by Richard Pelfrey
I’ve been feeling very convicted as of late, and I take comfort – joy even – in the assurance that this means I am growing. But still it can be very rough. I’m under attack. Questions arise like “why am I still so ‘unclean’?” and “why can’t I rise above these worldly temptations?”…I wonder at times if I’m just paying lip (and ink) service to this deal. But then I look back on the way things were just two years ago, and I see amazing progress. That notwithstanding, when I mess up I still can’t help but feel like I’m doing “it” wrong. C.S Lewis speaks on this in “Screwtape Letters”. The devil doesn’t go after people who aren’t living for God, he’s already got them. No, instead the devil sends his little minions after those who are pursuing rank in God’s army, to make them feel unworthy.
Our weapon as soldiers of the faith: the Word. Remember, we’ve all got (if we choose to believe it) God in our backpacks, desks, nightstands, or wherever we keep our Bible. Paul refers to it in Ephesians as a sword, to be used in hand-to-hand combat against the principalities and powers of darkness.
During Church the other night I was led back to one of my favorite pieces of scripture and allowed to see it in a new light. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. As I write this, it speaks directly to my heart, as if God heard my cries and is answering through my favorite Apostle.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”(v.7). OK, God loves us, right? If He didn’t we wouldn’t stand for Him. We’re too selfish to worship something when there’s nothing in it for us. So why would He want to torment me? I believe it’s a Holy reminder; one without which we would become way too proud of our spiritual growth and maybe even start to think we were as Holy or even Holier than God Himself (sound familiar? See Isaiah 14:12-15). God says “OK, you’re doing good, but slow down, there’s a hungry lion out there, don’t lose focus”. We must remember how we got here and how easily we could return.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.”(v.8) This is what I’ve been stuck in. It’s almost as if I’m thinking I can be as pure as Christ. I’ve done it way more than three times. I’ve had intercessors, I’ve had counsel – one friend suggested I pray in tongues. But the temptations do not stop. If anything, they get stronger.
“But He said to me, ‘ My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ”(v.9) I don’t have to be perfect, in fact I shouldn’t even be thinking about personal perfection. Christ reminds us here that all we should be pleading for is His Grace (and really there’s no pleading there, just receiving). If we come to God in any other state than total weakness, His power in our lives will be less than perfect. Remember, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. I must cast aside the proud supplications that amount to me saying “I should be better than this”, just as a fisherman throws away the bad fish from the net. God wants me to acknowledge my sinful nature and to feel the strength of the devil; to be reminded of it daily like a splinter that I can’t remove – every little while it gets rubbed just right and reminds me it’s still there. The more I try to fight the temptations through some delusion of personal power, the stronger the temptations will be.
Paul concludes “That is why…I delight…in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.”(v.10) I’ve been frustrated about my inability to be clean (for lack of a better word). But today I realize that this is exactly where the enemy wants me. When I’m frustrated, even if I don’t give up, I’m taking my focus from loving God. When I do this the darkness gets a wedge in, and before I know it I’m out of God’s grace. The opposition wins. When I realize I am nothing but filthy rags, undeserving of any grace, and delight in the fact that it’s given to me in spite of this, the floodlight of His power is switched on. My spirit, through Christ, is way too strong for any darkness Satan can think of to throw at me.