“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10 ESV).
Shortly before writing this, the apostle Paul described a time when he was “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2) and “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (v. 4). Now, in response to those revelations, Paul talks about a thorn that keeps him humble and dependent on Christ. And that’s what I want to write about today.
I’ve been in church my entire life. My parents faithfully brought me every chance they got. Sunday mornings. Sunday nights. Wednesday nights. And trust me, there were times when I didn’t want to go. But that never made a difference. I was saturated in the Bible from birth. The local church was the centerpiece of my childhood. And now, at 20 years old, I’m incredibly thankful to have that story.
I’m more in love with the local church today than I’ve ever been. I realize the importance of the local church like never before. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Duh, Isaiah. Of course you love the local church. You’re a minister!” That’s true. And maybe I’m slightly biased. But I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the local church. Maybe because the local church has shaped me into the person I am today.
#1 If the Bible isn’t true, then a handful of people spanning over a thousand years of history have successfully mastered the greatest scheme known to man.
#2 It’s impossible to live without faith. To live without faith is to call yourself a “know-it-all.”
#3 Faithfulness is more fruitful than fame.
#4 Relationships carry you when you feel like you have nothing left. Especially a relationship with God.
#5 People will respect who you are if you remain consistent long enough. Don’t believe for a second that “fitting-in” is better than “sticking-out.”
It was like being caught in a whirlwind. Shaken to the core. Reminded of what matters most. Stepping upon stones. On an unknown sea. And clinging to Christ through it all.
That’s what 2019 felt like to me.
Can you relate? Another year has come and gone. Like a tornado rustling through a village. And you’re trying to understand what’s left of it. Rummaging through debris. Picking up the pieces. Much has taken place. Some good stuff. Some bad stuff. Some stuff you’re still unsure about. As you walk into 2020 with a strange mixture of excitement and fear.
Christmas is a difficult time for a whole bunch of people. It has a way of reminding us of what we don’t have. A tree stands tall. Stockings dangle from the mantle. The smell of gingerbread lingers in the hall. Hallmark movies play on the television. And piles of presents sit happily nearby.
But something is missing. Actually, someone is missing. And Christmas looks more like a bucket of sorrow than a cup of good cheer.
If so, this message is for you.