His Grace is ALL we need!
2 Cor. 12:1-10
† In Jesus Name †
May you be convinced of this very thought: His Grace is ALL you need!
Theology according to Dug the Dog
In 2009, a movie was released that was a theological masterpiece, a perfect modern parable, as it pictured our lives in the present day, and how they overlook the very blessings we have been given by God.
One character in the animated movie “UP” we see in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, as Paul urges them to focus on the ministry of Christ, and their part in it, reconciling the world to God.
His name is Dug, and he is a dog, with a fancy little voicebox that turns his barks and growls into words. He is energetic, he is driven to do whatever he can to help his new master, and the little scout that would help the master reach his goal… he has the desire to help and do good, and the skills needed, and the absolute determination and focus
Until a squirrel shows up…
Something exciting and fun and perhaps even a bit tasty… it’s sorta like saying “bacon” around certain guys,…
And in many ways, as believers, as those studying God’s word, the people in Corinth were just like Dug the Dog. They desired to know all there was to know about God’s love, about His mercy, they desired to grasp the depth and breadth and height and width of God’s love…
Their attention is whisked away – as their minds follow a variety of squirrels that would distract them from the glory which Paul described so vividly; from the ministry we get to all be a part of, seeing people stripped of sin and returned to God. They got distracted by inspirational speakers (even if they know they are wrong), or by discussions about visions and revelations experiences that are astounding, so many things!
We can be like that as well, can’t we?
We aren’t alone…so was Paul…he had a ego that was easily inflated and he talks of the way God helped him deal with it – to keep that which should be the priority for the Christian – at the forefront. God’s method? A gift that doesn’t seem a gift at first, but is. That doesn’t seem like mercy, yet it is, for it keeps Paul focused, and dependent on God.
But before Paul gets there – he has to deal with the squirrels… and so will we!
Law – I want to know it ALL!!!
If you read this passage carefully, you realize that Paul doesn’t want to spend much time validating his ministry based on the experiences and visions and revelation, what he calls boasting. He’s done it, seen it, experienced it, been there, knows he can’t even come close to describing it, and realizes that even if it does – it will do those he is writing to absolutely no good!
Yet many of the professional theologians I have in my library wax eloquent on that which Paul deems as worthless, that will no benefit those to whom he writes. Heck just the discussions on what Paul means by being taken “to the third heaven” go on and on and on…. Despite Paul’s words that they mean…nothing to us! Pages of speculation about what Paul saw, or what this meant or that, on whether there are 3 heavens or seven! One theologian got it right, when he said
A mass of Jewish ideas about the seventh heaven is introduced by some interpreters, and they place Paul beyond the third heaven, viz. in the fourth. We consider all this Jewish material worthless for our interpretation. Are these Jews, who were never in heaven, able to shed any light on Paul’s experience? NO!
Study is good, and so is discussion, don’t get me wrong – but if scripture, God’s holy word says something doesn’t have a lot of meaning and value for us, why do we keep trying to develop a theory about it? Why can’t we just accept that it is beyond us, and get to what really makes a difference?
We can get so caught up in such discussions of visions and revelations, that we lose sight of who was revealed, can we lose sight of Jesus? We lose sight of the apostolic mission He came to accomplish, the mission which He has entrusted us with, and sent the Holy Spirit to work with us, to work in us, to accomplish?
Squirrel! Visions! Revelation! Bacon! Third Heaven! inside/outside of body, paradise,
Knowing all that other stuff, or our best guesses, do they really help us to know that which can make a difference in how we live our lives? Will it help us know God’s peace? Will knowing all these details help us today, as we struggle with life? No. Will knowing grace be sufficient, is it all we really need?
I think our seeking to know all about heaven, and eternity, are away to distract us from our present situation, our present fears, our present anxieties, our guilt and shame? They are great squirrels, fascinating topics, but the speculation doesn’t bring us comfort or peace….
Gospel – Struggles? Really?
Paul deals with – tells them simply – been there, saw that, can’t explain it – otherwise I might think I know it all…he says, but listen God helped me get past those squirrels and those questions I could answer, but can’t. He gave me an incredible gift – something that helped get me straight….
He taught me about the gift of afflciations.
Yeah – the gift of suffering meant more to Paul because it helped his spiritual life far more than all the visions, all the incredible revelations, all the wonderful things this man of God experienced. It made a difference.
Affliction? Suffering? Really? A Thorn in the Flesh? A pain in the….. neck? A Blessing? Really?
Well, Paul didn’t say he got that it was a gift, right away. He tells us that he begged God to take it away – not once, but three times! Not asked- the word is begged, pleaded, got down on his knees type begging. Wonder about God, for if He was so loving and merciful, wouldn’t He simply take it away….
The early Lutherans knew this, in our confessions, they wrote about how many sacraments there were, and how they were used – and wrote:
17 Alms (Giving to the poor ) could be listed here (among the sacraments), as well as afflictions, which in themselves are signs to which God has added promises. But let us pass over all this. No intelligent person will quibble about the number of sacraments or the terminology, so long as those things are kept which have God’s command and promises. (AAC, Art. XII)
But why? Why in the world does Paul and our forefathers call things that afflict us a blessing – why do they use the very same word – grace – in regards to the things (and people) that can be a thorn in the flesh….
It’s not the suffering… it’s the dependence on God that it causes..
And he is there… the Comforter, The Healer, the Daddy..
It’s not about the afflictions – its about what they cause… for they cause us, hopefully sooner than later – to run to the one who can bring us comfort, and relief and healing. That is why they are blessings, because they cause us to depend on God more, to trust in Him more, to wait quietly and patiently in His presence…
They cause us to see Him at work. To realize that we can, and we must depend on Him, if we really desire to live in His peace. To have the grace that we need…
His grace that works miraculously, simply. It calls us away from sin, from distractions, from squirrels. Grace that can make things that we don’t comprehend beautiful, in His time. We see Him at work in our lives, in the lives of this church, and the Taiwanese ministry and Passion, as we interact with each other, as we see a little girl baptized, as we pray and minister to those around us, as we learn together that God is here…pouring out the grace, the gifts we need.
The grace gift of His love
The grace-gift that is His mercy..
The grace gift of His presence and to know He desires to commune with us.
As He brings healing to our past, and gives us hope for the future.
As His grace-gift is the peace we have now… o the blessed peace that is found in Him, in Living each and every day knowing He is here, knowing His promises., knowing Him.
If that afflication means getting past the BACON, and the squirrels in life, so be it… they are not as good, right and beneficial as knowing our Father in Heave, or realizing our life in Christ, as rejoicing in the Spirit…
Even as we share in a feast that is beyond compare… the feast of His welcoming us into His affliction, that we would know His death, that we share in His resurrection to life, a life lived in Him…now.