Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Unremoved Thorns

"And 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. 
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:7

(KJV)



There are certain parts of our life story that will not be edited.




God, the great Editor of each of our lives, 
ordained it to be so.


There is a cross we each must bear.
The sooner we lean into our cross and wave the white flag of surrender to God, the better.

There is an order to the method of how to carry it.
Jesus gave the directions.
They are simple....just a three-step process.
But, so difficult in actuality.

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples,
If any man will come after me, 
let him deny himself, 
and take up his cross, 
and follow me."
Matthew 16:24

That's it.
The steps must be performed and taken...
in the exact order Jesus gave them.
Otherwise this will never work.

Self has to be denied...first and foremost.
That is the most difficult step.
It will cost something.
It will not be pleasant.
But, we will never make it to step 2, 
without first successfully and entirely finishing step 1.

Jesus knew...painfully firsthand....
that carrying a cross requires preparation.

Jesus had to deny Himself before He could carry His.


He begged....pleaded for that scene to be eliminated.

Jesus prayed until His sweat oozed out of His pores as blood.
His body actually went into the extremely rare physiological condition called “hematohidrosis.”
 The only way a body ever goes into this state is through greatly intense agony....
sheer anguish that cannot be soothed.

I find it interesting that Luke is the one who mentioned this fact.
Luke was a doctor.
He viewed situations through the lens of a medically professional expert.
He knew and recognized the magnitude of this phenomenon.

This is just how hard Jesus prayed and pled with His Father
to edit and remove this terrifying, inhumane scene from His earthly life.

He didn't ask just once...or twice....but three times.
Three times He went back to pray the same, tortured words.

God said no.
All.  Three.  Times.

There was no way around it.
God, the great Editor of life, knew that the only answer He could ever give
His anguished, more-precious-to-Him-than-words Son....
was a profound NO.

The cup had to be emptied.
The only One Who could drink it...was Jesus Christ.

So, God said no.

God has designed and tailor-crafted a unique, individualized cross....
for every single one of us.

Jesus had to carry His cross.
You and I will have to do the same.

May I ask you a personal question?

If you and I could meet today...
say at a quiet, cozy corner table in a quaint, little cafe....
someplace private...
and I had the opportunity of looking deep into your eyes, the windows to your soul....
cup of coffee or tea in hand...
and there was no one else around to impress or shy away from or infuriate...
and you could be brutally-from-the-heart honest with me....
what would your answer be to this one burning question in my mind?

If I leaned in a bit closer and spoke quietly and asked,
"Of what does your cross consist?"...
what would your answer be?

Of what does your cross consist?

More than likely, you wouldn't look back into the windows of my soul
and tell me that your cross is made up of two wooden beams held together by nails.

There was only One Who will ever be required to carry that one.
Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else in the world....ever....
could bear up to that one.

Only Jesus.

So, what would you say to me?

Would you tell me that your cross is a person....
one who consistently and perpetually rubs against your grain?
In just the tiniest of ways kind of like the way
the rough, rugged splinters of the old, rugged cross shot agonizing pain into Jesus' back
every time He struggled to move His bleeding, nailed-to-the-cross body
up the slightest bit in order to force air into His oxygen-deprived lungs?

Would you tell me that your cross is someone who is a permanent fixture in your life
and with whom you must consistently deal and cope?

Someone whose abrasiveness continually works on you like
sandpaper in the Carpenter's hand?

Of what does your cross consist?

Would you say it is comprised of a situation?
Something that no matter how hard you've cried,
pounded your fists on Heaven's door, and begged for deliverance
remains steadfastly difficult and unchanged?

Is it your job?
Your financial state?
Your living conditions?
Your spouse?
Your mother?
Your father?
Your sibling?
Your child?
Your failing marriage?
Your divorce?
Your requirement to stay sweet in the face of betrayal...of the worst kind?

What is your cross?

Chances are, you and I will probably never get the chance to meet in a little cafe like that.
You may live clear across the sea.
I love checking the stats now and then and seeing where you live....
seeing all of the countries represented on the page views.
Wish we could all meet face to face and share our burdened hearts.

That probably won't happen until Heaven....
then none of this will matter because we will have traded these old crosses for glorious crowns!

There are certain parts of our life story that cannot be edited.

They are written into the saga of our life because the Carpenter....
the Potter....
our Lord....
deems them needful.

As painful and as hard as they may be to bear,
they are absolutely necessary.
They are all a part of the plan....
His plan....
to get us to Heaven.

Crosses serve a purpose.
They prevent pride...actually rub it right off of us.
They keep us humble....
and on our knees....
crying out to our Father for help.

Our cry is for deliverance...for an easier way out.

He sends grace.

Remember the Apostle Paul?
He had the awesome, amazing opportunity of being caught up into the 3rd Heaven....
the place where GOD dwells!

Can you even imagine????

He saw things that were past telling.
Unintelligible.
Unspeakable.
Beyond the scope of being put into words.
An experience like this leaves one susceptible and vulnerable to becoming puffed up and prideful.

God knew this.

So, in His Divine, infinite wisdom,
He constructed a cross....tailor-made and personally designed...
for no one other than Paul.
It wasn't for Peter, or John, or Bartholomew, Barnabus, or Silas.
It was for Paul.

He called it a thorn in his flesh.
A messenger of Satan...to buffet him.
The word "buffet" here literally means these things...

treat harshly
treat roughly
torment
maltreat
beat
mistreat violently
to rap with the fist
strike with the fist
to hit hard with the knuckles
to make the blow sting and crush
striking with something sharp and painful
sticking deeply in the flesh, so it remains there

Any of this sound familiar to you?

Paul prayed to God, the Great Editor and Creator of his life
to please remove the thorn....
to take his cross away...
to edit it out of his life story.

He prayed this way not just once...not twice....but three times.

God said no.
All.  Three.  Times

God said no...but He promised Paul sufficient grace....
to tolerate the thorn.

God needed Paul to remain humble.
The thorn kept him that way.
He had to live with the thorn...
had to cope with its continual pricking,
its uncomfortable jab,
its permanent presence in his life.

We never read...anywhere in the Bible....where God decided to edit it out
and remove the thorn.

Paul lived with that thorn all the way through to the end of his life,
as far as we know.

Paul died with victory in his soul.
He walked to the chopping block unafraid to lay down his life
for the One Who died for Him.

You have a cross to pick up and carry, my friend.
So do I.
Yours may be worlds-apart different from mine.
One thing is certain.
We couldn't trade crosses, even if we wanted to.

Yours was made for you.
Mine was made for me...by the precious hands of the Master Carpenter.

If you look real close at those hands,
you will see the awful scars.

See?


Take a closer look.
Right there.
Painful reminders to Him every time He looks at them.
Marks...left by those long, sharp, Roman spikes that pierced all the way through
when they tore through His flesh to fasten them there...
to His Own rugged cross.



What if He had made a different choice?
What if He had walked away?
What if He had taken an easy way out and refused to pick up and carry 
His jagged, rugged cross down the path of the Via Dolorosa towards Calvary's hill?
What if He had backed out once He arrived there?
What if He had called thousands of angels...to remove those awful nails as He hung there?

What if Jesus had prayed twice in the Garden of Gethsemane and ultimately said "no" to God?

What if you say no?

Your cross....your thorn...
is an uneditable part of the story of your life.

If we would walk this Christian path, 
we must carry our own cross.
We must surrender to His Divine purpose...
say from the heart, "Not my will, but Thine be done",
lay our self with its dreams and hopes of an ease-filled life upon the altar before God...
a living sacrifice....
rise from the tear-soaked ashes and pick up our special-made-by-nail-scarred-hands cross,
carry it, and follow Jesus.

It is the only way to "come after Him" (Matthew 16:24).

There is a Divine purpose for cups that cannot be passed,
crosses that must be carried,
and thorns that are never removed.

The continual reminders of their Divinely-appointed presence in our lives 
are hard to swallow and even harder to bear.
But they are needful.
The sanding of the sandpaper is doing its work.  
Fulfilling His purpose.
Honing off the rough edges...of you and of me.
Keeping us humble, broken, on our knees before Almighty God, 
the One Who designed and crafted our cross.

The Editor knows what needs to stay in and what needs to be edited out of our life story.  
He has already written it all.
He sees the end from the beginning.
He doesn't always pass the cup....to someone else.
He doesn't always take the cross away...and hand it to another.
He doesn't always choose to remove the thorn...to make life more comfortable.
But He does promise sufficient grace...to drink the bitter dregs,
to carry the burden,
and to bear up to the pricking.

The best thing for you and I to do is to lean in to God's will, instead of fighting it.
To deny our flesh, realizing and accepting that He knows how to guide us to Heaven.
Getting us there requires exactly what He has in mind.
All we have to do is cooperate, become pliable in the Potter's hands, 
and allow the cross to fulfill its purpose - 
to crucify the flesh that cannot go past the pearly gates.

Be encouraged.
God has those unremoved thorns in your life for a reason.

If God had removed the cross from Jesus' path, 
salvation's demand for sacrifice would never have been satisfied,
and you and I would be eternally lost.

If God had removed the thorn from Paul's life,
he would have been exalted above measure, 
and we wouldn't have several of the New Testament books 
so needful in guiding our steps Heavenward.

If God removed the heavy cross, the jabbing thorn, and/or the undesirable cup from your life....
what then?

10 comments:

  1. What a precious teaching of carrying our cross. Thanks for the encouragement and thanks God that he helps us to carry our crosses too.
    God bless you more sister for God's given insight and wisdom.

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    1. Thank you, my dear, precious sister! You have surely had more than your share to carry, but God has always brought you through with sufficient grace, praise His name! You are a blessing to me! Love, Cheryl

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  2. This is one of the best teachings of carrying our cross I have ever read. Thank you for being faithful, dear sister.
    Love, Deborah

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    1. My dear friend! So glad you came by today, and how grateful I am for your encouraging words! May the dear Lord bless you in a SPECIAL way for the dear blessing you consistently are to me. Love, Cheryl

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  3. Dear Cheryl, I stopped by from Beauty in His Grip. I am so truly glad I did. What a blessing, encouragement it was for me to read this beautiful post on the cross! May you have a blessed week!!! Love Natasha

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    1. Your words brought tears to my eyes. I am so touched by your comments and blessed beyond words that you found a blessing and encouragement here today. Thank you ever so much, and may the dear Lord keep you in His care. Love, Cheryl

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  4. My dear grandmother would tell me, "Hazel you must get rid of self." I was a young child and did not understand how I could get rid of myself. it was years later that I came to realize that because I am IN Him, when Jesus died, the Old me died, and that was the "Self," that is now dead. Because HE lives, I now live in him and he in me. I am now a new creature in Christ, and today we follow our beloved Savior. You said this beautifully, just in different words. Thank you for sharing with us here at "Tell me a Story."

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    1. Oh, how true..that we must get rid of self...our biggest enemy! I feel so inadequate and weak, and so DEPENDENT on Jesus! He is so faithful, bless His name. Thank you so much for stopping by and for the wonderful link-up. Love, Cheryl

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  5. Thank you, Cheryl, for reminding me that 'My cross was made by the precious hands of the Master Carpenter.'
    Often no one knows what our 'cross' is. Often it is not the obvious problem or discomfort in our life. Others may not understand our burden. Been struggling these past weeks, as His followers sometimes do, but was blessed today by your sweet reminder of how my much my Savior loves me...and that the cross will have its special purpose in my life...D.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such sweet encouragement behind. You are a blessing to me. God bless you! Love, Cheryl

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