In this inspiring message after the retreat, Rev. Kim uncovers the secret to happiness. May the grace of God be what empowers you in life, rather than the power we find in the world, which is temporary.
I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Accepting Life’s Circumstances
I see life as very interesting. I’m not saying that if it is good or pleasant necessarily, just interesting. A life is never either this or that. Life is often both this and that. Life circumstances are never either good or bad. Life circumstances are both good and bad. If there is laughter, then there are tears. St. Paul experienced going to the third heaven. We don’t know exactly what he was talking about, the third heaven, but the experience was fantastic; an out of world kind of experience. He himself said, “I’m not sure. I don’t know whether I was in the body or out of the body.” So he had a tremendously high spiritual experience. Not many of us will have had experience of going to the third heaven while alive on this earth, but that’s not the end of the story. The Bible is like that. That’s not the end of the story.
And then that’s the not main story either. Soon, God gave him a thorn in the flesh. Actually, it wasn’t God who gave him a thorn in the flesh, but God allowed Satan to give a thorn in the flesh of St. Paul. And this thorn bothered him tremendously. He was tormented. Now he had just experienced paradise as this spiritual high, then soon, he experienced the bottom, the lowest point of his spiritual life by being tormented by Satan through the thorn in the flesh. So we realize that life is either this or that. Life is always both this and that. People are like that. People are never either good or bad.
People are both good and bad. We cannot paint a person as a bad person or a good person because they consist both of good and bad. But we like to a paint reality with one color. If there is just one color, it is easier to understand, easier to grasp, and easier to control. So we paint reality with one color. But as you look at the reality, honestly and carefully, you realize that reality is a combination of many different colors and the spiritual spirituality or spiritual journey is to embrace all colors of our reality and be thankful in all circumstances. Embrace all colors and be thankful in all circumstances.
Do you want to know what the secret happinesses is? I found the secret of happiness. You want me to tell you, yes or no? It’s very expensive. I’m telling you for free. I realized that the secret of happiness is that you never expect life to be this or that, but to accept both this and that. Never expect life to be this way. If you don’t have that expectation, then you’ll be happy. Accept both this and that. But a lot of unhappiness comes from, “Oh, life should be this way and if life is not this way, I’m not happy.” If you continuously insist that, then you’ll never experience happiness in life. If there is rain, there will be sunshine. Accept both rain and the sunshine.
Our issue in life is not whether life is this or that. Our issue with life is whether I can survive through the situation I am in. Whether if my the life situation is either this or that, the issue is whether I can survive through the situation that I’m in right now. Mary Jo Leddy said in her book “Radical Gratitude” that being grateful is the secret of life, and gratitude is the most radical attitude towards life and this is what she said about gratitude: “In gratitude, the vicious cycle of dissatisfaction with life is broken, and we begin anew in the recognition of what we have rather than what we don’t have, in the acknowledgement of who we are rather than in the awareness of who we are not.” We are not happy because of our life circumstances, my friends. We are not happy because of our attitude towards our circumstances. Do you understand? We are not happy because our life situations are a certain way. It is because of our attitude towards certain situations of our life, we become very unhappy. Right after experiencing the third heaven, the spiritual high, St. Paul experienced the spiritual low. He was thrown down into the bottom of his spirituality. He just wanted to remain at a spiritual high.
My Grace is Sufficient for You
So with relative confidence, you know when you’re spiritually high, you have spiritual confidence. With relative confidence, he approached God and prayed thinking that when he prays, even he can even remove mountain. When you’re spiritually high, you have that kind of spiritual confidence. So he approached God, and prayed three times. The Bible is figurative. That does not mean that Paul prayed only three times. That means Paul prayed as much as he could. I mean, would you think that Paul is finished praying only after three times? No, he prayed as much as possible. He prayed with confidence, with spiritual high, but somehow surprisingly, God did not answer him. God did not take out the thorn in the flesh. Sometimes in your life, with your logic, with your brain, you think that this is the best and you prayed, but God does not listen.
That’s what St. Paul experienced. He thought that with the absence of a thorn in the flesh, he can do much better with his ministry, for you, for God and everything, so he thought that it would be best that the thorn would be removed, so he prayed three times. But God did not take away the thorn. When God does not listen to your prayer that of which you desire the most, the prayer that in your head is the most reasonable and good, and God still does not grant that prayer. What do you do? Do you give up? Do you give up praying? Do you give up believing in God? Do you give up spirituality? Paul experienced God not answering his prayers, but that was not the end of it. He got this message and the message is: “My grace is sufficient unto you, my grace is sufficient for you.” What is God doing here? God was teaching Paul to learn to accept all his life situations, whether with the thorn or without the thorn. God taught Paul to live with not only with good situations but also with bad situations too. God taught Paul the only thing we need in this world or in our life is this. The only thing that we need. What is this?
The Gift of Grace
Grace. That’s the only thing that you need in your life. Everything else is extra. Everything else is a bonus. When everything runs out, but if grace is still operating within you, then you can survive that. Grace is the most important thing. Beyond that, if you have wealth, that’s a bonus. If you have good children, that’s a bonus. If you have a beautiful boyfriend/girlfriend, that’s a bonus. If you have beautiful children, if you have your health, that’s a bonus, but the only thing that we need in our life is grace. St. Paul discovered that grace is sufficient for you. St. Paul learned this secret and that your power does not come from your power. Your power comes when you’re powerless. Your power does not come from your power. Your power comes when your power is gone.
This is what he said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, power is made perfect in powerlessness. When you’re powerless, then you can experience real power. When you feel powerful, that powerfulness may not be the true powerfulness that we need in this world. The true powerfulness is when we feel totally powerless. We experience the true power that doesn’t only come today and disappears tomorrow. There is another power, the kind of power that exists today, but disappears tomorrow, but the power Paul is talking about is a power that lasts forever with you and that power is God’s power. And through his weaknesses, he experiences the true power of God. Unless you are stripped off of all your power, you won’t see the power of God working in you. When you’re totally vulnerable, that’s when you experience the true power of God in your life. The star shines brighter in the darkness, in the same way, God’s power shines brighter in the dark night of the soul. When you go through tremendous darkness, that’s when you experience the true power. We are so scared that I want to have power. I have power of popularity, fame, money. Well, you know all those things. I want to have this because without this, I can not survive! So you live with this power, being scared that someday you might go away, but when you let go, when that is taken away from you, sometimes that’s when you experience the true power that is operating in you and that gives you true confidence in your life.
Finding Strength Through Weakness
That’s why Saint Paul could boast about his weaknesses. This is what he said: “So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” He tasted the power of Christ, so he does not boast about his power. Rather, he boasts about his weaknesses because in those weaknesses he experienced the power of Christ. I hope that all of you will become the people who experience the power of Christ. I hope all of you will live and become the people who live with the power of Christ dwelling in you, rather than power that you accumulate. That power just disappears and evaporates.
During KSM service, when Reverend Chung was doing communion, I got a message from Reverend Son that a member of our congregation who was in hospital, passed away this morning. He was in the hospital. He wanted to have worship with us at the same time. And then he sat and drank something. And after that he passed away. The fragility of life. The vulnerability of life. The power that we hold onto doesn’t last forever. When I said that, all members in the congregation about his age, all his friends there were totally shocked. Everything that we hold onto in this world can be taken away just like that. I hope that we all experience the power of Christ, that never departs from you. And that we live with this grace of God operating in you. When this grace of God operates in you, you know what happens? You are being content. I told you at the retreat, the complainers shouldn’t complain over people. You are the problem. You are the problem.
When we experience the spirituality, we learn to be content in whatever circumstances, good or bad, well fed, or hungry because even in your weakness, God’s power will be manifested. Experience. Don’t have doctrinal faith. Have faith that experiences the power of Christ. Put down your traditional faith and experience the power of Christ dwelling in you. But many times when you hold onto your power, you will not experience that power that much. When you let that go and let yourself become completely immersed in the grace of God, everything else is bonus. Be content and be thankful. When you know that power, in the life situation where it tries to shrink you down, you’ll come out, standing tall. May the power of Christ dwell in your life.