Keeping It Real

Rev. Dr. Betty J. Griffin
Rev. Dr. Betty J. Griffin

When was the last time you heard anybody stand up in church or anywhere else for that matter and start bragging on themselves and include their weakness? The conversation might go something like this, “I thank God for my three degrees and my high paying job. I thank God that I received two promotions in the same year and I have been named employee of the month six times. Glory! I also am a liar, and I cheat on my taxes. I regularly buy and sell boot leg movies because I am too cheap to pay full price. I spend way too much of my income on my pleasure and I regularly rob God of tithes and offerings, Glory!

This is exactly what the Apostle Paul did! In Philippians 3: 4-11 and I Tim 1:12-15 respectively, Paul boast about his pedigree as a Hebrew and Pharisee; and he calls himself a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurer of God’s people.

In the scripture today, Paul confirms that he was given unspeakable visions, revelations and taken to the third heaven. He saw and heard things that no mortal had ever seen or heard. But to keep him from getting full of himself, a thorn or a stake was given to him in the flesh, a messenger sent from Satan to torment him. Three times Paul pleaded with God to remove the stake and guess what? God did not remove it.

And how many of us have begged God to remove, change or deliver us from thorny situations only to wake up the next day, again, and find the situations still staring us in the face?

Just as Paul’s weaknesses compelled Paul into the arms of God through prayer and submission, our thorns ought to compel us to run to God in prayer. It is the grace of God that will give us the strength to endure whatever God’s will is for us. Instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul the amazing grace to go on even in the midst of the test. Likewise, our weakness is God’s opportunity to transform our lives into the image of Christ if we would but go on in the midst of our test. Would you be the person you are today if God had not allowed certain test, trials, and thorns into your life that drove you to the foot of the cross? I think Anne Johnson Flint said it best:

“God gives more grace when burdens grow greater, God sends more strength when labors increase; to added afflictions God addeth God’s mercies, to multiplied trials, God’s multiplied peace. God’s love has no limit, God’s grace has no measure, and God’s power has no boundary known unto men; for out of God’s infinite riches in Jesus, God giveth and giveth and giveth again.

Therefore, we can confidently take all of our weakness to God. God’s grace IS sufficient in our every need, let’s keep it real!

Betty J. Griffin, formerly a teacher and school counselor in the Indianapolis Public School and Warren Township School districts for 21 years, holds a Doctor of Ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL. Rev. Griffin served the Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN and is presently the Pastor the First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Vernon, NY. She is a minister member of the Hudson River Presbytery and serves on several Presbytery committees. Rev. Griffin is passionate about missions, outreach and social justice issues.