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Sermon For This Week:

     2 Corinthians 12:2-10  - Sermon #1  Paul's Thorn In The Flesh
     Mark 6:1-13   -   Sermon #2  Our Human Predicament

Sermon #1: Around the turn of the century a young man named Clarence took his girlfriend on a summer outing. They took a picnic lunch out to a picturesque island in the middle of a small lake. She wore a long dress with about a dozen petticoats. He was dressed in a suit with a high collar. Clarence rowed them out to the island, dragged the boat into shore, and spread their picnic supplies beneath a shade tree. So hypnotized was he by her beauty that he hardly noticed the hot sun and perspiration on his brow. Softly she whispered to him, "Clarence, you forgot the ice cream."

Clarence pulled the boat back to the water and rowed to shore. He found a grocery store nearby, bought the ice cream, and rowed back to the island. She batted long eyelashes over deep blue eyes and purred, "Clarence, you forgot the chocolate syrup."

Love will make a person do strange things. Clarence got back into that boat and returned to the store for syrup. As he rowed back toward the island, suddenly he stopped. He sat there in the boat the rest of the afternoon, fascinated by an idea. By the end of that afternoon, Clarence Evinrude had invented the outboard motor. And by the way, Clarence later married the girl who waited so long on the island.

Clarence Evinrude illustrates a basic principle of Christian living: When life delivers a problem or pain, force it to pay dividends. If life gives you a thorn that you and God can't remove, make it produce a rose. The minister Bruce Larson states this principle as follows: "In every disaster, God has a gift for you. Claim it."

In chapter twelve of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he illustrates this truth in his own life. In verse 7 he tells us: "A Thorn Was Given Me..."

What was this thorn? We don't know. It was some very painful, chronic affliction. Sometimes Paul was totally disabled by it. Some cynic has suggested that Paul's thorn in the flesh was his wife, but there is no evidence to support that. The best guesses are that the thorn was epilepsy or migraine headaches or a malarial fever common in the eastern Mediterranean area.

Notice that Paul refers to the thorn as a "messenger of Satan." The Bible teaches that all diseases and death came into the world because of sin. God's perfect original creation did not include disease or death. People do not get sick and die because God wills it. People get sick and die because our world is flawed by sin. In this flawed universe, thorns are distributed indiscriminately as one would deal a hand of cards, to the just and the unjust alike.

A thorn in the flesh in modern terminology might be called "a pain in the neck" or a pain in some other sensitive part of one's anatomy. A thorn is whatever causes you pain or frustration or sadness. Thorns come in all shapes and sizes: migraine headaches, bad backs, arthritis, depression, anxiety spells, shingles, an unhappy marriage, an impossible boss, a child on drugs, and on and on. Though thorns vary in length and severity, most of us have at least one at any given time. Do you know what your thorn is?

As you think about that let’s look at what Paul did about his thorn and how God responded:

 

1.      First, three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away.

2.      Second, the Lord responded, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

 

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Sermon #2: In his sermon at the hometown synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus preached to the hometown folks -- family and friends who rejected him. One of the reasons for rejection was apparently overfamiliarity. Jesus went about healing, casting out demons, and preaching the need for repentance. Some people rejoiced. The hometown folks were offended. Jesus was rejected in his own hometown. Therefore Jesus made plans to send others out in his name. We pick up the story in verse 6: "And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits."

 

When Jesus was rejected in Nazareth, he saw it as a sign of what was to come -- his suffering, death, and resurrection. When he was gone, others would have to carry on the work of salvation by offering healing, casting out demons, and preaching the gospel. Jesus began to execute a new plan by sending out the twelve apostles two by two. Later he would send out seventy (Luke 10:1-12) and then commission the whole church to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). The plan of bringing salvation would be the same plan Jesus followed. Jesus' followers are called to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach about repentance and forgiveness, just as Jesus himself did; but before receiving the Good News, people would need to be aware of their need for salvation. People would need to know their need before they would accept Christ's way of salvation. They would need to know their sickness, their struggle with demonic forces, and their sin before they would accept salvation from the Savior. People would need to become aware of their predicament.

 

In his sermon to the graduates of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, theologian Paul Tillich preached on the theme of healing, casting out demons, and leading people to faith. He told the graduating seminarians that they would experience difficulties as they went to their new parishes with this message of healing, casting out demons, and repentance. Why would there be difficulties? Many people say that they do not need to be healed; many laugh at the absurdity of casting out demons that rule their lives; and many reject the idea of their need to trust in Christ for salvation. "Therefore," Tillich said, "the first task of the minister is to make people aware of their predicament."

 

So, what is our predicament? Looking at the human condition all around this world what are the basic issues which confront us? I would say... 

 

1. First, the Predicament Of Sickness

2. Second, the Predicament Of Evil

3. Third, the Predicament Of Sin

 

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Grace and Peace,

Rev. Brett Blair
ChristianGlobe Network

sermons.com presents Leonard Sweet