Responding to the Voice of the Thorn


What if you have a thorn?  What if it is speaking to you?

Do thorns have a voice?  Ever get a thorn stuck in your sock?  It has a voice… trust me.  Paul had a thorn and he learned how to respond to it.

“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.”
2 Corinthians 11:30 NLT

Paul says a very curious thing here.  He said he wants to boast about the things that show how weak he was.  Huh?  Who boasts about that?

When I was a skinny teenager I was very weak.  I did my best to hide this, but I dreaded gym class.  It was the one class where I couldn’t hide my weakness.  Whenever we tested for push-ups it was a very traumatic experience for me.  The other boys would talk about how many push-ups they could do.  I stood by the side and did my best to hide.  When I was in ninth grade, me and another overweight kid waited as the others took their turn.  One by one they did fifteen or twenty push-ups and then left to go play basketball with the other boys.  Finally we were the only two left.  The overweight kid went first.  He struggled but he finally did one push-up.  I thought “Good I can beat that.”  When it was my turn I tried and tried but I couldn’t even do one. I was devastated. I was so weak and for a ninth grade boy it felt like the end of the world.

Can you imagine me running around my school boasting in my weakness?  “Yeah – I did ZERO push-ups!”

“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,”
2 Corinthians 12:6 NLT

When we start boasting about things we are constructing an idol.  We construct an idol out of lies and boasting and we bow down to it in self-worship.  We raise up our idol before others and ask them to worship it as well.

Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
Exodus 32:4 NLT

Why do you suppose God commanded that we not make an idol?  I think the reason is that anything that you or I could create would fall short of God’s glory.  Instead of worshiping God who dwells in unapproachable light we would settle for something that doesn’t even come close.

The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.
Exodus 32:6 NLT

If you worship anything other than the living God.  If you create an idol out of anything, even yourself through boasting, your worship will devolve into something very ugly.  The Hebrew word ṣāḥaq, translated above as “indulged in pagan revelry”, indicates that sexual immorality was a part of their worship.

How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live!
Exodus 32:8a NLT

Genuine worship of the Living God brings us closer to Him.  His Holy Spirit leads us to a life that is increasingly purified as we learn more and more to walk in the Spirit.  When we craft an idol and worship it we turn away.  As John Piper says, our favorite idol is the one in the mirror.

How will you respond to your weaknesses?  Paul learned to boast in them.

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