When delivering the message, Guard Your Pearls, I brought out the point that pearls are developed due to an irritant (like sand or dirt) or a parasite (a creature that lives in and feeds on another creature) that lodges between the shell and mantle of a shellfish. The mantle then secretes a substance called mother of pearl, or nacre (pronounced ‘naker’) that covers the unwanted irritant or parasite and forms a pearl over time.
Consider God’s grace, the very life of Christ, which bears up against the unwanted trials in our lives and gives us the ability to live as Christ would if we so choose, to be the spiritual nacre from God for our spiritual pearls. One passage of Holy Scripture that comes to my mind that describes this process is 2 Cor. 12:7-10. I see seven thoughts within that passage.
I. Our Need for God’s Nacre, that is, His Grace 7a And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh,
Many have mused as to what that thorn in the flesh was and I tend to agree with those who feel it was a problem with Paul’s eyes. This theory is partly based upon Galatians 4:13-15 (Young’s Literal Translation), “and ye have known that through infirmity of the flesh I did proclaim good news to you at the first, 14 and my trial that is in my flesh ye did not despise nor reject, but as a messenger of God ye did receive me — as Christ Jesus; 15 what then was your happiness? for I testify to you, that if possible, your eyes having plucked out, ye would have given to me;”
As mentioned in my audio message, Guard Your Pearls, there are times God permits irritants or parasites to come into our lives and remain a while. That might not sound good, but the “flip side” to this is that when this happens, His grace starts working.
II. God’s Merciful Means to Protect us from Spiritual Self-destruction 7b the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
There are times we think we are strong. Perhaps it is that we think we could handle being wealthy, more authority, more free time and so on. God knows us better than we know ourselves and there will be times when, unbeknown to us, we are on a collision course with disaster that God will place or permit something in our life to prevent us reaching that goal at that time.
Adam and Eve disregarded the command of God not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It has been theorized by some that God in time, after proper maturing on their part, would have permitted them to partake, but until then they were commanded not to eat of it. It was not time. Likewise we really should learn that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
III. Our Natural / Expected Response 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
Before thinking we should just accept anything that comes our way that is an irritant or parasite, it seems to me the Scriptures would have us to ask God to remove it at that moment. Matthew 7:7 and other passages indicate we are to keep asking. However, we must remember that there are two sides to prayer: speaking and listening. We may ask, but it is most important we listen.
IV. God’s Reply 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Paul listens and God speaks of His provision — grace would be sufficient. I try to remind people that a definition of grace, and one that would surely fit into this context, would be the ability given to us by God through Christ to do the right thing.
God also speaks of His plan. If we flourish in our own strength then it will profit us nothing in eternity. We must go forward in His strength and end our course in His strength. Our weaknesses should make us realize how much we need to depend upon God.
V. What Our Choice Should Be 9b,10a 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:
Consider trials as tools to work the works of God in our life, works that shape our character where it is pleasing to Him. As a result, we should gladly take up our cross and follow Him. We should gladly decrease so He may increase (John 3:30). The goal of His cross was to gain us. The goal of our cross is to gain Him.
VI. What Our Goals Should Be 9b, 10a
Additionally we see from this portion of the passage that we should desire to have the power of Christ at all times as well as to live for Christ (for His sake), bringing honor to His Name.
VII. The Principle We are to Follow 10b for when I am weak, then am I strong.
God pleasing faith requires we place our trust in God alone through Christ. Trusting in our own strength and ability is an impediment in our race to Christ.
Look for links to the audio for this message which will be live hopefully within days after the publishing of this article at http://www.sapphirestreams.com/life/audioM.html#M8.