Do You Need Some Ballast?
Do you think you can do things on your own this week? Have you made plans for those meetings, projects and tasks that lie before you today? Are you well-prepared? Confident? That’s good. All of the planning you do for this week is a good idea. But, have you consulted God first? He wants you to be successful, but He will be the best help you can embrace this week.
Our good friend, Ron Hutchcraft, had a gem on his website last week*. Ron talked about the need we have for some ballast, sandbags if you will, to hold us steady. Let’s suppose you are going to take a ride in a hot air balloon - the kind that carries people. You don't want that balloon to just go drifting off somewhere. That's why they put those sandbags, ballast, on hot air balloons. It's to hold them down; to help control them and to keep them from drifting off. Balloons need ballast; so do people.
The apostle Paul needed some sandbags. He called them a thorn in the flesh.
2 Corinthians 12:6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
As we read this scripture, we see that Paul has been telling us just before this about some very inflating times he has had with God. And then he says, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." Actually that word thorn means a sharpened stake, and it's probably a better translation to say "for his flesh" than in it. So, he's saying, "God gave me, but then it was also a messenger from Satan, a stake for the flesh."
Now, that thorn-that stake-it applies not only to Paul's situation, but to that frustrating factor in your life that is limiting you, that's holding you down, maybe even tormenting you right now. You say, "Well, why?" Paul wondered, "Why is this in my life when God is using me so much?" Well, in the original language, the phrase that opens and closes this verse is repeated...the exact same phrase. He says, "So that I may not be exalted over much, I have this thorn in my flesh." "So that," again he says, "I may not be exalted over much."
In other words, if it weren't for this stake, I'd go drifting off on my own ambitions in my own strength. It's like divine sandbags holding him from drifting off. See, when God is working in your life and through your life, you need ballast to keep your feet on the ground. Call them the Lord's levelers. They aren't much fun; Paul's wasn't. But we really need them.
It's a pattern in Scripture. Elijah, at probably the greatest moment of his life was used by God on Mount Carmel where he defeated 400 false prophets. Right after that he's on the most wanted list, he's being pursued by the queen's forces, and he's very depressed. See, when a thorn comes at a time like that, you say, "Oh, something's wrong!" You know what? It may very well mean that everything's okay. The Lord has allowed some sandbags to come into your life.
Maybe you could be a little inflated by what God's been doing, and God doesn't want you to be flying off on your own. So, that thorn, that stake, that sandbag is a constant reminder of how much you need your Lord.
Like Paul, you can actually learn to thank the Lord for the ballast that He gives you with those sandbags. Sure, they're heavy, but they're really helpful. Pay attention to the ballast this week.
*Devotional message compiled by Jim Huber, with some commentary from Ron Hutchcraft in “The Sandbag Syndrome”, www.hutchcraft.com , December 6, 2013.