Saturday, September 01, 2007

# 216: The Blessed Thorn

This post will help to explain the reason God’s ways are not our ways. Many of us wonder why God’s favor goes to the poor, the wearied, those in need, those with a quarrelsome and/or ill-tempered spouse, the lowly, the burdened, the weak, the humble, the downtrodden, those in dire straits, having an unruly or disobedient child/children, the gentile, those loaded down with continual problems, the destitute, those with physical handicaps, the underprivileged, the despondent, those caught in the grips of constant tribulation, etc. This list could be endless.

There is a story of a poor saint who kept praying to God to give him patience. He said to the Lord, "Lord, I keep praying and asking you to give me patience, but all I keep getting is tribulation." The Lord said to him, "Through tribulation comes patience." I believe at that time he may have stopped praying for patience. There may be some truth to this story.

1st Corinthians 1:27: "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” As one can tell, the apostles Jesus chose were simple fishermen, the unlearned/unschooled and those of no account.

Luke 9:48. "For he who is the least among you—he is the greatest."

Luke 14:11. "For he who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Luke 16:29. "But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are agony.’"

Luke 18:17. "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Wouldn’t you think God would have chosen the learned, the talented, the gifted, the brilliant, the stately, the wealthy, the prominent, the prosperous, the proud, high officials, the strong, and the lazy religious leaders? The religious leaders of today are not much different than those of 2,000 years ago, except there are thousands upon thousands more, making their influence much more formidable. And guess who is caught in the clutches of their beautiful religious words?

Matthew 11: 28. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Did you notice that Christ did not call any of those listed in the above paragraph?

There are several reasons for His selection: Those that have it made on earth have little need or hope for the good life in heaven since they already are living the good life, and they are proud of it, and their minds are set on enjoying their worldly pride and this present life. Some might ask, "Can’t those that are content in this world still be looking forward to eternity?” Absolutely. The only thing is, there is one big problem: The ones who truly live as required by Scripture are those that have a desperate need for the hereafter. And the falsely "blessed" group does not need what they already have. Need is one of the attitudes which keeps God’s less-fortunate people faithful, loving, hopeful and obedient.

You might ask, "Does that mean those who constantly have the theme on the tip of their mind that ‘life is good’ are excluded from becoming disciples of Christ?" Again, no. But in order to qualify as the less fortunate, the privileged and the wealthy are commanded to relinquish much, if not all, of the good things they have in this world. And that just doesn’t happen very easily or that often; they make deceptive alibis as to how their money can/has helped the cause of Christ. Sure, while they enjoy the good things this world makes available, but only to those who can afford them.

Luke 14:33. "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything, he has cannot be my disciple."

That is why the apostle Luke devotes a good portion of the 16th chapter of the book of Luke to the good life on this earth and the harm it will do—by the way, the book of Luke was a personal letter to “the most excellent Theophilus,” most likely a wealthy dignitary, possibly already a disciple of Christ, but not aware of the full gospel massage. I have often wondered if Theophilus was able to accept all that Luke was teaching in his letter about, of how God views the wealthy and privileged.

This teaching condemning wealth and prosperity is the most contested of all teachings by the wealthy and the wannabes because it is the most natural desire for all peoples to desire to be wealthy. They call it “survival of the fittest.” And that belief is understandable to those who do not possess the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit). Again, they attempt to prove the value of their wealth by all the great things God is doing by spreading the gospel where it has never been heard. The only thing, the gospel they are spreading is contaminated with much of what organized religion has been spreading since who knows when.

I have already written extensively on God’s attitude toward the wealthy—click on post # 133: "Anatomy of Wealth"—therefore, I will just mention it briefly in this post. Luke 16:13-15. "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. . . . What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight."

Scripture uses the word “thorn” as any disagreeable condition one has to live with. As one can plainly tell, because of their discontent with their lives, they are the ones most likely to become true disciples of Christ while they are eagerly looking forward to a better life. However, for those who love singing the song, "Everything’s going my way," they may profess Christianity since they are readily accepted by most established churches because of their status and the large sums of money they place in the weekly coffers. Also, it is nice for them to be respected and looked up to by others, since being a Christian usually means a person/family is honest and possesses many good and holy qualities.

But, as mentioned several times in previous posts, the greater damage done to the cause of Christ by those who live the good life is that they put wealth and prosperity in first place as a holy status in the Christian life. They do this without saying a single word to anyone, or even being aware of it. Then those who emulate them will also desire to be blessed by God with wealth, and thus have others’ respect and admiration. Then, what automatically happens to those who have been deceived into believing the great value of wealth in the Christian life? They will place the acquiring of good things first, then put love, faith, holiness, obedience, etc. on the back burner. The reason for this demonic distortion in Christian values is because money and wealth, which are highly valued by those who don’t know God, trump anything and everything which God has to offer.

From a human point of view, the above is understandable. Yet, it is totally contrary to all that New Testament Scripture teaches. Then many churches go to the Old Testament to validate the physical blessings God gives His people; that was before the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of the Old Testament. That old dispensation was a failure, except for a few of His holy people, in producing people who live as God’s love dictates. The Pharisees, Sadducees and the religious leaders are a perfect example of the harm wealth does in the hands of people who just claim to be people of God. Read Matthew, Chapter 23 to see how Jesus treated those religious fakes. Is it any different today? Did the clergy have the right/power to change Christ's teaching since the New Testament was written? Absolutely not.

Therefore, it is those of us who are living with a thorn in our flesh who are the most eligible, because of the great needs in our lives which this world cannot suffice.

Listen to what the apostle Paul had to say about his thorn: 2nd Corinthians 12:7-9. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." To learn what Paul’s thorn was, click on post # 145.

Let me bring up another Christian group. There are many people who are not wealthy or prosperous and who don’t have a thorn of any sort. They are fairly content with how life is treating them; their need for Christ as their Savior is not apparent to any great degree. They have to make certain their Christianity is in tune with all the requirements as presented in the New Testament. That is of vital importance. This applies especially to those who are members of Christian churches. They should examine how their church leader believes about the privileged few, and what their stance is on wealth and prosperity. By making these inquiries, they will know if their clergy is attempting to pull the wool over their eyes for material gain.

When all things are considered, Christians with a thorn, of one sort or another, are blessed to a greater degree than all others. Although they would give their right arm to be relieved of their thorns, those thorns are the very things that keep them on the straight and narrow. They can’t afford to mess up since all their eggs are, or should be, in the Lord’s basket. This world is of little value to them, except to somehow continue to make the cause of Christ known. Amen.

How and why has the Christian church per se gotten involved with such unbiblical beliefs? The answer to that question is what this blog is all about, along with a remedy. Even though we are mostly Biblical, very few can or will embrace it, because as the apostle Peter wrote in 1st Peter 4:18, "And, if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinner?" That is the churches’ major problem. They have made it easy and enjoyable to live the Christian life. No thorns allowed. Those who have thorns are, to a great degree, shoved by the wayside.

Believe what is written in this post, not only because it is based on Biblical truth, but it is like words coming from the horse's mouth. This author is one of those with a blessed thorn, and if it wasn’t for that thorn, who knows where or what I would now be doing.

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