Our Attitude Has Much To Do With It
“Now concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me; and He said unto me, My grace is sufficient...most gladly, therefore, will I glory...” (2 Cor. 12:1-10).
Paul says that, Apostle though he is—by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch—there was given to me a stake in the flesh (the mortal man), a “messenger of Satan, to buffet me....”
What was it? Paul calls it a “thing” (verse 8) but he also says he wanted it to “depart” for it is a “thorn” and a “messenger of Satan.” Its origin is specifically said to be of Satan. It was also given by God on account of the “revelations.” Therefore, all “messengers of Satan” are under His permissive control. And Paul describes its effect upon him as “buffeting,” or beating him!
“Concerning this thing” Paul says, “I besought, pleaded, begged, the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” “From me”—this something which pierced his “flesh,” this “thorn,” this “stake,” this “messenger of Satan.” Paul’s prayer is answered, not by the removal of the “thing,” but by light from God on the attitude to accept it. Yes, the “thing” is “a messenger of Satan,” but it is given by God. The fact of the satanic source of the trouble is recognized, but God is sovereign over all “demons” and “messengers of Satan.”
Satan may send his messengers—as he does, to attend upon every saint—but they can only come when “given by God.” And the Apostle is shown how to change his attitude to the thing and cease praying for its removal. “My grace,” said the Lord, “is sufficient for thee.” Better take grace to manifest some of the glory of the inner man in the outward life, than to be set free from the occasion requiring it. Change your attitude! Give up troubling about its departure. Let it stay—if through it you will prove the abounding grace of God.
By An Act of the Will—
And when Paul saw it, he quickly changed his attitude by the act of his will. He decided to choose to “glory in his weaknesses,” as well as in his “revelations.” “Most gladly I will glory in my weaknesses,” he cried. I choose to “take pleasure” in the thing from which the mortal part of me would fain be free. Paul probably felt the thorn in his flesh just as much as before, but his change of attitude toward it brought into action the supply of grace he needed for triumph over his thorn, for it is not possible for God to manifest His power until the condition for doing so is fulfilled.
If Paul said, “I desire this thing to depart,” and God said, “I desire it to remain,” how could the power of God be manifest in relation to the “thing”? But when through the Spirit, Paul had light upon the “thing” and he saw God’s will, his changed attitude toward it brought the supply of grace he needed to triumph in it. Many of the people of the Lord today, amidst countless trials, while they await the imminent return of their Lord, are crying out to God for things around them to be changed, whereas they themselves need to be changed in their attitude toward them.
No Unction on Our Weapons
Perhaps like Paul, you have some “thorn” or stake, which you know is a “messenger of Satan,” because it clearly has its origin from him, but you have been trying to get rid of this “messenger” by the old weapons of resistance, not discerning that there was no “unction” on your weapons. It will not depart if God has given it to prepare you for Christ’s returning even though you have besought the Lord for its removal. Change your attitude toward it, child of God, and see if you will not quickly get ease in your spirit and grace to triumph and endure.
Or in your home or work for God, you have “things” which are well-nigh intolerable. You can see the “messengers of Satan” at work in those you love, or there are financial troubles and troubles abounding from evil natures of the unsaved friends and relatives in your path, troubles to the right of you and troubles to the left of you—how they thunder! And why does not God remove them and answer prayer? Because He is preparing to remove you.
The “messenger of Satan” is not to depart; the “thorns” are not to be removed; the “things” that hurt are to remain—therefore, cease asking for things on earth to be changed for your relief and receive of God the grace of submission, resignation, and patience to make you perfect in every good work to do His will. It is in this way we put off self and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sarah’s maid Hagar took a wrong attitude toward her mistress. She despised her. And then Sarah dealt hardly with her. Hagar fled into the wilderness and the angel of the Lord found her there. The angel spoke a word of kindly counsel to Hagar and sent her back to the place of trial from which she had fled. But she was to have a changed attitude—an attitude of lowly submission.
You may find things hard today because of an attitude of pride in your heart, an attitude so subtle that you hardly recognize it. Change your attitude to one of lowly submission in your trial, and you will know in practical experience the truth of James 4:6: “But He giveth more grace. ...God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble”—grace sufficient to make you glory, to rejoice, to take pleasure in your trial of faith.
Change your attitude to the “thing” you have writhed under. Take the attitude of “glorying” in it; take the heavenly attitude of “taking pleasure” in “injuries” when others smite you; in “necessities” when you cannot have what you need; in “persecution” when you suffer for the name of Christ; in “distress” when the most distressful suffering of the present time of trial is thrust as a cloud upon your spirit—take pleasure, not in the things themselves, but in the occasion for the manifestation of grace to the glory of God.
Change your attitude to the “future.” The Lord Himself said “Be not anxious for the morrow....” How much more should you, looking for the blessed Hope, live only in the moment with God. Take the attitude of not wanting or expecting any “future” on earth. Give what you ought to give now; say what you have to say, now. And holding this attitude, arrange what you must arrange for the “future” with a joyous reservation in your heart—“I may not be here!” Take this attitude daily, because you are living in instant readiness for His return. Do all that you can do, now. Live as if you knew this hour, this moment, was your last on earth! (See James 4:13-16).
Change your attitude to the Master’s work, and let it no longer take the place of the Lord for whom you work. Think more of the Lord who is coming than your own service for Him. Take heed lest you who have preached to others be “yourself not approved” (1 Cor. 9:27). Give up your own schemes and plans, and care more to make sure of doing His will and of being well-pleasing unto Him.
Change your attitude toward your unsaved friends and relatives. Give up fretting about their state and thus poisoning your own. God loves them more than you do. Change your attitude toward them in your contact with them. Talk to the Lord in prayer of their need and pour on them all the love and kindness your heart of compassion can show. They need the light of your salvation for they are in a storm-tossed world without Christ and without hope.
Change your attitude toward the unrest in every nation and refuse to look at it from the viewpoint of men. Remember God must deal with nations as well as men. Take the attitude of standing with God in His attitude toward sin. But do not dwell on the human side of death and suffering. God is not “callous” to the world of men as Calvary shows.
The unrest is part of the old dispensation which is passing away. Stand against it in the Spirit because demons are behind it and God is against the demons while He allows them to destroy their own works. Refuse to be troubled by the trouble around you. Refuse to put your trust in any but God for His protecting care. And as you trust Him for yourself and home and loved-ones, trust Him to adjust the nations of the world, that the day may be hastened for the reign of the Prince of Peace. Our attitude has everything to do with the things all around us.
Man may misjudge thy aim,
Think they have cause to blame;
Say thou art wrong!
Hold on thy quiet way;
Christ is the Judge—not they;
Fear not! Be strong!