Steven Furtick - The Story In The Silence
So, whatever the Devil is doing in your life, he doesn't get the ultimate authority. It's not about the thorn; it's the story you tell yourself about the thorn. Paul could have just as easily come to the conclusion… Because he said, "It was a messenger of Satan to torment me, but God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" I read that so many times this week. I felt there was something in it for us, and there is. "But he said to me…" Back to verse 8. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord…" Verse 9: "But he said to me…" So, Paul asked three times and God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness".
Then what's the next word in verse 9? Therefore. That's the sandwich. "Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, there was given to me a challenge I could not handle in my own strength, something that made me realize I don't have enough IQ to do this. I don't have enough physical stamina to do this. I don't have enough experience to do this". He said, "That's what it was there for. I had so many things going for me in my life there had to be this thing". It was said one way by one preacher. He said the thorn took him to the throne. It reminded him he wasn't in charge. Then after he says that he says, "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will…" Not post, but boast. "…all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me". Not so I can just stay complacent, stay selfish, stay mean, stay hateful, stay sick, stay in this bad physical condition. That's not what I'm glorying in. He said, "Therefore, I realized what the thorn was there for". He could have taken this any way.
Remember, Paul persecuted the same church he ultimately helped to build. If this had been your thorn, whatever it was… Is it Paul's eyesight? Who knows. Was Paul a little short? Who knows. Was Paul talking about the people who followed him around in every city trying to run him out? Was he talking about the people who threw actual stones at him trying to persecute him for the gospel? We go, "Oh, persecution. I relate with Paul". You don't relate with Paul because one atheist on your Facebook said they didn't like your Bible verse. That is not what he's preaching about here. But Paul could have just as easily told himself this thorn story. Are you ready?
"Well, this is what I get. This is God punishing me for all of the bad things I did. I guess it doesn't matter how much I change. God is never going to really accept me". I do happen to know Paul struggled with an inferiority complex, because one time he called himself the "least of the apostles, as one abnormally born," because he didn't physically walk with Jesus like Peter did. He could have just as easily told himself this story about the thorn. "Well, I guess if God is not going to take this thorn away from me, it's really not worth serving him". He could have just as easily told God, "Well, if you would have wanted to use me more, then you should have made me more whole". I tell the Lord these kinds of things all the time, just to be honest with you, because I can get in this thing of comparing myself to people whose thorns I don't see. I'm not saying they don't have them. I just don't get a viewing party. I don't think it's as important what your thorn is. You could name it if you wanted to in your heart.
I think the story you tell yourself about the thorn… Paul says, "The Lord said to me…" "He said to me…" I don't think he heard God out loud, and I don't think God's voice was the only one speaking to him about that thorn. Remember? He said, "A messenger of Satan was sent to torment me". So, at the same time Paul is trying to do ministry or you're trying to raise your kids or you're trying to grow up in a really weird, wicked world and have some integrity about you, there are two voices going on, really. There are two stories being told. He said, "There's a messenger of Satan that's tormenting me, and then there's the voice of grace that's coming forth to strengthen me".
If I listen to the first voice, the messenger of Satan, in this season of my life, I will not have the strength to get up and face myself in the mirror tomorrow. If I listen to the message of Satan in my life, I'm going to wind up like the prophet Elijah, who had the power… You talk about strong. You talk about a mentor. You talk about somebody who had the sauce, who had the glory of God. Elijah, Eliyahu, "My God is Yahweh". Called down fire on the prophets of Baal. Called down fire on the prophets of Asherah. Eight hundred fifty died in the valley that day as the nation was turning back to God. Spoke and the rain stopped. Spoke again and it rained, a cloud the size of a man's hand. Then how in the world did Elijah wind up standing at the mouth of a cave in 1 Kings 19?
Strong people have weak moments. Strong Christians have sharp thorns. Every believer has places of brokenness. And I need you to know this so that you don't quit. God doesn't have enough grace for you or because you stopped showing up for the role God gave you because you don't think you're smart enough. You're not! The thorn is there for you to realize, "I need your wisdom, God. I don't look to the north, the south, the east, or the west for my wisdom. My help comes from the Lord". So, God has given it to me like this. Turn to somebody next to you and say, "The thorn came from the Enemy, but the grace came from God". I'm going to say it again. The thorn came from the Enemy… That was the messenger. "I hated the angel that brought it". You don't have to like what's happening in your life. You don't have to like the people who are in your life. You don't have to like the challenge. You don't even have to like your personality. But you do have to realize it must be submitted to God's purpose.
The power of your therefore is greater than the power of your thorn. God's purpose will prevail. Paul said, "Three times…" That's a significant number in Scripture. Three represents perfect unity. Jesus prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane. He said, "Nevertheless, I'm going to take this cup even though I don't want it. I'm going to do this, what I came to do. This is what I came for". Don't you see it? You are running from the stuff God put you there for. You are not praying about the things God's grace is there for. You don't just get to bring God your praise. You get to bring him your pain too. That's what the grace is there for.
"Three times I asked the Lord to take it away. But he said to me…" He didn't hear it out loud. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness". For us, that's a cute Scripture. For Paul, that was a story he had to tell himself every time that thorn pressed into his flesh. God's power is made perfect. Every time it presses your flesh, I want you to tell yourself a different story. You don't get to choose your thorn. You get to choose your story. He said, "There's no shortage of grace". He said, "Three times I asked, and one time he answered". Do you know what that means? That means the first two times Paul prayed about his thorn…silence.
Some of us are standing in the silence right now, asking God to do stuff, and he didn't say yes, but he didn't say no either. That waiting place. That's what grace is there for: that silence. It's the story you tell yourself about that silence that determines whether or not you walk in grace or whether you give up. The story in the silence. "Three times I asked; one time he answered. 'My grace is sufficient.'" Silence. "I don't know if this is going to get better". Silence. "I'm waiting for this to come through". Silence. "I have no idea if my kid's life is going to turn around, if they're going to come back to God". Silence. "I don't know if I'll ever be in a loving relationship again". Silence. "I don't know if I'll ever feel better". What story are you telling yourself in the silence? Satan wants to use that silence and plant a seed.
"See? God doesn't love you. See? God isn't with you. See? The whole thing is a bunch of fairy tales and myths. See? You'll never be good enough. See? You can't change. Everybody else can. See? You knew this church thing wouldn't work. See? There's no way. You never stick to it. You never do it". I believe the Spirit wants to plant a different story in the silence so you can know that's where grace lives. The story in the silence. "Then he said to me…" He'll say it to you too if you let him. "My grace is sufficient for what you struggle with. My grace is sufficient for your mistakes. My grace is sufficient for your inexperience. My grace is sufficient for your sin". Oh yeah. Where sin abounded, there did grace abound that much more.
I praise God for grace that is greater than all my sin. I spent all week thinking about the silence. "I asked God. He didn't answer. I tried that. It didn't work. I waited for it. I don't even see a sign of it coming. I have no idea what that was there for". I saw Elijah, God's great prophet… Paul wasn't the only preacher who had to deal with the silence. You're not the only one either. The great prophet who called down fire from heaven, in 1 Kings 19:13… The Bible says God was passing by Elijah. He was depressed now. He was discouraged now. He was tired now. He was exhausted now. The nation had rebelled against God, and he had been suffering from the ramifications of a drought for so long, and he was considered by many to be the troublemaker who started it all. Even after calling down fire from heaven, he still felt something in his soul. It was the isolation of the drought that landed him in this place.
Elijah said something in 1 Kings 19 that you may have said a few times this past week: "I have had enough, Lord. I'm sick of this". A woman named Jezebel, who was the wife of Ahab the king, was chasing Elijah. She sent a messenger to threaten him, which lets me know there was really nothing she could do to him. She was just trying to intimidate him to the point that he would leave the place where God had assigned him. That is what Satan is trying to do to you right now. He's trying to run you off from the place where God's greatest grace is about to be released in your life. That place of weakness… That's where the grace is coming.
So, let me preach this for every Jezebel, for every thorn that has been threatening you, that has been tormenting you, that has been pressing into you, that has been causing you pain in your spirit. It's worse than pain in your body. It's a pain in your spirit you can't shake, and God won't remove it. The Bible says when Elijah heard the voice of God… By the way, God didn't shout to Elijah; he whispered. "[Elijah] pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave".
I know it's just a figure of speech, but knowing it's called the mouth of the cave makes sense to me. That was the place where he had holed up waiting to die. That was the place where he had shut himself in because he didn't want to take it anymore. That was the place where he was all by himself with nothing but the movies in his mind to watch of how bad his life was. Now he's standing at the mouth of the cave, and so are you. The only voice you hear in the cave is an echo, the thoughts that bounce around your head, the thoughts that torment you. You've already thought those enough that if those thoughts could bring you out, they would have by now. When he stood at the mouth of the cave, he heard the voice of the Lord, and the voice said, "What are you doing here, Elijah"?
I could ask you the same question. What are you there for in the cave when God has a great ministry for you, when God has a great future for you? Remember, Jeremiah said, "This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope". What are you doing in the place of shame when there's so much mercy with your name on it? What are you doing running around to people to get what can only come from God? God said to Elijah, "I still have an assignment for you if you want it. I still have a job for you if you want it. I still have grace for you if you want it. I still have a hope for you if you want it. I still have a future for you if you want it. I have joy for you. There's no shortage"!