The Voice of the Thorn

“If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:6-9 NLT

Do you feel weak?  If so, you are in good company.  Paul boasted in his weaknesses when others belittled him for them.  Paul came to realize that being weak is a good thing and the way he learned that was from the voice of the thorn.

Paul said he received wonderful revelations from God. He even said he went to heaven and heard things that man is not permitted to speak.  God entrusted Paul with the job of writing the majority of the New Testament.  It would be very easy with that kind of revelation to become proud.  In fact, I’m sure that Satan was actively working on Paul to try to make him proud and boastful.  Why?  Because that would render him ineffective for the mission of spreading the gospel.

Paul said “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”  Who do you suppose gave that messenger to him?  It was a very bad thing given for a very good reason.  I think this is just one of the many ways that God works in our lives for our good.

At first, Paul didn’t think it was good.  He asked the Lord to take it away from him.  Three times… he begged Jesus to take it away.  Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  One thing I am learning as a brand new pastor is that people are hurting.  People share their struggles with their pastor in a way that they don’t typically share with other people.

Paul never said exactly what the thorn was.  There is a lot of speculation that it might have been a physical, emotional or even spiritual ailment.  Whatever the case, I think the Lord prevented him from saying what it was.  I believe that everything in scripture is there for a reason and in the same way things that are left out are left out for a reason.  As an author I try to carefully craft what I write and I think that Paul did as well.  Why did God not let Paul include what his thorn was?  Perhaps he wanted us to not get stuck in the specifics.  Maybe he wanted all of us to catch the principle.  What is the principle?  “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

My Grace Is All You Need

Are you hurting because of something you don’t have?

  • You don’t have a job
  • You don’t have money
  • You don’t have a spouse
  • You don’t have your health

What do you suppose Jesus would say to you?  I think he would say “My grace is all that you need.”  There is something about the grace of Jesus that can fill every hole in your heart, life and soul.  It is truly all that you need.  You may be struggling with that idea.  When the hurt is great it is hard to feel it but I think that the greater our hurt the greater our desperation.  The more desperate we are the more likely we are to go to extremes.  You can turn your desperation into desperately evil acts or you can turn it into desperation for the grace that only Jesus gives.

My Power Works Best in Weakness

We like our preachers strong.  We like them with strong voices and strong arms.  We want them to be good looking and tall.  Our culture is obsessed with strength and beauty.  Saul, the first king of Israel was a head taller than any other man.  He was all those things but in the end he failed terribly as king of Israel.  Why?  Because God’s power works best in weakness.

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT

Few of us were wise, powerful or wealthy.  We weren’t the “A” team and yet God chose us.  He chose the things that are powerless.

  • He chose a group of slaves in the land of Egypt to go to a promised land.
  • He chose fishermen, tax collectors and zealots to be his disciples.
  • He chose a proud Pharisee to be knocked off his horse to become a missionary to the gentiles
  • He chose you and me

The next time you feel weak and powerless remember this.  “God chose things despised by the world.” Why?  So that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

May you boast in your weaknesses and in infirmities.  You can boast in the Lord because his power works best in weak people.

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