O what a way of learning religion!

(J. C. Philpot, "Strength Made Perfect in Weakness")

"I was caught up into paradise and heard things so
 astounding that they cannot be told!" 2 Cor. 12:4

Now, doubtless, the apostle Paul, after he had been
thus favored—thus caught up into paradise—thought
that he would retain the same frame of mind that he
was in when he came down from this heavenly place;
that the savor, the sweetness, the power, the unction,
the dew, the heavenly feeling would continue in his soul.
And no doubt he thought he would walk all through his
life with a measure of the sweet enjoyments that he
then experienced. But this was not God's way of
teaching religion!

God had another way which Paul knew nothing of, and
that was—if I may use the expression—to bring him
from the third heaven, where his soul had been blessed
with unspeakable ravishment—down to the very gates
of hell. For he says, "I was given a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger from Satan to BUFFET me

The idea "buffeting" is that of a strong man beating
a weak one with violent blows to his head and face
—bruising him into a shapeless mass!

O what a way of learning religion!

Now I want you to see the contrast we have here.

The blessed apostle caught up into the third heavens,
filled with light, life, and glory—enjoying the presence
of Christ—and bathing his soul in the river of divine

Now for a reverse—down he comes to the earth.

A messenger of Satan is let loose upon him, who buffets,
beats and pounds this blessed apostle into a shapeless
mummy—no eyes, no nose, no mouth, no features—but
one indistinguishable mass of black and blue!

Such is the mysterious way in which a man learns religion!

But what was all this for?

Does it not appear very cruel—does it not seem very
unkind that, after the Lord had taken Paul up into
the third heaven, He would let the devil buffet him?

Does it not strike our natural reason to be as strange
and as unheard of a thing, as if a mother who had been
fondling her babe in her arms, suddenly were to put it
down, and let a large savage dog ravage it—and look
on, without interfering, while he was tearing the child
which she had been a few minutes before dandling in
her lap, and clasping to her bosom?

"But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given
a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to BUFFET
me and keep me from getting proud." Here we have
this difficult enigma solved, this mysterious knot untied!

We find that the object and end of all these severe
dealings was to keep Paul from pride!

Three times Paul besought his loving and sympathizing
Redeemer, that the trial might be taken away, for it
was too grievous to be borne. The Lord heard his prayer
and answered it—but not in the way that Paul expected.

His answer was, "My grace is sufficient for you." As though
He would say, "Paul, beloved Paul, I am not going to take
away your trial; it came from Me—it was given by Me. But
My grace shall be sufficient for you, for My strength shall
be made perfect in your weakness. There is a lesson to be
learned, a path to be walked in, an experience to be passed
through, wisdom to be obtained in this path—and therefore
you must travel in it. Be content then with this promise
from My own lips—My grace is sufficient for you, for My
strength is made perfect in your weakness."

The apostle was satisfied with this—he wanted no more,
and therefore he burst forth, "Most gladly therefore will
I rather glory in my infirmities—that the power of Christ
may rest upon me."

O what a way of learning religion!