Tag Archives: Speculation

Level 1 Pain; Level 4 Purpose

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

A week ago Sunday I had the privilege of giving the message amidst my local gathering of Jesus followers. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’re in the middle of a one-year journey through the book, The Acts of the Apostles, more commonly referred to as simply Acts. The reason that we’re making our way through 2 Corinthians is that I wanted to read through all of Paul’s letters in the order he wrote them in conjunction with my local gathering’s journey through Acts.

In my message last week I noted that there are four levels at which the story in Acts is happening. Level 1 is the personal, individual story level in which individuals are having experiences and having a personal, relational interaction with God. Level 4 is the eternal, cosmic, heavenly realm of the Spirit. I observed in my message that if my spiritual world-view remains confined to Level 1, then I will always struggle against the inequities of circumstance. It’s been fascinating how this simple theme has suddenly seemed to present itself in a myriad of ways. Like, today’s chapter.

As I read through today’s chapter, I found it (once again) one of the most extraordinary things Paul ever wrote. Paul writes in the third person of “a man” who had a Level 4 experience. By the way, using the third person was a commonly used literary device in Paul’s day so writers would present something that may be perceived as boastful about themselves with humility. Paul explains a mysterious experience in which he was caught up in heaven. The whole thing is mystical and mysterious and Paul explains that he’s not permitted to reveal some of what he saw, heard, and/or experienced.

Paul then immediately explains that he was subsequently given “a thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. In other words, there was some kind of Level 1 suffering that Paul was experiencing. Scholars have debated and argued for years regarding what this “thorn in the flesh” was. We’ll never know for sure. What it was is not the point. Anyone whose had the experience of being pierced with an object which remained buried in the flesh knows that it’s an on-going, ever-present form of suffering.

What I noticed in the chapter this morning was, once again, I find this weaving together of Level 4 and Level 1, the eternal and the temporal.  Paul pleaded with God to remove this Level 1 “thorn in the flesh” that was causing him physical suffering only to come to a Level 4 perspective of his affliction. Paul is told: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power (Level 4) is made perfect in weakness (Level 1).” By the way, the word “power” that Paul uses is the same Greek word “dynamos” that is used by Jesus in Acts 1:8 : “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” He’s definitely talking about Spiritual, eternal, Level 4 “power”

In the quiet this morning I continue to find myself mulling over a number of things. Paul’s mystical, mysterious experience is intriguing. This description and meaning of the “third heaven” is another point of intense debate among scholars. Then there’s question about exactly what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” referred to. Speculation and discussion about these things can be an interesting and entertaining. What is clear, and what I walk away with as I enter my day, is the reminder that the troubles and sufferings we experience can have spiritual purposes.

Responding to Speculation and False Accusations

Tabloids a Twitter
Tabloids a Twitter (Photo credit: noodlepie)

Let them know that it is your hand,
    that you, Lord, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
    may those who attack me be put to shame,
    but may your servant rejoice.
Psalm 109:27-28 (NIV)

Those who live life as public figures or in the spotlight of leadership are likely to find ourselves in the midst of a whirlwind of speculation and suspicion at some point in our lives. People are people, and whether you lived some 30 centuries ago in Jerusalem or live in rural Iowa today you will find that some experiences are common to humanity. There is a particular kind of insanity producing frustration that comes with finding yourself at the center of others’ misguided gossip and false accusations.

King David, who penned the lyrics of today’s psalm, was no stranger to the spotlight of popularity and leadership, nor was he a stranger to scandal and public ridicule. For certain, some of the public ridicule David brought on himself. Like all of us, David made his share of boneheaded mistakes. Yet, even in the tornado of gossip the truth often becomes distorted and inflated into crazy tabloid speculation.

In my experience, there are only a few things you can do when you find yourself the subject of local gossip and speculation:

  1. Plead your case in the right place. Vent your frustration to God. That’s what today’s psalm was all about for David. Psalm 109 is an ancient example of a screaming, venting, thrashing Metalcore anthem. Get it out. Express your feelings. Tell God what you’d really like to see happen to those lying gossips talking about you behind your back. It’s okay. God understands your emotion and isn’t surprised by your feelings of vengeance. It’ll be good for you.
  2. Let it go. Once you’ve vented your anger and frustration, take a deep breath and then let it go. Believe me, there is nothing you can do to chase down and confront every source of gossip and every false accusation that you hear on the streets and behind your back. You’ll ultimately fail, drive yourself crazy in the process, and your efforts will only fan the flames of speculation. Like David, don’t just plead your case to God but also relinquish your desire for justice to the only True Judge.
  3. Stay the course. When Wendy and I were married (Eight years ago this New Year’s Eve!), it created a fair amount of talk in our neck of the woods. I was recently divorced at the time and I admit that the timing of our quick courtship did not do anything to quell the rumors and idle gossip. We heard the whispers and felt the self-righteous judgment and disapproval of others. At that point in time, Wendy’s mom gave us a sage piece of advice: Make like a turtle. Toughen up the shell, let it bounce off, and keep plodding towards what you know is right. Slow and steady wins the race.
  4. Give it time. Just this past week I was told that a young adult, who has watched Wendy’s and my marriage for the past eight years, commented that they see our relationship as an example of the kind of marriage they want for themselves. Wendy and I talked about that last night and marveled at how far we’ve come from those days when it was whispered that ours was a flash-in-the-pan rebound relationship doomed to failure. If you find yourself falsely accused, remember that what is true about you will be revealed in the test of time as others observe your faith, love, life, actions, words, and relationships.