In 2 Corinthians Paul the Apostle talks about a “thorn” in his flesh. Paul had obviously been given great revelations after his conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul says that to keep him from exalting himself, he is given this thorn or what Paul describes as ” a messenger of Satan to torment him.” The Bible is not clear on what the “thorn” exactly was, but it seems the main purpose was to help Paul keep a humble view of himself. The other purpose I believe would seem to draw Paul closer to God, to rely on Him.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Let’s be honest, if you had a messenger of Satan tormenting you every day, wouldn’t you seek God for help or relief. You would keep a humble view of yourself I would think. What is interesting to me is that Paul has this amazing encounter with Christ, is given revelations, is given the task of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, and after all of that the Lord allows Satan to torment him. The Greek word used for torment was kolafizo. It means to strike with the fist, give one a blow with the fist or to maltreat, treat with violence and contumely. The Bible says that Paul begged God three times to have this thorn removed, that “it might leave” him. Whatever it was, I don’t believe it was a minor discomfort.
What was God’s answer? Did He remove the thorn? No.
God says I will not remove the thorn, I will give the grace to endure it. Paul understood that this affliction was worth it because it elevated Christ in his life. That it was not about Paul, and his weaknesses. It was about Christ, His power, and His glory.
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
I think as Christians, those that are in Christ, we all have some sort of thorn in our flesh. God calls our name, and we learn how much He loves us through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. We place our faith & trust in Christ, and we move forward only to find something we struggle with never seems to go away. It is not a question of God’s power, goodness, or love since we know He is all powerful, He is good always, and nothing can separate us from His love.
My “thorn” reminded me today of how imperfect I am, how I can give in to the weaknesses of my flesh. I am not caught up in some sort of sexual sin, I just let emotions generate negative responses sometimes. I know that is not how I should act as a Christian. I honestly, try to remain humble, not think of myself more highly than I ought to. I struggle between the guilt of my failures as a husband and my walk with Christ. Like Paul I am reminded that it is not about me, but about Christ in me. It brings me to my knees, and to ask God for the grace to endure. Our flesh is a constant reminder of our need for Jesus. Like John Piper says, we just don’t need the Gospel at the time of salvation, but we never, never out grow our need for the Gospel.
Peace, I love you all in Christ.