7To 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. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
For so many years, people have wondered about the actual nature of Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”. Some believe that it was an actual medical condition that was causing him great pain and discomfort— most like an eye problem or a serious case of gastric ulcer that he had acquired because of the intense pressures of missionary life. Some however believe that Paul was referring to certain weaknesses in his personal character — most likely a serious issue with his temper or self-control that often strained his relationships with people. Lastly, many believe that Paul’s thorn in the flesh were certain individuals in his life who were giving him a difficult time in his ministry — those who did not believe in his theology or those who openly opposed and criticized his teachings.
According to the scripture reading, Paul — out of pain and desperation— pleaded with God to remove his thorn— not once, not twice but three times. But instead of removing the thorn as pleaded by Paul, Jesus gives Paul a very strange reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” You see friends, just like Paul, it is but natural to seek quick solutions to our miseries and sufferings. Deep inside our hearts, we always want rapid-acting measures that will eliminate our inconveniences in the shortest possible time. Patience in is never an easy virtue to learn, especially when you are talking about a “thorn” that’s causing you a great deal of pain. But such is the lesson we learn from the Lord’s dealing with Paul. Even as Paul pleaded for the Lord to remove his thorn, Jesus led Paul to understand that the purpose for that thorn is more precious and powerful that Paul could ever understand. Why did the Lord choose not to remove the thorn, despite Paul’s pleading?
God was dealing with Paul’s pride.
7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh…. When this all happened, Apostle Paul was at the height of his popularity as a minister of Christ. His teachings were widely gaining ground and he was enjoying public attention for his uncompromising faith in Christ. Without Paul even realizing it, the spirit of pride was slowly making its way into his heart. To keep that pride from growing, the Lord allowed a circumstance to happen in order to keep Paul’s feet planted on the ground. Proverbs 16:18 reads, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Former heavy-weight boxer James (Quick) Tillis was a cowboy from a humble family in Oklahoma. Recalling his first visit to Chicago after being discovered for his boxing talents, he got off from the bus with two suitcases. He stopped in front of the Sears Tower in Chicago, put down his suitcases, looked up into the lofty tower and proudly said, “I’m going to conquer Chicago.” When he looked down, his two suitcases. You see, that’s what pride does. Pride distracts us from our true focus. Pride causes us to shift our heart from the things that matter most. Pride leads us to count our success even before we start fighting our real battles.
God was teaching Paul the sufficiency of God’s grace.
Instead of removing his thorn, Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The biblical definition of grace is “undeserved gift.” It is an “unmerited divine assistance given to individuals in a time of need.” The word that should really speak to our hearts today, however, is not just he word “grace” but the word “sufficient.” It means adequate, plenty, ample, more than what we need. Unfortunately, many people in our generation today do not understand the concept of sufficiency. The reason is because the world is always conditioning us to focus on what we lack. That is the whole point of every sound business or marketing strategy in the book— to create a need— to tap into the consumers’ sense of dissatisfaction. It’s getting more and more difficult for people today to be truly satisfied — to experience contentment, gratification and peace of mind. That is precisely the profound lesson Paul was being taught by God — that satisfaction is not just about being free from the thorns of life. Satisfaction is experiencing the sufficiency of God’s grace even in the midst of all our thorns. This awesome sense contentment, gratification and peace of mind. That is precisely the profound lesson Paul was being taught by God — that satisfaction is not just about being free from the thorns of life. Satisfaction is experiencing the sufficiency of God’s grace even in the midst of all our thorns. This awesome sense of satisfaction cannot be humanly fabricated. It comes only when we learn to trust the Lord unconditionally.
Friends, God has brought us all this far in our journey of life! Clearly, God has a purpose! He is accomplishing something glorious in each of us — and that he is determined to bring us all to that destiny. But you see, the journey to that destiny is not without cost on or part, less we deceive ourselves. The journey calls for endurance, tenacity, fortitude and spiritual focus that only thorns can produce. Let every thorn in our life therefore be a powerful reminder to us that God is at work in our lives — that we are not invincible — that we need to cry out for Christ’s help — and that it is only when we are weak, that we are truly strong.