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“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Peter was sifted. His loving Father knew he was controlled by Self … aka King Peter, and needed to be sifted to be freed. Job was sifted as well. He was righteous, but his loving Father knew he was still blind to the deeper richness awaiting him, of knowing God more intimately.
The Apostle Paul found himself living with a thorn in his side. As the negative effects of this thorn progressed from frustrating, to aggravating, to out and out painful, we see Paul himself progress: from pleading with God to take it away, to thanking God for the thorn.
Thanking God for his thorn? Is Paul a masochist? No. And it is not his personality type that is important for us to understand; it is the progression he experienced as he moved from irritation to despair to delight.
For you and for me, the question to ask is, how did Paul, and therefore how do we, reach a place in our spiritual journey where we see God’s thorns as the helpful gifts He intends them to be?
Don’t miss that: How do you progress from whining and complaining to God about the things and the people you don’t like in your life, to seeing through a lens of God’s perfect power, his perfect love, and his perfect plan for you?
Let’s first define our terms: A thorn is anything, or perhaps more applicable, any one, in your life who is causing you frustration, irritation, even pain. You don’t want this thorn, you don’t like this thorn, and you cannot control it, nor can you fix it. We don’t like things we cannot control, and we certainly do not like things – or people – we cannot fix.
There are many types of thorns. Perhaps yours is a troublesome family member, or a wife or husband who just won’t … do right, or a person from your working world. Maybe it’s a physical issue, a monetary issue, or a marriage issue.
I find it interesting we are not told specifically what Paul’s thorn is. My guess is if we were told, we would say, “Well, that is his, not mine. Mine is different. So, Paul’s response doesn’t apply to me. Besides, mine is worse.”
Paul pleaded three times for God to take his thorn away. We have the advantage of seeing Paul’s perspective after he has processed through his thorn problem, and moved from whining and complaining and pleading to God, to the clarity of seeing it as a tool and a gift his loving Heavenly Father is using to strengthen him.
Paul brings us directly to his issue: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited ….”
Maybe this conceit issue does not apply to you, so you can stop reading now. But if conceit, or Self-reliance, or “If I don’t, it won’t – If it’s to be it’s up to me,” can at times describe you, then read on.
Paul knew himself well. He knew if God removed this thorn, he would likely drift back towards Self-reliance, and away from total reliance on God. He also knew when he acted in his own power, relying on his Self, the results would be a C- at best. Perhaps more likely a D to an outright F.
So Paul states unequivocally, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Christ’s power, not mine. Jesus’ Holy Spirit power resting on me and energizing me, not my power. My power, in the long run, is weak, compared to the incredible power of the Holy Spirit acting in and through me.
Next week: Let’s look into God’s answer to Paul’s pleading three times, and how we can boast all the more gladly about our own weaknesses.