Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, life isn’t fair—because sin has come into the world and into our lives and brought untold heartache and sadness. And yet, You have come into our lives, too. And You have come with healing in Your wings! You have come to put us back on track and make us right with Your Holy Father via the gift of saving grace. For that reason, we are all infinitely valuable and infinitely important. So, today instill in each of us an undying appreciation for Your gift of our lives. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE REDEEMER OF SOULS!
TEXT: 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I’ll bet you know someone who believes in reincarnation. I know a few of such misguided folks. And their beliefs tell me two things. One, they are unhappy with their own lives—that’s why they like to believe they lived other rolls in the past and will in the future. And two, they are very self-important. I say that because all of them dwell on their supposed positions as: kings, queens, princes and princesses in former lives, but none of them think they were a peasant or a slave! They live in this fake fantasy because they are unhappy with the here and now, period.
That being said, even those of us with our feet firmly on the ground of reality sometimes dream of “trading places” with another. In our celebrity-driven culture we think the lives of the “rich and famous” are superior to our own. We think they don’t and won’t have the same pressures and problems that we face. Such fantasy “trading places” is pure escapism. But, let’s face it: often it’s very appealing.
God made each of us unique. We are comprised of both a body and a soul. Our journey through life is a one-time trip, an opportunity to get it right in embracing the one thing bigger, better, and more long-lasting than we are—His grace and mercy revealed in Jesus Christ. Yes, God cares intimately for each of you and proved it by sending You a Savior Who “got it right” for you by buying your soul with His life. And when we take that uplifting truth to heart, we also see that:
“TRADING PLACES” MOCKS GOD AND YOURSELF
All of us suffer from the “big head” syndrome. And no, I’m not talking about hat size! We all think that the world revolves around us and no other human has ever dreamed our dreams, loved with the same fervor, or experienced the same depth of heartbreak. And yet, we all suffer the same “smallness” of character: greed over what we don’t have, envy for what others do have, and discontent over our limitations when compared with others. (No, we can’t all “be like Mike.”) This is the paradox of sin—big egos connected to small lives.
In the verses preceding our text, St. Paul talks about the human rationale for his big ego. The enemies of the gospel were trying to belittle Paul by recounting the level of their human achievement and human sufferings vs. his. And so Paul takes them on. He speaks of his stellar career as a pious Jewish religious leader, of his amazing conversion by Christ Himself on the road to Damascus, of his sufferings and beatings and even shipwreck—all for Christ’s sake. Indeed, what other human “deserved” God’s blessing more than Paul on account of what he had been through? And then, to show God’s antidote to the “big head” syndrome, Paul says this: “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.”
Paul, the proud world-traveler, had a particular problem. God had given him a thorn in his flesh. He had allowed a devilish torment to come upon Paul in order to humble him and shrink his “big head.” We don’t know exactly what it was. But the best scholarship I’ve seen indicates it was extremely poor eyesight. In fact, it was so bad that Paul probably had to be led along by another throughout his many journeys.—Humbling indeed, for this mighty world traveler. And this eye condition probably stemmed from his blindness at seeing Christ on that Damascus road and the blistering of his eyeballs that resulted.
So, what does the Apostle do about it? Like you and me, he prays. “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.”
Power made perfect in weakness?—There’s a paradox for you! Just like America today, the Roman world understood power and it had nothing to do with weakness. But God’s strength is made perfect in weakness, isn’t it? For when we find we cannot rely on ourselves but are forced to rely on Him alone—our faith in Him is never stronger. That’s why the Apostle concludes with these words: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon 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.”
In times of human tragedy and pain, Paul wasn’t seduced by the siren’s song of “trading places” with another whose life seemed perfect and care-free. No, he was happy with who and what he was—a child of God through faith in Christ. Yes, to wish your life away and be dissatisfied with it mocks God Who gave it to you. It says: “God, You don’t know what you’re doing!” But it also mocks yourself.
I said at the start that we live in a fantasy-filled world. We have romance novels to escape into, we have fantasy football and baseball leagues, we even have “fantasy bass fishing tournaments” in which people bet on who will catch the biggest fish without ever dunked a line of their own! Why is all this so popular? Why do we all sometimes want to “trade places” with someone else and thereby live vicariously instead of as the unique, individual people we are?
It comes back to that old adage: “life isn’t fair” doesn’t it? Bad things, sin-related things happen in our reality. Death comes unexpectedly. Accidents happen. MS strikes people down in their prime. Debt and bankruptcy breed worry which sometimes leads to depression, and/or drug and alcohol abuse. And more often than not our escape hatch is to retreat to a fantasy world in which we trade places with some ideal person who seems to go through life unscathed by it all.
My friends, the real truth is that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has already traded places with you! He suffered all our pain on a cross. He died so that the truth of Paul’s words might be played out in your lives—“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Don’t mock God or yourself by living in a fantasy world. Don’t mock Him or yourself by being dissatisfied with the life He has given you. Don’t mock God or yourself by ignoring the blessings He bestows by always turning bad things into wonderful results. Accept who you are and what He has made you into—a beloved, strong, faith-filled child of God! Yes, he who humbles himself will be exalted! And that my friends, is Godly reality! Amen