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From the Pastor’s Heart

The apostle Paul learned to trust God always, and you can too.

Here in Atlanta, Georgia, we’re noticing that even in winter, when the rosebushes are dormant, they still have their thorns. Isn’t that how it can be in the spiritual life? Some trials persist, though we plead with God to bring them to an end. But His grace carries us through. We pray that the following message from Dr. Stanley will encourage you to endure tenacious problems in your life—just as Paul endured his “thorn.”

As a pastor, I’ve often helped people walk through trying times. Some responded by drawing closer to the Lord, growing in trust and dependence on Him. But I’ve also seen people give up, saying, “If this is the Christian life, I don’t want anything to do with it.”

How do you respond in tough times? Are you confident that the Lord knows what He’s doing and will bring you through it? Or do you begin to doubt that He loves you? If the outward evidence that He’s working on your behalf isn’t apparent, do you still trust that He is? 

Most Christians I’ve met would like to trust God in every situation, but it’s not always easy. 

Jesus didn’t promise us a problem-free life. In fact, He said the opposite: “In Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33). 

This is our reality, but if we keep our focus on Him instead of our troubles, we can endure anything thanks to His perfect peace. Isn’t that what we want? 

The apostle Paul endured unimaginable suffering, but he never gave up on the Lord. 

At one point, he was so afflicted by what he called “a thorn in the flesh” that he fervently begged God three times to remove it (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Yet the only answer he received was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). 

How would you feel if after praying for relief, God gave you that answer? 

No promise of a change in circumstances, just the grace to go through them. What if the situation went on for years? Could you respond like Paul, saying, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (v. 9)?

Thorns teach us that God’s grace is sufficient. 

When we’re at our weakest, without control of the situation, we must rely on the Lord and His strength. And He always comes to our rescue. Sometimes He rescues us from the situation. But other times, deliverance comes through His superabundant grace to go through the trial for as long as it lasts.

God’s grace is His provision for us at the point of our need. Not almost enough, but all-sufficient, overflowing provision. No matter how long or how great the trouble or suffering, the Lord will strengthen us to walk through it. Not with defeated resignation, but with confident assurance. 

Troubles are opportunities to learn contentment.

After hearing God’s reason for letting the “thorn in the flesh” remain, Paul responded, “Therefore, I delight (am content) in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10). 

You’re probably wondering how you could ever be content with these things. Well, you can’t manufacture it with pep talks. It comes only through God’s grace working in your life.

Paul had to learn contentment (Phil. 4:11). It had nothing to do with favorable circumstances, but with his focus. If we fixate on the problems, they’ll grow insurmountable in our eyes. But when our minds are centered on the Lord and the truths of His Word, we’re able to accept every circumstance, knowing that He’s sovereign, His grace is sufficient, and He walks with us through it. 

Difficulties stimulate spiritual growth. 

How many spiritual lessons have you learned when life was easy? Probably not many. It’s usually in the darkest periods of life that we grow the most because all distractions are stripped away, and the Lord is the only one who can help us. After passing through the valley with Him at our side, we come out with a more accurate understanding of the Lord and His ways and deeper trust in His sovereign choices for our lives.

Isn’t it a great encouragement to know that you can walk through thorny experiences in a way that transforms your life and glorifies God?

You have the promise of His sufficient grace and strength to handle whatever comes your way. So trust Him, and let each trial be an opportunity to experience the peace of Jesus Christ, learn contentment, and grow in spiritual maturity.

We’re always blessed to remember Dr. Stanley’s grace under pressure. He not only observed the trials of others but experienced many of his own during his long ministry. 

May you find patience in your difficulties and know that you are not alone: “The family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet. 5:9). Till next time, God bless you.

For His Glory, 

Your Friends at In Touch Ministries