“And He said unto me, ‘My glory is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II-Corinthians 12:9).
There are many examples and reasons throughout Old Testament Scriptures and New Testament Gospel that show and explain why believers are allowed to suffer adversity. Perhaps the most common reason is to keep us focused on the promises of God and the covenant relationship we have with Him in Jesus Christ. Paul was truly privileged to have been given a vision of heaven to inspire him to preach the Gospel of Jesus Our Christ to the Gentiles. Heaven would be his reward in the afterlife for fulfilling the great commission, however, it was conditional. God in His infinite wisdom gave Paul “a thorn in the flesh” to keep him focused in the here and now.
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (II-Corinthians 12:1). The zeal in which Paul carried out his persecution of the early Christian church is legendary. As unlikely as it may seem God had a purpose for a man like Paul and many of today’s believers who have a similar zeal and enthusiasm for kingdom work. Unfortunately, it is this zeal that causes some of us to be less well-suited than others for the most important work of God. Exaggerated enthusiasm provokes many to lose their focus and either victimize themselves or someone else as a matter of natural consequence of their enthusiasm.
“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; such a one caught up to the third heaven” (II-Corinthians 12:2). When things continuously work out as we would have them, we to tend to get “the bighead,” become conceited and selfish. We often mistake righteousness for foolishness from which God does not always protect us. This leads us to “think more highly of ourselves than we ought” and less of our Christian brothers and sisters. Paul was given a vision of heaven and then “a thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble and remind him of his indebtedness to Christ in regard to every soul, saved and unsaved.
“Of such a one will I glory; yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities” (II-Corinthians 12:5). God has a mission for Paul and He (God) is going to equip him with power and influence to carry out this very important mission. Many men, history has shown, cannot handle power whether it is God-given or bestowed by man. Paul’s mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentile was too important to trust to any one whom the Lord perceived as being susceptible to the influences of other men; He needed a man who would be able to focus on the mission and nothing else. It must be God first, God second, and God third until our life is focused on God and nothing or no one else is of any account whatsoever.
The debate over the specific nature of Paul’s thorn continues to rage in theological circles, personally, I feel it is irrelevant—we do not need to know the specifics to grasp the essential message. The spiritual honor of my life as a saint is to fulfill my debt to Christ in relation to the unsaved. I can never repay him I honor him with every bit of my life by bringing His Redemption into real manifestation in other lives. Overlooking the thorns and infirmities of my life, what can I do to enable this manifestation in others? I can only do it as the Spirit of God works in me to work out this sense of indebtedness to Jesus Christ.
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me” (II-Corinthians 12:8). Whatever the source or nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” it was severe, severe to the point that Paul prayed three times for God to remove it. When it was clear that God was not going to remove it, Paul accepted it and continued his mission. Today, God is looking for men and women He can trust with the power of His Spirit and word to take up the great commission and make it their life’s mission. There is no guarantee that your thorn will be small or great, intermittent or persistent but, rest assured that if God places the thorn in your flesh He will give you the strength to bear it.
By the miracle of Redemption Saul of Tarsus was transformed in a split-second from a zealous and enthusiastic threat to the early Christian church into a humble and devoted slave of the Lord Jesus. Paul was spiritually overwhelmed with a sense of indebtedness to Jesus Christ, and he spent himself to express it to the Gentiles and Jews of his time. Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision. Even the rose in all of its beauty must bear the thorns. Thorns are what make the rose perfect. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II-Corinthians 12:10).
Grady Norman Greene, Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Our Christ
- Seeing Thorns as Blessings (wdednh.wordpress.com)
- Trials – Part 1 ~ Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh (faithbibleministries.wordpress.com)