Answer from a Weak Body

Steve Viars May 13, 2006 2 Corinthians 12:

- This morning I’d like to begin our time by giving you a little quiz...
- T/F – Your physical body is intrinsically sinful...everything about your body is bad, it’s evil, it’s sinful...
- another way of asking that question is – Do Christians believe in Greek dualism?...where the physical is bad but the spirit is good?...
- the answers to those questions are false, and no...

- now, how do we know that?...
1. For one thing, when you become a follower of Jesus Christ, an amazing thing happens to your physical body...it becomes the “temple of the Holy Spirit”...
- 1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
2. We also know that it is possible, as Paul said, to...
- Romans 6:13 - ...offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.
3. That’s why I Corinthians 6 went on to say that we should seek to...
- 1 Corinthians 6:20 - ...glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
4. Paul made a similar statement to the Thessalonians when he said ...
- 1 Thessalonians 4:4 - that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable,

- so Christians do not believe that the physical body is intrinsically evil...
- However, the other side of that is...every one of us struggles with our body...
- Paul said in...- 1 Corinthians 9:27 - ...I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

- it is not that our bodies are intrinsically sinful...but they are intrinsically weak and easily habituated...
- we could illustrate that in many ways...but since it is Mother’s Day...please think with me for a moment about some of the areas of the physical body that girls and young women especially struggle with...[include the stats from Mercy Ministry after they come]...
1.  Eating disorders --- our culture has established a very unrealistic expectation of what young ladies are supposed to look like physically...and the pressure to look a certain way can lead to all sorts of eating habits that are unhealthy, and dangerous, and in some cases deadly...and because our bodies are so easy habituated, these practices take on almost a life of their own in the sense that the person feels powerless to change...

2.  There’s drug and alcohol abuse...and of course, that is not limited to a particular age or a particular gender...it can become a powerfully destructive force in a person’s life...

3.  There’s unplanned pregnancies---which of course were preceded with illicit sex, and sometimes followed by the temptation to take the baby’s life...
- the body implications of all of this are staggering...
4.  Another frightening trend which is growing in popularity especially among girls and young women is self-harm...which can take a variety of forms but one of the more prevalent ones today is called cutting...where a young woman takes a razor, a knife, or practically any sharp object even a staple and cuts herself, apparently for the rush it creates...

- now, we could develop this in dozens of different directions...but we all agree theologically and experientially that while our bodies are not intrinsically sinful, they are certainly intrinsically weak and easily habituated...
- here’s my question for you this morning...Why did God give us bodies like this?...
- Is God Mad at Us?...or did He have a particular reason/purpose in mind?
- and, when we fail...where should we turn?...
- and is there any hope?...when others are struggling with their bodies...should believers/churches try to help?...should we try to be havens of hope?

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible  to II Corinthians chapter 12...page 142 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you or page 1442 of our Chinese English Bibles...
- this spring we’ve been doing a series entitled – Is God Mad at Us?...
- whether we’re talking about tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfires...or this morning, all the problems we can have that involve our physical bodies...the question Is God Mad at Us? Is worth examining...

- so far we’ve sought answers from three different places in the Word of God...
- Luke 13 – The Answer from a Fallen Tower
- Job 1-2 – The Answer from a Suffering Servant
- Hebrews 12 – The Answer from a Disciplined Child

- this morning we want to look at II Corinthians 12 – The Answer from a Weak Body.

- read II Corinthians 12:7-10...

- this morning I’d like to propose to you that from these verses, we can find 3 principles to help us make sense of the physical bodies God has given.

I. God Purposely Gives us Physical Bodies that are Challenging.


- we all understand that it is not like God is sitting in heaven remorseful about the fact that the bodies He created are not living up to the design standards...
- and of course everything we are discussing this morning has been impacted by man’s fall into sin...but even before that event...Adam and Eve would have experienced creaturely weakness...
- it is no accident that the original temptation came in the form of something that people would see...with their bodies...and something people would eat...with their bodies...
- but the point here is...God purposely built the challenge of creaturely weakness into the physical bodies He gave us...and that is true in a variety of ways...
- what we find here in II Corinthians 12 is...
A. The challenge of physical trials.
1. Paul’s example
- now, nobody knows for sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was...
- and there are all sorts of theories out there...
- the one I find most compelling is that Paul was losing his sight...that is why many times he dictated his letters to someone else who actually wrote them and sent them to the churches...and then sometimes we read statements like... Galatians 6:11 - See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!

- the passage also tells us that Satan was involved...this physical trial is referred to as...verse 7 - “...a messenger of Satan to torment me...”
- interestingly enough, that is the beginning and the end of any discussion of Satan’s place in this...which is very instructive for dealing with physical problems...nothing here about having a power encounter...no reason to give Satan more attention than he deserves...[the reason for that will become apparent in a moment...]
- now, what is ...
2. God’s purpose.
- in part, to keep us from exalting ourselves...
- in Paul’s case, because he knew that God was using Him to give direction to the early church through the form of divine revelation...there was also this accompanying physical problem...
- and he says it twice in verse 7 – to keep me from exalting myself.
- we all know how humbling physical problems can be...the question is, do we value the opportunity to grow in humility or do we curse it because we would prefer to live with the illusion that we are the captains of our fate?...

- so, physical trials can be a powerful thing...but there is also...
B. The challenge of physical temptation.
- many of the sins with which we struggle the most have a physical component...
- of course they begin in the heart...they begin in the mind...but often they involve the body...that’s why Paul instructed the Romans...
- Romans 6:12 - Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
- do you remember in the book of James when he selected one little part of our physical bodies and made the incredible claim that every person everywhere sins with that part of his/her body...what part is it?  [the tongue...]
- every one of us can speak about the challenge of physical temptation...

C. The challenge of physical habituation.
- the Bible increases the stakes here by teaching how making wrong choices with our bodies can easily become habitual...
- one of the predominant metaphors for this area is that of slavery....
- Romans 6:19 - I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
- Proverbs 5:22 - The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.

- by the way, again since it’s Mother’s Day, did you know that there are ministries devoted to helping young women who are struggling with wrong choices they have made with their bodies?....like the very problems I mentioned in the introduction...
- I’d like to show you a short video clip of a ministry that is leading the way in this area called Mercy Ministries in Nashville...
- now I’m certainly not saying that we could do anything like this...we are just getting ready to break ground on the community center and are investing a significant amount of resources in community outreach...we also preparing to launch our church based seminary...
- so maybe before we see this clip, we need to say together...We can’t do that [repeat]

- [show the first portion of the Mercy Ministry video – where Nancy explained why she began the ministry, also perhaps abbreviated clips of the first two testimonies – end with 2nd girl’s testimony about how what impacted her the most was the love she experienced there]...

- now of course we can’t do that [please say it with me again]...but isn’t it great that God is raising up some persons who can...and wouldn’t be wonderful to dream about that for the future?....

- the overall point we are making thus far is...These bodies God has given us—It is no surprise to Him that they are weak...
- now, what else can we see from Paul’s example?


II. Physical Problems are Intended to Draw us to the Lord.


- Paul’s testimony here is priceless...
- he doesn’t complain...he doesn’t have a pity party...but nor does he fail to benefit from this physical problem...
- he goes to the Lord...he approaches what the writer of Hebrews describes as “the throne of grace...”
- and three times he asks the Lord to remove the thorn...
- see, believers aren’t stoics...we’re not masochists...
- there was nothing at all wrong with what Paul did...and what is most note-worthty is that when Paul was faced with a problem of the body...he pointed his feet to the cross, he pointed his feet to the empty tomb, he pointed his feet to the throne of grace...

- that is why we would agree with what Nancy Alcorn said on that video...that at a time where a young lady was struggling with something in her body...[and we understand that there are sinful choices involved in those instances whereas here, Paul’s thorn in the flesh was given for a different reason]...
- but the point is the same...Nancy is right---the last thing we would want to see happen to a young lady struggling with a problem in her physical body is that she is directed to someplace other than the Lord of heaven and earth...
- thank the Lord for Christian ministries that are doing that kind of work...
- what a blessing that must be to their communities...

- now, we couldn’t do that....would you say that with me...we can’t do that...
- of course we do have a lot of property that is planned for those kind of purposes...
- but we can’t do that...so let’s get back to the text...

- this passage is driving us somewhere logically...


III. God Can Use Physical Weakness for Our Spiritual Good.


- I realize that is so contrary to the way we typically think...but that is clearly what Paul is teaching...
- God didn’t allow this in Paul’s life because He was mad at him...He allowed it because it was good for him...how?
A. It helps us learn about His sufficient grace.
- Christ answered Paul’s request...but the answer wasn’t...I’ll remove the thorn...
- the answer was...there’s something more important than the thorn, and certainly more important than Satan’s place in all of this...
- it’s grace...God’s sufficient grace...
- there is no problem with the physical body that would be so bad or so advanced that we would have to conclude...God’s grace could not help you...God’s grace could not help that person...

- it’s Mother’s Day – think about this issue of unplanned pregnancy...
- the temptation for many young women in that situation is to abort the pregnancy---to take the precious life of the baby in her womb...
- but we will have some very courageous young ladies in our church services today who made the right choice...they allowed their babies to live...
- and some kept their children and are doing their best to raise them...
- others placed their baby for adoption, believing that was the most loving choice...
- and we commend and welcome mother’s here today...even if your path to that position was a bit rocky...

- I think we also need to say that we will probably have ladies in our services today who have an abortion in their past---are you glad that God’s grace is sufficient for anyone---Christianity isn’t about where you’ve been---it’s about where you’re going...
- you know churches ought to be known as places that point those who are hurting to the resources of God’s sufficient grace...
- that’s why this example of Mercy Ministries is so compelling...
- of course we can’t do that...but we do have this land...
- and we do have a lot of support staff that could provide administrative help, and development services and accounting support...so it wouldn’t be like starting from scratch...
- and we do have people with a lot of building skills...
- but we can’t do that...but since you keep bringing it up, let’s look at a little bit more of this video....
- [show Nancy’s point about the focus of the pro-life movement only being on the baby, abbreviated testimonies of Jamie and Sara...]

- isn’t it wonderful that challenges with these physical bodies, and even failures with these physical bodies, can point people to God’s sufficient grace...
- the Lord went on to say to Paul...
B. It helps us learn about His perfect strength.
- as Paul continued to struggle, and continue to trust, and continue to study...he learned more about power of God than he would have ever learned had the trial not come...
- that’s why he could say...[read verses 9-10]...
- see, friend, are you allowing the challenges with your physical body lead you to Christ, and to learning more about his sufficient grace and his perfect strength?
- whether it be a physical trial or even a physical temptation...
- and, is your belief in Christ’s sufficiency so strong that you think as a church, we should do everything we can to connect hurting people with God’s grace and power?...
- see, that’s what organizations like Mercy Ministries are doing...
- now, you might say...how do you know so much about them?...
- we have friends at a private, anonymous, Christian foundation...
- this foundation seeks to use its resources to advance the cause of Christ...and their special passion is the very kind of ministries I’ve been mentioning...
- they also believe our church would be an ideal place to have such a ministry...[develop]
- so earlier in February...we went to Nashville...and met these folks...[develop – director’s meeting]...
- they were gracious enough to open their books...shows us all their costs, all their policies and procedures...
- we even had dinner afterwards with Jamie and her family...let me show you one more piece of the video...
- [show Nancy’s hero speech --- start right after the “around the world” portion – take it to the end of the presentation]

- isn’t that a wonderful kind of ministry?....and they have those director’s days, not because they encourage you to do something just like they do, and they don’t want to have franchises....but they hope other’s will let God lead them into similar ministries...
- of course we already decided that we can’t do that...
- ...but we do have this land...
- and we do have a lot of support staff that could provide administrative help, and development services and accounting support...so it wouldn’t be like starting from scratch...
- and we do have people with a lot of building skills...
- and we have an established counseling ministry...
- and we have people who are very passionate about these kinds of ministries and would probably want to help...
- so maybe we should say, we can’t do it alone...

- so we came back to Lafayette and looked at all these numbers...
- we understand that we are committed full speed ahead to the community center...there’s important ministry to be had there...
- but we were asked to assemble a feasibility study and we did...
- and what I’ve been enumerating that we have available is valuable...
- but the feasibility study suggested that we would need 1.2 million dollars in start up costs to construct the building, hire the staff, purchase vehicles, and provide a financial operating cushion...
- plus we would need a commitment of at least $125,000 per year for 10 years to offset operating expenses...do the math...
- like that’s going to happen....
- now, what was it that the angel of the Lord told that a young Jewish mother to be?...
- Luke 1:37 - For nothing is impossible with God.

- I’m happy to announce to you this morning that this private, anonymous, Christian foundation has recently made a gift commitment to our church totaling 2.45 million dollars.
- 1.2 million is designated to assist with the construction costs of the facility and other start up expenses...
- along with $125,000 per year for 10 years to help offset annual operating costs...

- pending congregational approval, it is our plan to construct this facility just east of our new community center, and to open a faith based residential treatment program for girls in need.
- the plan is that the legal and planning work will begin this summer...and that assuming the community center opens next Memorial Day and is on plan and on budget, that we would immediately break ground on this new ministry called Vision of Hope Ministries.
- our goal would be to open the ministry on January 1, 2008.
- Happy Mother’s Day....

- now, I think there are some lessons we need to consider...

1.  We can’t, but God can.
- 2 Corinthians 9:8 - And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
- everybody involved in this endeavor wants to glory for all of this to go to our all sufficient God...
- we believe, and we want others to believe that His grace His sufficient and His strength is perfect...

2.  God blesses those who sacrificially follow Him.
- I do not believe it is coincidental that God blessed us last fall with a million dollar piece of property, and now with this gift after our church family embarked on the most aggressive giving campaign in our history...
- some people look at our church and ask...how is all of that accomplished...
- humanly speaking, there are a lot of people here who believe in simple obedience...they believe in tithes and offerings...
- tithes fund our regular ministries...
- special offerings fund our special ways to try to advance the cause of Christ...

- we are coming up on the mid point for our capital campaign...and I realize that some are sacrificing to the point that it will impact vacation plans, car purchases, other expenditures...and we do not take that for granted...
- but what does God’s Word say?...[and I seldom talk about money at our church...]
- Malachi 3:8-10 - “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

3.  The opportunities to serve God and love people in the days ahead are going to be rich.
- ultimately this is not about buildings, or programs, or money...it is about people, souls, lives...
Luke 12:48 - ...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
- [develop the many ways we will have to serve when this facility is built and ministry is launched...]
- [tie back to the annual theme – Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video