TD Jakes — Sparring Partner
Hey, everybody, I'm excited to have the opportunity to share the Word of the Lord with you. The message is important, it is called, "Sparring Partner". It comes out of 2 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 6-10. Everybody has something to battle with, a uniquely-designed adversary that comes against you in such a way it feels like it's gonna kill you but it's really just a sparring partner to make you better, to make you stronger. I am who I am because of what I fought and who I fought. As I fought, I found myself, I got my strength, I learned what I could do, I learned what not to do, I learned when to walk away. Life always gives you a sparring partner. Do you have one? We'll identify it and show you how to deal with it. We're going now to 2 Corinthians chapter 12, 6-10.
I don't know whether you are fulfilled or not. I don't know what season of your life you are in right now, all I know is the image you put up. I do know that often the image is contradictory to the reality. So if I didn't have these words, I would have no introspective look at what it is like for the man of God, or woman of God, or person of God. I hate to use the terms like that, because when you say, "The man of God" in church, they think pulpit, but I'm talking about all of us.
Look at verse 6, "For thought I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool. For I will say the truth, but now I forebear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 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".
Oh, y'all can't hear that. "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. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak," oh, my God, "Then am I strong". Oh, the whole thing fascinates me, but go to verse 7, "Lest I should be exalted above measure. Through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh," it was given to me, it's a gift. He sent me a devil, "a messenger of Satan to buffet me lest I should be exalted above measure".
I wanna talk to you from the subject, "Sparring Partner". You know what a sparring partner is? It's somebody that you box with in preparation for a fight, and if you are a fighter, a sparring partner is a gift, because if you don't have a sparring partner, you won't be ready for the real fight. But a sparring partner may hit you, may hurt you, may challenge you. Just because you got hit doesn't mean it was the devil. Paul is coming to the end of a summarization of how blessed he is, how much God has done for him, the depth of revelation that he has and how much God has spoken into his life. And right on the heels of a dissertation about "Whether in the body or in the spirit, I cannot tell. I know a man who saw things that were not lawful to be uttered," and most theologians think that he actually is referring to himself, but to cast the light off of himself, he speaks in the third person. But in reality, he's saying the abundance of revelation was given to me, it was given to me. Look at the abundance that was given to you.
I was ministering to somebody the other day and it was a young man kind of depressed over the relationship with his father. And when I began to talk to him, I said, "You talk to me about what you don't have but you say nothing about what you do". Look at the infrastructure that God put all around you to subsidize and replace what you didn't get. Look at all the people who love, and feed, and care for you, and maybe we will never be your father but we represent the sum total of God's commitment to get love to you even if he had to bring it in another way. And when I got through telling him all of his assets, it balanced against his liability.
See, life is a combination of assets and liabilities, and we see, and we want, and we crave the assets, but we are not prepared for the liabilities. Every advancement will cost you. Everything you've accomplished, you paid a price for it. For every accomplishment that exists in your life, and every victory, and every revelation, and every economic blessing, every kind of physical blessing, every type of emotional blessing, there's always something that balances it out lest you be exalted above measure. I want you to understand that it is not just God when the blessing comes, it is also God when the buffeter, the enemy comes.
Paul says this was a gift to me, a messenger of Satan. Think with me, a messenger of Satan was a gift to me. My problem, and everybody's got one, everybody's got something you can't kick. Everybody's got something you can't beat. Everybody's got something that you struggle with, and that you wrestle with. It could be insecurity, it could be intimidation, it could be fear, it could be doubt, it could be low self-esteem, it could be anger, it could be... Everybody has their uniquely-designed devil. But Paul says this was given to me. Why would God give you, or send a messenger of Satan?
First of all, let me stop there and talk about how I'm glad to know that if he accessed me, God had to allow it. The good news is he couldn't just come at me on his own. The very fact that he came at me meant that he had to get permission to get near me. Now, that's good for me because it lets me know that God is in control, that the devil has not been able to do whatever he wanted to do in my life, but I live in a controlled environment and so do you, a controlled environment. God controls how hot it gets, how cold it gets, how much suffering you go through, how many blessings you have.
He will not allow your haters, your enemies, your naysayers to get their hands on the control switch of your life. If it accessed you, be it good or bad, right or wrong, up or down, evil or kind. If it got to you at all, it had to have permission because you are kept. Look at somebody and say, "I've been kept". I've been framed in. I'm a gated community. You can't just drive up on me, you have to ring a bell and get permission. I'm gated, I got boundaries, I got walls around me.
Don't you remember how, when in the book of Job that the Bible says when the sons of God came around the throne, amongst them came Satan? And he said, "Where have you been, Satan"? "Going to and fro, in and out throughout the earth". And God said, "Have you considered my servant, Job"? And Satan said, "Now, you know you got a hedge around him". All the sisters, let my sisters make some noise. All the sisters tell somebody, "I'm a kept woman". I'm a kept woman. He's got fences around me. He's got barriers around me. I'm his trophy wife. I'm on reserve. I'm well taken care of. He opens doors, he makes ways, he controls who comes in, who goes out, I'm a kept woman.
Where are my brothers at? Make some noise. Tell the sisters, "He's keepin' me, too". He kept the gun from goin' off, he kept the car from crashin', he kept me from losin' my mind. He kept me from throwin' in the towel. He kept me from being locked up in a jail cell. He kept me from being dead at this stage and age in my life. I wouldn't be here right now if God hadn't kept me. I know that whatever accesses me has to get permission, because I know I'm a gated community.
Every now and then God sends the devil to punch you in the face, to get you back on guard, to make you depend on him, to balance your victories with humility. You wanna find your sparring partner? What humbles you? What stops you from being caught up with yourself? What area in your life doesn't work? See, we always wanna show everybody our victories, but when Jesus came to Mary and Martha, he didn't ask to see the victories, he asked to see the defeat. Show me where you laid him down. Take me to the spot where it hurts. Show me where you gave up. Show me where you quit. Show me where you collapsed. Show me your sparring partner. Show me the area that didn't get healed, that you learned how to walk over, that you learned how to go to work over, that you learned how to love over top of.
Where are the people who love broken people? And God didn't fix 'em, and you prayed for God to fix 'em and he didn't fix 'em, and he left 'em broke so you would learn how to love broken people so you would understand what it was like for him to love you. They get on your nerves and you have to love them anyway like you get on God's nerves and he has to love you anyway, and that person in your life that irritates you the most could be your sparring partner.
I am the most fascinated in the Bible when God doesn't fix a thing. The Bible is full of miracles. We're talkin' about miracles from heaven, the Bible is full of miracles. My life is full of miracles. Your life is full of miracles. Every day is a miracle. Every morning we get up is a miracle. But I am not as drawn to the things that he fixes as much as I am a student of the things he does not. Why are there certain things that God leaves broken and allows them to stay cracked, and allows them to be out of sync? Is it not that the thing that is broken is a servant to your destiny?
Years ago, I was being stalked, it was before I came here. And it was my first time, and calls, notes, letters, everything, stalked, just harassed all kinds of ways. And suggestive things, a woman was saying that my wife was going to die, and my kids were going to die, and she and I were going to be together, and her husband and their kids were gonna die. It may sound funny but it ain't, and that we were gonna be together. And things were turning up on my front porch, and my kids woke up screaming because they saw her in the backyard. And I ran into her and I got to arguing with her, and I almost hit her with the car. No, no, I'm serious, I'm serious. This might be your last Sunday, but I'm gonna tell you.
See, the devil knows that I am protective. He knows I'm protective. If you come on my turf and you threaten my family, he knows I will turn into somebody that you have never heard preach. So, there I am standing and saying, "Oh, you're crazy, huh? Oh, you crazy? You think you crazy? I'm gonna show you what crazy is. Let me show you who can be the craziest". I spin my car... well, anyway, so, no, 'cause I'm not wrapped tight either, I'm not wrapped tight either, and I thought it was a contest to see who could be the craziest, and I said, "I'm gonna get this trophy today, 'cause I'm just crazy".
But wait a minute, hear me out. I was talkin' to a woman of God about how these calls were comin' in, 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, we weren't getting any rest, my kids were scared, I was upset, and it was seductive kind of conversations and all of that, and I said I have no interest in this woman, no interest in this woman at all. And she taught me a lesson that I will never forget. This spiritual woman said to me, she said, "Don't you think that if the object was sex, the devil has enough sense to send somebody you want"?
See, if you don't understand what's at stake, you won't understand how to get the victory. So she says to me, "When she calls, when she comes, what do you feel, what is your reaction"? I said, "Anger". She said, "He's trying to incite you to riot". She said, "He's trying to use your anger against you. He's trying to get you so angry that you'll do something to hurt yourself". She said, "He's not trying to seduce you, he's not trying to get you to have infidelity, he's trying to get you to snap out and go into a fit". She said, "The reason I know," she said, "The reaction that you get when you confront the enemy is the area that is up under attack. That's what he wants. If you were tempted to make a date, it would be something else, but when you're tempted to fight, you gotta understand what the enemy's after or you don't understand where the victory is".
Do you understand what I'm saying to you? See, and I want you to understand this because some of you think the victory is getting rid of the thorn, and you've been prayin' for years trying to get rid of the thorn, but the thorn is not the issue, it's a distraction. What God is trying to teach you through the thorn is that you could have the thorn and do it anyway. And you think you don't have the victory until you get rid of the thorn, but the thorn is not the problem, it's something for you to exercise with.
So when she called the next time, instead of getting angry, burnin' rubber, flippin' out, I started worshiping. And when I started worshiping, she started screaming. See, God wanted to teach me how to resist my temper, and up under stress to flipping to worship because he was gonna send me here where I would not be wrestling with flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high places, where the witches would be waiting for me to curse my ministry. And he wanted me to be spiritually smart enough to understand how to get the victory.
I don't know if I'm helpin' anybody or not, but I hope that you understand that sometimes you're asking God to fix things that he sent in your life to give you discipline and training and get you how to really be a Christian and stop just being somebody who goes to The Potter's House. God sent something in your life that you care about, that you pray about, that you hurt about, that you cry about so that the divine nature of Christ can be manifested in your life. He said I'm not gonna cast out what I sent, I sent it to teach you to shut your mouth. I sent it so you would be disciplined. I sent it to finish raising the little boy in you. I sent it to teach you temperance. I sent it to teach you discipline.
These are my messengers that I sent in your life to balance the blessings that I'm going to take you, because I'm getting ready to take you to a place that if you were not broken you would become arrogant and impressed with yourself. And so I allowed it to persist in your life so you would stay on your knees, so you would pray when other people walked away, so you'd turn your plate over and fast, so that you would worship. While other people on your row are sittin' back lookin' cute, you are worshiping, 'cause you know you got a devil to fight. You didn't come to church to show off your suit, your coat, your hat, your pocketbook or nothin', you came to church 'cause you got a devil to fight. And if you don't get some help with that devil, you gonna lose your mind.
But I came here this morning to tell you no weapon--receive a touch from the Lord, a touch, a touch, a touch from the Lord. When God gets reach to touch you, he's got a plan. Somebody start worshiping him right now. The Apostle Paul said, "Lest I should be exalted above measure, it was given to me, a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me". Somewhere in your life, you are being attacked right now. Did you know that often the attack is really, really, really now your blessing in disguise?
God wasn't something for you to spar with, he uses difficult experiences to develop the divine nature of Christ in your life, or your family, or your friends. I have learned that some of the things you go through, it is not for you, it is for them even though it attacks you. It is a message for them, you have to trust it. You must remember that God is in control. The devil cannot do whatever he wants in your life. Don't just wait for things to get better, God is teaching you to have the victory now, even in the midst of your storm. You can rise above it, you can deal with it, and you are stronger because of it.