When Prayer Seems to Fail
Book of 2 Corinthians Chapter 12
The biggest problem in the church of today is that the Word of God is not accepted as the truth. It is a great misunderstanding to think of the Bible as just a book of ancient writings. The Bible is the actual Word of God! The Bible is an actual message from Heaven to humanity! God Himself is the author of the Bible!
When we understand these things, we can then begin to understand what God is saying.
Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
After all what is “faith”?
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
“Substance” is something real, not imaginary, something solid! Faith is the assurance of things we hope for! Things we hope for are our personal achievements.
“Evidence” is the things that enables the mind to see the truth. The evidence we see is also the proof of things we cannot see. A Supreme being with a supreme cause for His creation.
Faith then is “Believing all the Word of God”.
When we accept the Word of God as the truth, we can then enter in to a new life, a new mode of power and a new mode of existence!
Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Col 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Listen and believe what the Apostle Paul writes by the Holy Spirit:
*****2Co 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
It is never a good thing to boast of our accomplishments because we could not accomplish anything long lasting without the Lord in our lives!
Paul had begun this church at Corinth by the power of God and because of false teachers Paul saw the need to defend his ministry.
Paul’s salvation was real.
Paul’s call into the ministry was real.
Paul had to defend his calling.
Paul began his boasting by lifting up the Lord. Paul is saying “let me tell you what the Lord has revealed to me”.
*****2Co 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
2Co 12:3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
First if we skip down to verse 7, where Paul says “lest I be exalted” we can see that “this man” Paul was talking about was himself!
Paul had kept quiet about this for 14 years and the truth is, deep matters between ourselves and God should never be subject to boasting unless there is a real reason to do so!
No doubt Paul had many revelations from the Lord on many different occasions. This was the birth of the Church of Jesus Christ and we know Christ is very involved in His Church!
Paul recognizes that he did not know what the state of his consciousness at the time of this revelation. In other words, Paul knew he had a vision and he had seen clearly what God had wanted him to see but he did not know if the soul was in or out of his body. Paul did not know if he was conscious or unconscious.
Just so we are clear, the third Heaven is God’s dwelling place! The place where the clouds are is the first heaven, the place where the stars are the second heaven. Even the Apostle Paul rejected the notion of 7 heavens and we should also!
No doubt that as Christians we are all a part of the Body of Christ:
Rom 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Rom 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Paul had a glorious vision that had only one answer.
*****2Co 12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
The third heaven and paradise are then the same place.
Paradise is then the unseen world! The spiritual world! The spiritual dimension of being!
These two worlds are separated by a great gulf that is impassable. One world a place of sorrows, known as Hell, which continues to enlarge itself because of unbelief and the other Paradise where all believers go at the very moment of death.
Paradise is a picture of Heaven and Heaven is where God dwells in all His presence and glory.
It would never be against any law for Paul not to speak of Paradise, the truth is there are simply no words in any language that can describe the beauty of Paradise.
Isa 64:4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
We should understand that there is nothing in the Word of God that is to be hidden and God does not hide anything from us. God just ask us to believe the words He gives to us!
Paul’s life was all about the “Gospel”. Paul’s life was with the Lord, Paul’s dreams were of the Lord, Paul saw God as not many see God. Paul heard a Voice that not many hear because most people have of a lack of “faith”.
This is the One in which we all should praise and glorify!
*****2Co 12:5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
2Co 12:6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
Paul was answering his critics who said that he had no authority to preach the “Gospel” but Paul does not stay there long, because Paul knows that our true strength comes from our weaknesses!
It is when we know our weaknesses that we can depend on the strength of the Lord. This is not speaking of our weakness of sin but our weaknesses as servants of the Lord and they are different for every one of us.
These are our difficulties in this life, our great afflictions and even our persecution.
We all, at some time, have tendency to glory in our own accomplishments even when we are foolish to do so but we must always speak the truth and that without exaggeration. The truth of the Lord must never be seen as boasting!
It is a fact that Paul had many visions and many sessions with the Holy Spirit or there could not be so many books of the New Testament which carries his name!
Paul clearly understood that these things did not make him special in any way. In fact, had Paul refused God would just have used someone else!
*****2Co 12:7 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.
The Strong’s Dictionary describes this thorn as a bodily annoyance or a disability.
A “thorn” can also be anything that is troublesome to our mission to serve Jesus Christ.
Paul also says this thorn was “the messenger of Satan to buffet him”.
We could also say this was a “demon”.
To “buffet”, means “to beat with the fist”! So, Paul’s thorn was certainly something evil!
We know that a thorn can cause pain and a thorn is impossible to forget. A thorn always seems to make contact with something as we go about our daily routine. To stop this, this thorn must be removed!
*****2Co 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2Co 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for 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.
Obviously, this was something Paul could not do himself and something that no other human could do for Paul.
Remember Paul had all the powers given to him by the Lord.
Paul had the power to heal others but he could not use those powers on himself!
We should clearly understand, it is the Lord Jesus who chooses His servants and the mission of each servant.
It is the Lord who oversees their qualifications, their support, their trials and their deliverance from those trials. When that person has a problem and they do not take it to the Lord they show that they do not belong to the Lord! To Paul his prayers seemed to fail.
Notice Paul sought the Lord on 3 separate occasions to remove this obstacle of pain by the time he had written this epistle and it is possible he did so on other occasions.
We should understand the purpose of this life time trial of Paul. (lest I should be exalted above measure)
It is obvious that pride can be our greatest enemy after all it was pride that ruined the life of Lucifer and God tossed him out of Heaven along with his followers.
We are to always be humble servants of the Lord and constant physical pain can be the greatest humbler.
But there is an even greater reason than this!
The Lord Jesus Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin, but the Lord does not give us independence to serve ourselves!
Php 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
God says we are to bear one another’s burdens.
Notice things happen to us because we live in a sinful world, but our trials come from the Lord for His reasons and one day we will understand that these things had a real purpose that we may not understand while we are living.
In this case of Paul, God appointed this evil and Satan with the Lord’s permission inflicted it.
Job 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Job 1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
Job 1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So, Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
Satan needs to have God’s permission to bring evil on a child of God! If God allows it then God has His own reasons for doing so!
How did this affect Paul?
****It made Paul a better missionary!
God wanted to reveal His power in Paul. The weaker the vessel the more God will be glorified!
Grace is the unmerited favor of God. God’s presence, God’s love, God’s favor, and God’s blessings are all we need in this world to do the work that the Lord has given us to do. In fact without God’s grace we would falter and fail in our mission!
God’s Grace can carry us through any circumstance we face in this world!
We see that Paul suffered physically and many times this is true of others but there can also be spiritual suffering.
A self-sufficient person is saying that they do not need God!
So the truth is, we should all glory in our infirmities so the world can see the power of God in our lives!
*****2Co 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
This may sound like a hard saying but in fact it is the truth if we remember that God can only do things that are the right thing to do, all the time!
We can take pleasure in the weakness of our mind and body, when we know the power of Jesus Christ will overcome those things.
We can smile and keep going, when we are ridiculed for serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
We can always feel secure, knowing that God will always meet our needs.
We can always feel safe, knowing that we are in the hands of the Lord when persecution comes.
We can always feel the victory, even when we are in tight situations and it looks like there is no means of escape, the Lord will make a way.
All we need to remember is that the power of Christ Jesus is much stronger than all the combined forces that mankind can put together!
Mat 19:25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Mat 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Nothing on this earth can overcome the “will of God”!
*****2Co 12:11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
2Co 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
Paul is saying, “to many of you I may seem to be a fool” but in fact this church was in error “because they had not defended their Pastor”.
Every church who has a Pastor who preaches the truth of the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” must come to his aid when he is attacked by those who do not follow the Word of God.
We cannot pick and choose what part of God’s Word we will follow. We must accept all God’s Word as the truth and we must rightly divide the Word of God to keep it in context.
There will never be a volume 2 of the Word of God. There will never be a revised version of those old Hebrew and Greek scrolls.
We already have the truth of God in our possession!
Every Pastor should ask himself if he can defend his ministry before Jesus Christ.
Every Pastor should ask himself if he is following the lead of the Holy Spirit in his ministry.
Every Pastor should ask himself if he is totally committed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If he can be positive in his answers, then he needs to stand on his ministry and that church needs to stand with him at all cost!
2Ti 1:11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
2Ti 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
A church that stands with such a man of God, will not be inferior to any other Bible believing place of worship!
*****2Co 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
2Co 12:13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
Paul ended verse 11 saying “though I be nothing”.
We are all nothing in comparison to the Lord Jesus Christ!
We can only boast in the Lord, we would fail without Him.
We can only trust in the Lord, if we trust in anything else we will fail.
We are nothing to be considered in the work of the Lord, the Scriptures will be fulfilled with or without us!
What is the truest sign of a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Jas 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Paul had done this many times. Paul had also planted many churches.
Paul had been consistent in his Christian life after his salvation and his calling.
These people had witnessed supernatural miracles showing the Divine Power of God.
These people had seen wonders that could not be explained with man’s knowledge.
These people had witnessed many things that just could not be explained away, acknowledging the Power had to come from God.
Act 19:11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:
Act 19:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
Anything that any of the other Apostles could do had been witnessed by this church by the hands of Paul!
In fact, the only thing Paul had done differently was to refuse to demand that this church support him financially.
Paul says, “if this was wrong then forgive me”.
2Co 11:9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
What Paul was saying was, it was this body of believers who had wronged their Pastor!
In fact it seemed to Paul, that the more he loved them the less he was loved by them!
In fact, Paul’s critics accused Paul of using the money given for Jerusalem to help him in his ministry which was an absolute lie.
*****2Co 12:14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
2Co 12:15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
2Co 12:16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.
It is a fact that if we have a sin that gets us in the most trouble we are usually quick to believe that all others are just as prone to it as we are but that is simply not true. Over and over again, Paul was accused of making money from his ministry as if it were a business. We can be sure that those false critics were guilty of this very thing. In fact, the more they could stir up the people of the church the thicker their wallets got.
The truth of the “Gospel” is that God requires a personal surrender!
Paul was not interested in what these people possessed, Paul was interested in their person. (I seek not yours but you)
At one time, scientist thought that the earth was the center of the planetary system and then they became confused about the heavens.
When it became clear that the Sun was the center of our system they began to see how truly organized our solar system was and it open the doors to exploration.
When we see ourselves as the center of law and order in the universe all other things are confusing but when we make the Lord Jesus the center of all life, confusion becomes order and reality.
Jesus Christ seeks a personal relationship with each, and every one of us. Jesus Christ seeks us. Jesus first saves the soul and then expects our reasonable service until He has us all. This universe already belongs to God to do with as He wishes!
Paul was not seeking their money.
Paul was not seeking their praise.
Paul was not even seeking their affections.
Paul was trying to get them to give themselves over to the Lord Jesus Christ!
This is the purpose of every minister of Jesus Christ!
We are then to follow the Word of God and make application of the Word of God to our lives.
The treasures of Paul were his love and his mercy which came from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
Eph 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Eph 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Eph 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Eph 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
God as our Father in Heaven is laying up all His riches for His children of “faith” the body of Christ!
These Corinthians could not say that Paul had been a burden to them in any way. Paul had truly preached the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ freely and it could not be denied!
The critics then said that Paul had deceived them when he sent Titus and those other two to prepare these Corinthians in advance for those collections making Paul out to be a criminal.
Every man called of God must always be on guard against greed and worldliness and giving the impression that he is a cheat or a thief.
Joh 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Joh 10:12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
Joh 10:13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
Joh 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
And Paul responded to these accusations:
*****2Co 12:17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?
2Co 12:18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?
2Co 12:19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
Paul clearly understood that he was accountable to God and not to men!
It is obvious that Titus and those with him also had made no request for financial support. Paul had anticipated that he would be accused of using any monies that were gathered.
Titus walked in the same Holy Spirit as the apostle Paul.
Every minister must be willing to preach the Word of God freely when it is necessary!
Titus walked in the same methods as Paul.
Titus lived in the same manner as Paul, “according to the Word of God”.
Titus just like Paul worked with his own hands to supply his needs rather than be a burden to this church.
The ministers of God must never show “covetousness”.
Paul was not defending himself, in order for them to judge his actions. Paul was called to build the church and not to tear it down
Paul was called of God, he answered only to God, God expected Paul to keep his ministry clean.
Paul only desired for this church to repent and return to the work of the Lord and this a quickly as possible.
It is for certain that God will unmask every deceiver in His own time!
The Apostle Paul did the things he did for the “Bride of Christ”.
What had John the Baptist said?
Joh 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
Joh 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
These are the same feelings of Paul and every true minister of God!
Paul also had the same “Fatherly Fears” as our Father in Heaven!
*****2Co 12:20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
2Co 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
We can be sure that Paul was still not completely sure this church would repent and may still reject his ministry.
Paul feared that the church would not deal with these false teachers and Paul’s critics.
Those evil attacks against Paul would have to cease in Corinth if the church was to survive and then Paul listed some things that can cause any church to divide.
1) Debates: Quarreling within the church that cause strife.
2) Envyings: Jealousy among the members.
3) Wraths: anything contrary to the Word of God
4) Strifes: Contention, law suits, caught up in things just to prove you are right.
5) Backbitings: Speaking evil of one another, spreading rumors, hurting some one’s good name without cause.
6) Whisperings: suggesting evil things of each other.
7) Swellings: Pride and conceit
8) Tumults: Interrupting the worship service for no reason but just to do so.
9) And being unrepentant!
We know of one who had relations with his father’s wife but it is obvious that there were others who were committing such sin.
Any and all relationships outside the relationship of one man and one woman in marriage, is sin and is an abomination to God!
It was obvious that some in this church had refused to repent and Paul was sure to address this issue when he returned to Corinth and Paul was making them aware.
Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Act 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
We need to clearly understand if we refuse to repent of our sin, God will never hear our prayers!
Psa 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
If God will not hear our prayers they will certainly fail!