Friday, May 22, 2015

"Thorns, Plucked and Unplucked"

    Several friends recently mentioned specific answers to prayer about important matters in their lives.  These fellow believers asked, they received, and give God much glory and gratitude for His quickly and directly revealed faithfulness.

    "Ask and it shall be given you.  Seek and ye shall find.  Knock and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7).

   What if, however, my friends' requests had seemingly gone unanswered?  First, we must acknowledge that our requests sometimes fail to coincide with the will of God.  "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts" (James 4:3).  No believer is beyond the possibility of asking God to do things or make provisions that are not in line with His desires.  When considering this clear Biblical teaching, we recognize our presently imperfect understanding of our own needs, and more importantly, our Lord's perfect way in our lives.  Humility demands that we acknowledge our native tendency to "ask amiss", as guided by our own fleshly desires rather than the will of God.  This can happen even when we sincerely seek His will because it is not always easy to know our Lord's desires, as opposed to those of our flesh.

    No less than the Apostle Paul experienced this challenge of prayer, grace, and faith.  Our brother of old, doubtless in all sincerity, asked God to do something that God was not willing to do. 

    "Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:7-9).

    We feel no criticism of Paul when reading this honest confession.  The Apostle, in good faith, sought deliverance from the thorn - thrice.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Still, the Lord did not answer in the affirmative.  He rather provided a far greater answer for Paul, namely, deliverance with the thorn.  God gave sufficient grace rather than supplied relief.  Prayers unanswered led to an even greater bestowal of Divine supply that escorted the Apostle more deeply into the heart of God than a plucked thorn could have ever accomplished.

    Returning to the matter of my friends' rejoicing in answered prayer, we say Amen, and rejoice with them.  However, had God not answered their initial requests, we could well voice and affirm the same.  He might well have had greater intentions and provisions.  Sometimes our Heavenly Father grants.  Sometimes He graces.  Either way, He acts in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus, as well our benefit and the blessing of those with whom we live our lives.  In such Divine perfection, we rest our hearts, rejoicing in thorns plucked and unplucked.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous runneth into it and is safe.
(Proverbs 18:10)

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