Here are the lyrics to the song that ended the service on 9-21-08, May you find the blessing in your “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-9)

The Blessing in the Thorn

I read about a man of God
Who gloried in his weakness
And I wish that I could be
More like Him and less like me
Am I to blame for what I’m not
Or is pain the way God teaches me to grow
I need to know

When does the thorn become a blessing
When does the pain become a friend
When does the weakness make me stronger
When does my faith make me whole again
I want to feel His arms around me
In the middle of my raging storm
So that I can see the blessing in the thorn

I’ve heard it said the strength of Christ
Is perfect in my weakness
And the more that I go through
The more I prove the promise true
His love will go to any length
And reaches even now to where I am
But tell me once again

Lord, I have to ask You
On the cross You suffered through
Was there a time You ever doubted
What You already knew

“Pastor, I have been praying for this for 45 years.” These were the words of an elderly Christian lady as she talked to me about her desire to see her husband come to Christ. Now he lay in a hospital bed after radical surgery for cancer and he was left unable to speak. During this conversation I was struck by two things. The first was the love and persistence of this long-suffering wife. The second was how after years of praying and years of no response she did not give up her trust in the Lord.

There are times when it seems like God is saying “no” to our requests, or at least a positive answer has not yet come. Do we view this as a rejection or do we look for what God is really saying? Often times, when it looks like God is saying “no”, He is really saying something else – things like…”trust my timing,” or “I can accomplish more by not intervening than coming to a dramatic rescue.” As Paul learned in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, sometimes a “no” is really a “yes” to what He wants to do in and through us, in spite of difficulties. Perhaps we should never take “no” as the final answer.

And what of the wife who didn’t give up? Shortly before her husband’s body could no longer fight off the cancer, through nods and hand signals we both were convinced that he had put his faith in Jesus. To God be the glory!

If you have ever played the game Monopoly, you will remember that there was a space called “Chance” and if the roll of the dice left you parked there you would have to pick up a card and do whatever it said. Sometimes the news was good. One card I particularly remember said, “Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.” This was usually not a good moment in the game. To this point in life, I have avoided jail except to be there for ministry, and I consider that a good thing. But God has allowed and used his people in some special ways behind bars.

Joseph received vision while in prison in Egypt (Gen. 39-40), and Daniel shared a “cell-space” with lions (Dan. 6). In the New Testament Barabbas (Luke 23:18-24) was set free from prison as Jesus was condemned. Peter was sprung from prison by an angel (Acts 12:5-11) Paul’s jail break was accomplished by an earthquake, (Acts 16:24-34) John was in on the prison-island of Patmos when he received the revelation (Rev. 1:9-11). Each of these jail-time experience was used of God in a special way. This reminds me that whatever we may view as a limitation, God views as an opportunity -an occasion to show that He is God and in control. What is limiting you? Turn to God in trust. That is even better than a “Get out of Jail Free Card.”

If you look up the name Tom Seaver in Wikipedia it will tell you that Tom was a professional baseball pitcher for the New York Mets and later the Cincinnati Reds. It will tell you he is a member of the baseball hall of fame, and that he was known as “Tom Terrific” and “The franchise” Tom however did not submit to the definition of a “pitcher.” He once stated to an interviewer that he considered pitching to be a performing art! He so studied, practiced and refined his craft to the point that he saw it as elevated above a mere athletic endeavor.

What would an encyclopedia consider your occupation? I would submit that we should consider whatever we do a performing art. You may be a painter or philosopher, a factory worker or shop worker, a teacher or preacher. But as a follower of Christ your life is really a command performance for an audience of One. We are “to do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

So, when you next walk into the office, the garage, the sales floor, the baseball diamond or the loading dock let me remind you, that you and I should seek to so study, practice and refine our craft so as to offer God our best. As we do we will bring glory to our God and bring some light to those who dwell in darkness.