Sometimes Christians refuse to pray that God will save (rescue) them from a particular trouble. They say that God has sent them that trouble for some reason, for example, to teach them patience. Often, they will refer to this passage to support their belief. Their trouble is like Paulís experience, they say.
However, it is clear from this passage that Paulís opinions and actions differed very much from theirs.
Firstly, Paul never said that God caused him this trouble. In fact, Paul said that its cause was one of the devilís special servants, a demon (verse 7). God permitted Satan to attack Paul, as he had permitted Satan to attack Job*. Paul understood that this trouble was something evil, not something good. God never does any evil thing*. Therefore, God was not responsible either for Paulís troubles or for Jobís troubles.
Secondly, Paul did pray for Godís help. In fact, he prayed much about this matter. He knew that he must pray against the devilís work. Paul continued to pray until God answered his prayer.
However, God did not answer the prayer in the manner that Paul had wanted. This trouble made Paul aware of his weakness, and Paul wanted to be free from that weakness. God would not allow that. Instead, God showed Paul that Paul must depend on Godís grace, his special kindness. Paul would know the strength that he needed to deal with these troubles - but that strength would not come from Paul. Instead, Paul would know the strength of Christ, who would work in him and through him.
For as long as Paul lived on this earth, the devil would continue to attack him. So Paul would continue to know the weakness in himself that those attacks caused. However, at the same time Paul would know the strength of Christ, who was living in him*.
Next part: Godís grace is sufficient (12:9)
* See complete article for these Bible references.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.