirit, Apostle Paul's Battles With His Pride, Let Him Glory In The Lord, Paul's Thorn In The Flesh, Kept On Track And Humble Through Our Afflictions, Obedient Unto Death, Don't Try To Bargain With God, Sign God's Blank Contract And Demonstrate Faith, Our Light Affliction, Resurrection Bodies, Closing Remarks, Additional Suggested Reading Resources List
Why would God purposely allow us to remain in such a weak condition, suffering from all manner of bodily afflictions, even though we have dedicated our lives to His service? Why does the Lord not heal us? As we have already clearly seen, the Apostle Paul answers these intriguing questions for us when he writes the following:
"That no flesh should glory in his presence."
1 Corinthians 1:29, KJV
Not only does God want to ensure that we will remain humble and totally dependent upon Him, but if anything good should result from our lifelong labor of love, He wants everyone to know that it is because of Him, and not because of us. After all, as Jesus Himself tells us, we are unprofitable servants who have simply done that which is our duty to do. Likewise, Paul informs us that we cannot take any credit, because it is God's Will alone that is working through us. Consider these verses:
"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
Luke 17:10, KJV
"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:13, KJV
Think about this for a moment. Imagine if all of the Lord's children had great looks and enjoyed perfect health. Do you honestly believe that we would be as effective for the Lord?
Before you are tempted to respond in the affirmative, take a minute to consider all of the worldly preachers who are good looking, who do seem to enjoy good health, who have lots of money, who build their million-dollar megachurches, who have their TV shows and their radio broadcasts, who fly around in their private jets, who receive the praises of men, etc. Now tell me, do you really want to be like them? Do you honestly believe that they all have the anointing of God's Spirit? If you believe that they do, then Jesus owes the Scribes and the Pharisees an apology. Let me refer you again to articles such as "The Only Credentials You Need" and "So You Really Think You Are So Humble?".
Maybe we are weak, and maybe we are pitiful, and maybe many of us suffer from all kinds of bodily afflictions which we sometimes wish that we did not have, and maybe none of us would ever win a Mr. Atlas contest or a Miss America pageant; but let's never forget that Father knows best. He knows what we need, and when we need it. Furthermore, as I pointed out in part one of this series, we already have exactly what we need, and that is our treasure in earthen vessels. We have the precious Gift of God's Holy Spirit. Allow me to share that verse with you one more time:
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
2 Corinthians 4:7, KJV
Please remember that line: "that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." It has never been, and it is not now, of us. As Paul writes, it is God's Will and Spirit that are working through us. Period.
Considering how much the Apostle Paul wrote about the topic of pride and giving God the glory in all things, I can only wonder if perhaps the real affliction to which he may have been referring was his own pride, and not simply a physical sickness or limitation of some kind. Paul offers a possible hint that this may be so in the following verse where he twice writes "lest I should be exalted above measure", as we see here:
"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."
2 Corinthians 12:7, KJV
As a former Pharisee, Paul undoubtedly had to fight against his pride every single day of his life. He had to constantly make certain that he was really giving God the glory in all things. Consider some of the other things that he wrote which carry the same tone and intent:
"That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 1:31, KJV
"Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;"
1 Corinthians 3:21, KJV
"And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"
1 Corinthians 4:6-7, KJV
"For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!"
1 Corinthians 9:16, KJV
"But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth . . . Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:17-18, 31, KJV
"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake."
2 Corinthians 4:5, KJV
"But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
2 Corinthians 10:17, KJV
"Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 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."
2 Corinthians 12:5-6, KJV
"Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another."
Galatians 5:26, KJV
"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
Galatians 6:14, KJV
"Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ."
1 Thessalonians 2:6, KJV
It is evident that Paul recognized that pride was one of his biggest weaknesses in the flesh; and that pride always wants to give glory to self, instead of to God, to whom it is due. Considering how much the Lord used Paul, this must have been a constant thorn in the flesh for him. Satan must have always been after Paul to take just a little bit of the credit; but as Paul himself writes:
"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices."
2 Corinthians 2:11, KJV
Another possibility that occurred to me is that the "thorn in the flesh" and the "messenger of Satan" which buffeted Paul may have been a demon whose job was to condemn Paul, and to remind him of his former sinful life as Saul of Tarsus; the Pharisee who had persecuted the Lord's Church. The Greek word which is translated as "thorn" in the King James Version of the Bible is "skolops". It refers to a sharp piece of wood, or a sharp stake or a splinter. So perhaps this "messenger of Satan" was constantly jabbing or pricking Paul's conscience, and reminding him of his former persecution of the Church. If you recall the incident on the road to Damascus, Jesus said to Paul at that time "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." The Lord was using the very same kind of symbolism -- although it was an ox goad in that case -- because at that time, Paul was resisting the conviction of God's Spirit. No doubt being reminded of his former evil deeds served to keep Paul humble.
I believe that this is why Paul gloried in his infirmities. He accepted his personal afflictions as the Lord's way of keeping him on track. He knew that he needed them. I tend to believe that my afflictions are also by God's design. Perhaps they are His way of reminding me of how weak and little I am, lest in my pride I soon forget it. It is His way of helping me to keep my pride under control, lest I too should become lifted up, and want to take some of the credit for everything that He has accomplished through this ministry. So I can see the Lord's Wisdom in my physical sufferings, and I agree with Him when He says:
". . . My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9a, KJV
One thing is for certain. Regardless of whether or not God chooses to heal me of my fleshly annoyances, by His Grace, I hope to continue to remain obedient to His Will, and to serve Him faithfully until that great day in which He chooses to call me Home. My faith isn't a bargain faith. In other words, I won't say "Lord, I will serve you faithfully, if you are willing to do such-and-such for me." It is foolish to try to bargain with God. He is the one who sets the terms. Our duty is to sign His blank contact, and to obey by faith, knowing that He will carry out His plans for our lives. Real faith obeys no matter what the consequences, and regardless of the conditions. As we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews:
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Hebrews 11:1, 6, KJV
What about you? Are you able to see God's invisible hand in your physical afflictions? Do you view them as a blessing or as a curse? Are you willing to obey the Lord even if He never heals you in this current life? The choice is up to you. Just remember that little is much if God is in it. If you do what you can for the Lord, in spite of your physical limitations, He will bless you for it. In fact, as we see from the verses above, He will reward us if we seek Him with all diligence, and maintain our faith in Him until the very end, in spite of our fleshly afflictions. As the Apostle Paul also writes:
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;"
2 Corinthians 4:17, KJV
What does the Apostle Paul mean when he writes "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"? Part of the answer can be found in the wonderful verses which follow. While the Lord may not choose to heal us in this current life, we have the assurance that once this life has passed, we will all be majestically transformed when we pass from death unto life; that is, unto Eternal Life, as we see here:
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:"
Romans 6:4-5, KJV
"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 8:29, KJV
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life."
2 Corinthians 5:1-4, KJV
"Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Philippians 3:21, KJV
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
1 John 3:2, KJV
"There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
1 Corinthians 15:40-52, KJV
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, KJV
With these verses I will bring this series to its conclusion. I hope that you have found it informative, and I pray that it has been a blessing and an inspiration in your life. If you are interested in additional study concerning Divine Healing, please consider reading such articles as the five-part series entitled "Death: Final Battle, Final Victory".
If you have enjoyed reading this series, please consider sharing its URL with your online friends. If you have an account with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, etc, I would also very much appreciate if you would take the time to click on the corresponding link that is found on this page. Thanks so much, and may God bless you abundantly! For additional info, you may want to refer to the list of resources below which were also mentioned in this article, or which are related to the topics which were discussed in this article. All of them are likewise located on this very same Bill's Bible Basics website:
Are Personal Tragedies Due to Sin?
Demonic Possession and Sickness: A Biblical Perspective
Death: Final Battle, Final Victory!
Backsliding, Divine Chastisement and the Divine Agreement
Love, Mercy, Forgiveness and Chastisement
Do You Want Love and Light, or Rod and Wrath?
Beholding the Evil and the Good
So You Really Think You Are So Humble?
The Only Credentials You Need!
Are the Gifts of the Spirit for Today?
The Biblical Practice of Fasting
The Faith of a Little Child
Faith and the Shroud of Turin: No Sign Shall Be Given