I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
“It’s only logical that if God always answered our prayers as we wanted him to, those answers to our prayers could hardly be considered miraculous. They would only be part of a predictable system that we could manipulate, if only we knew how. It really makes God not God… So in this scenario, we are really treating God like a tool to be used, and we hardly acknowledge him any more than we thank the hammer or saw.”
– Eric Metaxas, Miracles
This concept follows part of the post on the Double-Edged Sword – thinking that our prayer saved or healed someone. When our prayers do not come out the way that we wanted, we blame ourselves, or the person being prayed for, or God. All three responses are wrong theology and harmful in our walk with Jesus.
Paul learned from his thorn in the flesh. It humbled him. He was reminded constantly that God was in control, not Paul. All with a resounding ‘no’ answer from God.
I read a post from C. Chris Holland recently, Glory. He points out that when Jesus instructed us to pray, He ended the prayer with “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13b, NKJV). In ending our prayer in this manner, we are telling God that it is His kingdom and His power. We are glorifying God whether His answer to our prayer is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
I have seen so many people crumble after the loss of a loved one, not due to the loss, but due to not saving them by their prayers. They will say, “I don’t understand. I orchestrated a prayer vigil. I prayed earnestly. Why didn’t God come through?” God has a purpose in all things, but at that moment of loss, grieve the loss. Don’t make the loss about you.
By the way, when you hear someone say that, don’t state what is obvious to your mind at the moment. Namely, ‘you aren’t in charge, and you blame God for not listening to you, and something is messed up with your thinking.’ Of course, something is messed up with their thinking. They lost someone dear to them. Hopefully, they will see the error in their thinking once the pain of the loss subsides.
But getting back to Paul, he starts this chapter of 2 Corinthians with a miracle. He states that he can boast of that, but never of himself. In his letters, he defends his actions from time to time, but never really boasts of his actions, only of what the churches and individuals do. I think that the US Army officer training has been influenced by Paul. I was taught to always take the blame for anything that was subpar, but always defer praise to the men that I lead or commanded. Paul gives examples of this throughout his writings.
And maybe that is why Paul witnessed miracles. It was never about Paul, but Paul kept going in his ministry. It was never Paul’s prayers that helped people, but he prayed for the churches and the individuals within those churches. It was God’s power, God’s kingdom, and Glory was to God alone.
As for the Metaxas quote, isn’t that the biggest stumbling block when becoming a Christian or when stagnating in our Christian growth? We do not want to give up control. It may be painfully obvious that God’s plan is much better, but we still bristle at the idea that we are weak, and He is strong. No, I have strength of my own, you might think. But who made you? Who gave you that strength in the first place?
The notion that Metaxas creates of God as a ‘tool’ is actually scary. John Dalberg-Acton’s quote comes to mind. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If our prayers were always answered with ‘yes,’ the Devil would see fit that we never thought of God other than as a tool.
Remember that you should never blame yourself when the miracle does not happen, and when it does, credit God.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God give the Glory.