2 Corinthians 12:1-10 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come 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.
There are three basic stages to any season within our lives. There is the excitement of new beginnings. There is also the enduring of the grind after the new begins to wear off. Finally, there is the experience that comes from maneuvering through both parts. Everyone can be energized at the thought of new beginning, but it is the grind after the new wears off that causes tempers to flare, exhaustion to occur, and weariness in well doing to set in. This pattern is seen throughout God’s Word. For example, it must have been exciting to be free from the bondage of Egypt and walk through the Red Sea on dry ground only to watch God crush the pursuing enemy by enclosing them in the sea. It became a grind to wander in the wilderness, having to pray food from heaven and strike a rock in order to get water. It was an exciting beginning of ministry for Elijah to pray fire from heaven. The grind started when Jezebel sought to end his life for the entire event. It is exciting to experience Pentecost, but the grind starts when the multitudes that were saved starts murmuring. The grind starts when you have to deal with persecutions. The grind starts when you have to use discernment between who is real and who is there to destroy you. You see it has happened throughout the Bible, and it is happening right now. We have the excitement of the honeymoon but then comes the grind of marriage when we realize the difficulty of commitment. We have the excitement of a gender reveal party but then here comes the baby, and the grind begins when they do not sleep and you are constantly changing diapers. The grind is when they become a teenager and begin believing they have all the answers. With every season there is some excitement, but we also know that there is a grind that is coming shortly after the new wears off.
We are currently living in the transition between excitement and the grind. When Covid visited our society several months ago, we embraced the change with energy. We realized that getting out of school a little earlier, spending more time with family, and becoming creative with the gospel was something we all could use and apply in our lives. We embraced it, and I believe the expectation was this would all be over soon. Well, now we are four months into this season and it has not gotten better. It has gotten worse. Now the new has worn off. The schools are questioning how they are going to get kids back to learning. Masks are the hot topic of conversations these days. Now Churches are being considered the ultimate enemy. The few outdoor or online events were new and exciting. Now setting up church in the gym is a grind. Feeding 500 people a week through a food distribution is an exciting idea to get me out of the house during quarantine, but now the commitment is suddenly interfering with summer plans and it’s a grind. It is exciting to see people’s life change with the gospel and drawing people to Christ using creative methods. Now, the grind is convincing people to quit living and operating in fear and that church is a priority. The grind is real, and it is here to stay. We have to determine what God wants us to know and apply through this process.
- We have to understand the complications in the grind. The problem with the grind is that it’s challenging, difficult, and grueling. The grind is defined in some cases as doing the same thing over and over in order to reach a goal. In our text Paul experienced an abundance of revelations. He had an out of the body experience. He heard things that were so extraordinary that he could not even utter with human words. After that came the grueling grind with a thorn. It beat him, hindered him, and hurt him. Dealing with the thorn became a grind. It made life complicated. Psychologically speaking the grind is taxing because psychology defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. We call it a grind, but God identifies it as spiritual discipline. When we accept the change of a new thing, we also have to accept the difficulties of when the “new thing” is not so new anymore. What we thought would be fun is not so fun anymore. Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he told us to consider the cost of following him. Sure it is exciting to start, but the grind is coming and it comes with a cost. The grind is where things get hard. We need to know it as well as accept it.
- We need to realize that there are God given connections to the grind. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” When we read 2 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 15 we see that the grind comes with a partner. It is called grace. When we fail to accept the complications of the grind we are actually wasting God’s grace. In other words, where there is a grind there is also grace through the grind. God did not tell Paul he would remove the thorn (the grind). God told Paul that he would give him just enough grace to deal with the thorn. God is teaching us that where there is a grind there is grace. It works in every aspect of life, not just in ministry but also business, marriage, health, and parenting. There is grace no matter what your grind looks like. There is grace when dealing with Covid. There is grace when dealing with cancer. There is grace when dealing with the withdrawals that come from rehab. Wherever there is a grind there is also grace. They come in the same package. We just need to be careful not to waste our grace by failing to accept the challenges of the grind.
- We need to accept the change that comes from the grind. I find it amazing that Paul’s situation (thorn) never changed. However, if you read all the verses correctly you will see that Paul definitely changed. He went from wanting the thorn removed to rejoicing in the infirmities, persecutions, and reproaches. What caused the change? It was God’s grace. Through the grind Paul learned that the experience of God’s grace was so rich and wonderful that if it took the grind to experience this level of grace then he would not reject the grind but accept it with gladness. Too often we fail to see the purpose of the grind because we waste the grace. The grind is there to humble us and according to James 4:6, humility is the channel by which God gives us grace. If we ever learn to enjoy the sufficiency of God’s grace we will learn to accept the challenges that come with the grind.
Let us be honest. Life right now is frustrating, fearful, and extremely fluid. We are allowing the things that once excited and energized to divide us. It is all because we are so focused on the grind that we have forgotten how God administers grace in the midst of the grind. This week we need to learn to identify God’s grace in the midst of times of uncertainty.