John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.
In this time we’re living in, if there is any one thing less mentioned or taught about in church other than sin, it is that of false doctrine and false prophets – those Ministers of Satan. Oftentimes we read the scripture above and think that we are guaranteed peace in this world. Not so. Let’s be clear. Christ said He has overcome the world, and thus, our peace will never be in this world, but our peace is guaranteed only in CHRIST! We, who have been born again, are in Christ who has overcome the world; therefore, we can be of good cheer in the midst of trial and tribulations when the messengers of Satan come against us. In other words, in the world we don’t have peace. Our Peace is with God, which puts us at enmity with the world, and with the messengers of Satan.
Messengers of Satan. Just who are they? You see, this is the position in which Paul found himself, and yet God would not remove him from it. Being human, just like the rest of us, Paul wanted to have this thorn, this messenger of Satan removed. He wanted to preach the gospel without the constant trouble or vexing of those who hate him. Sound familiar to anyone? You just want to teach or preach, sing or worship without the constant trouble or vexing.
Many teach that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a spiritual problem. Others see it as a physical ailment (headaches, malarial fever, a speech impediment or possibly even an eye problem). Still others speculate that it referred to Paul’s frequent persecutions. Taking into consideration that I have been searching for a local church for the past few years to find a local body of believers I could worship with, I am of the persuasion that Paul’s thorn was in fact not a physical ailment.
1 Peter the 4th Chapter (NIV below) tells us some of what we’ll have to endure living this life for God. We will suffer for being a Christian. That is an inescapable, immutable fact.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Suffering for Being a Christian
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
Did you read carefully Peter’s warnings? He said they are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living and they heap abuse on you. Who is the “they” Paul speaks of? Surely it’s not the world, but rather those who are in the church! Peter warns that the end of all things is near. Look at the state of the world – economic turmoil, moral decay, pestilence, droughts, wars and rumors of wars, random acts of violence, hatred and intolerance of Christians and more abuse of and towards women and children than we’ve seen or heard of before. The end of things is near. So Peter instructs us to be alert and vigilant because what the enemy doesn’t want us doing is praying. He wants to torment our minds to keep us thinking and reacting from the flesh. But we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. We must put on the whole armor of God!
Where did Peter state judgment begins? In the house of God. Therefore, I Peter 5:8 tells us to be sober-minded; be watchful. Our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. How is he seeking to devour? By using his ministers. Let’s go back to Paul’s thorn.
II Corinthians 12:8-10: “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. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Reproaches and persecutions typically come at the hands or mouths of people, not physical ailments. Why do we find it so easy to believe that a man as strong and faithful as Paul, would be so distraught as to plead with the Lord three times to have poor eyesight or a physical ailment removed from him? Remember, it was Paul (formerly Saul) who persecuted the church. And, at his conversion, Christ said that Paul was his chosen instrument to proclaim His name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel and that He would show him how much he must suffer for His name. If Saul was issuing murderous threats and sought to jail, persecute or kill those who called on the name of Christ, then is it not safe to assume that his thorn in the flesh was actually people and not a physical malady?
What does it mean to buffet? It means to pound, to beat, to pummel. Those are literal, physical actions. In Paul’s affliction he learned to surrender his own will to the will of God. He would acquiesce and take the buffeting by the messengers of Satan. He would take it patiently, and glory in his infirmities (weaknesses). The very same principle is put forth in 1 Peter 2:20: “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” You see, we can understand someone enduring suffering for something they’ve done, but suffering for doing well? That’s another issue altogether.
Paul prayed three times that the Messenger of Satan be removed from him, and God’s answer came back, “My Grace is enough for you.” This is not unlike when the Savior in Gethsemane prayed three times, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42). It’s a demonstration of surrendering our will to the will of God! There is a basic and practical lesson here, related to humility. It is a trait which is evident in the Children of God, and absent from the children of men. God knows that strength is made perfect in our weakness. Outside influences help to keep us humble. For it is in these times of weakness and hardship that the Lord’s strength can be experienced most. It’s in these times that we really come to recognize our infirmities (weaknesses), and to depend upon the Lord, rather than our own strength or wisdom!
Satan buffets believers by indwelling others and then using them to persecute or revile us. Why would bad eyesight, stammering speech, or any other physical disorder, be called a messenger of Satan? What was vexing Paul was those Judaizers, messengers of Satan who followed him from town to town persecuting and reviling him. These were the thorns in the flesh that he wanted taken away. But God told him no, His Grace was enough, which brings us to God’s purpose in allowing these thorns to remain.
When you come with the truth of the gospel — and truly live it — people hate you and what you say. You see anyone can quote scripture, even Satan did when he attempted to tempt Christ. You can even teach it, but those born of the incorruptible seed live it. Therefore they revile and persecute us because of it. However, what many are taught to believe is that the hatred and persecution will only come from those outside the church. Not so. There are many who are posing as angels of light operating in the local church and believe me, they hate those who are living Godly. I just gave you scriptural references above, that they will come from within the local church (there are countless other references in the Bible such as Matthew referring to them outwardly as sheep but inwardly they are predatory wolves, and the book of Jude has great detail of what we should be looking out for). These are the thorns in the flesh, the Messengers of Satan. Paul had them and all those who will live Godly will too!
Satan works from without the body, through other evil men, not from within the Temple of God, which is our Body. I believe I can safely speculate by saying that all the disciples had ailments. Most people will die from an ailment or old age, (if Christ doesn’t return before, or they’re in an accident, etc.). Ailments are a normal part of life because we live in a fallen world. The thorns in believers’ sides as those Messengers of Satan, are false Prophets, fallen congregationalists, evil men who are the persecutors of God’s servants.
Saints, be extra vigilant. You see, when we walk into some churches we tend to let our guards down thinking that we’re in a safe zone. Maybe it’s a church we grew up in, or a church where we have friends and family or even a church we were led to. I recently encountered an attack that served as a reminder for me. Satan doesn’t show favoritism in his tactics; he specializes in what we consider low blows. Some of us would not hurt a woman or a child; however, nothing and no one is off limits to him. So, why did I come under attack? Because I am in the Light. Yet, the bigger question is, why did I not readily notice the attack? Because I was led there, I initially thought it was because it was a safe zone — but no ground is pure “safe ground.” Even when we’ve been led someplace by the Holy Spirit, continue to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I let my guard down and allowed external voices to interfere with the voice of the Holy Spirit. John 3:19 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” You see these messengers want to silence truth; they want to put out the light. I John 1: 5-7 says: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Be careful of those who act as “publicists” for the church. Allow your answers to come from you aligning all things against the Living Word, not man’s word. And, however long it takes, wait until God speaks!
We are in times that call for us to watch and pray like never before! We cannot let our guards down as the price we pay may be one we will forever lament. To my messengers — as long as you abide in Christ they will come — “Greater is He that is within me than he that is in the world!”
May the Lord who is gracious above all, give us His children the Wisdom and understanding to discern His Truth. Saints, continue to do good; don’t get weary in well-doing. Watch and pray!
Psalms 11:2: For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may secretly shoot at the upright in heart.
Proverbs 3:33: The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesses the habitation of the just.