The Thorn in the Flesh

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:7-9

In this well-known portion of Scripture, Paul begs the Lord three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed, and learns instead that God's grace is sufficient for him.

Bible scholars often speculate that Paul's thorn was an infirmity or illness; however, let me present another point of view. Paul specifically describes his thorn as "a messenger of Satan to torment me". The word for "messenger" in the Greek is “angelos” meaning someone delivering a message, and every time it is used in Scripture, it is translated as a specific person or angel. Therefore, it is my belief that Paul's thorn was a specific person in his life. Not just any person, but a person whose purpose was to keep Paul humble.
Think - Marie Barone.
In the TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond", Debra's mother-in-law, Marie, delivers classic lines that deliberately convey her opinion that Debra is a poor housekeeper, terrible cook, inadequate mother and so on. It's hysterical on TV, but not funny at all if you have this type of relationship in real life. Often it is a family member or coworker, someone that you can't escape. Someone who just gets under your skin: a splinter - or thorn- in your flesh.

You may have heard that when we ask God for something in prayer, His response may be “Yes”, “No” or “Wait”. But here, when Paul asked over and over and over again, for the Lord to remove this person, God did not say “Okay, you’ve done a great job for Me, Paul, I’ll do as you ask.” Neither did God say, “No, this person is there for a reason – to keep you humble, as you know.” God didn’t even say “Not now, maybe later.” In fact, God does not respond to Paul’s specific request at all! God does not mention the thorn, whatever or whoever it was. Instead, God’s answer can be stated this way: “Look at Me, Paul. Stop looking at the thorn. The problem is not your relationship with that person, it’s your relationship with Me. If you take your eyes off your problem, and focus on Me, you will see that I am all you need. My grace is enough for you. ”

In the days and weeks to come, we’ll be in more family and social situations than at any other time of year. It’s time to join with Paul, and look to God and His all-sufficient grace. Don’t pray with your eyes on your thorn. Pray with your eyes on Jesus Christ.

The Message Bible: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

Susan I forwarded this message and printed copies for me to carry in my handbag.. Your message could not had more perfect it was God's will. My 2 "thorns" were just 5 ft away and ruining my day as I read your e-mail.. Thank you so much for your gift and your Eternity messages. I look forward to them everyday.