Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Gift of the Thorn and the Gift of Grace

The theme God has been teaching around me lately has been grace. I was recently looking over 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 which says, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord for Him 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.' Therefore, I will boast the more gladly about my weaknesses, so Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake , I delight in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong."

Some of you may know of my recent "thorn in the flesh." For the past month or so, I have dealt with small pieces of bones jutting out of the back of my gums. It has been annoyingly painful to say the least. Yet, this had me thinking about Paul's thorn. Many scholars and laymen alike have debated about what his thorn was exactly. Some have suggested poor eyesight, migraines, or epilepsy. Others think it could have been a temptation he continually struggled with. No matter the case, people have spent many hours on the subject. As I was looking at the theories, I began to think how typical it was for us as humans to focus our attention on the thorn rather than on grace. Yet, God had a lot to teach me about this passage.

In order to prevent Paul from becoming too arrogant in his ministry, God allowed something to be given to him. This was not something that Paul actively did or deserved, but he passively received it. I can imagine what Paul was going through. Previously, he discussed the ministry the revelation he had received. Now, he is the recipient of some troublesome circumstance that has somehow affected his ministry. It was of great turmoil to him, so much so, to the point of petitioning to God three times to take it away from him. His frequency represents the fervency of his request to God. However, God's response to him is that His grace is enough. This all sufficient grace is also a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). So here, Paul has been gifted with a thorn in order to keep him humble, yet also gifted with the grace to endure and overcome the thorn. The reason is further explained when God says, "my power is made perfect in weakness." The thorn reminds us that we cannot do it on our own, but grace reminds us that we do not have to and that through God's power, we can accomplish anything. Paul's response to this revelation is that he will boast more so that he might experience more of Christ's power, indicating that he would experience more of the humbling gifts of the thorn in order to receive the gift of the grace and power of Christ.

I cannot tell you how many times I sit and dwell on the "thorns of the flesh", rather than acknowledging that God's grace is enough. I see the thorns as a curse rather than as a blessing and I often resent God rather than praising Him for the opportunity to show His power through my weakness. Yet, when we look back at how good God's grace, His favorable care towards us, is it makes the thorn seem like nothing more than a small splinter in the grand scheme of His plans for our lives.

I do not know what your thorn is right now, but I would challenge you to look at it as a way for God to display the power of Christ in your life. Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, handle the good times well. It is how you handle difficulties that will show the world the difference Christ has made in your life because when you are weak, He is strong. I pray that the Lord will give you the strength to persevere in whatever thorn you may be facing, whether it is a circumstance, health concern, a family issue, persecution, bullying, or a temptation. I pray that the power of Christ and the grace of God will be enough for you to joyfully conquer each day.

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