Embracing the Thorns

I don’t really like operating from a position of weakness. There’s something about feeling like your in control . . . or engaged in something for which you believe you are competent . . . that allows you to keep both feet on the ground. I really try to avoid “getting in over my head” . . . and I can get really frustrated when I’m doing something — or something’s doing me — for which I really haven’t the knowledge or skill. Welcome to Paul’s world!

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  (2Cor. 12:7-8 NIV)

Paul was a pretty capable guy . . . well educated . . . pretty good thinker . . . hard worker . . . oh yeah, and He met Christ face to face, even spending time being groomed in heaven itself (2Cor. 12:2-4) . . . (what a trip that would have been). To say Paul had “all the tools” would be an understatement. But . . . and it’s a big “but” . . . he was constantly working from a position of weakness. Whatever that thorn in the flesh was, it was a tormenter — something Paul pleaded repeatedly for the Lord to remove from him. The NKJV translates it as a messenger of Satan sent to “buffet” him . . . literally “to strike with the fist, give one a blow with the fist; to maltreat, treat with violence and contumely.” Whatever it was, it was abusive . . . always trying to set Paul back on his heals . . . struggling to push Paul’s head underwater. And yet, apart from this passage, in what is Paul’s most personal letter in the New Testament, we’d never have guessed that, in addition to all the overt persecution that Paul suffered, he had to contend with this demon as well. How come?

But 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamites.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.   (2Cor. 12:9-10 NKJV)

We often glory in “amazing grace” that saves . . . but what of the “sufficient grace” that sustains?

Do we recognize that operating from a position of weakness is often exactly where God wants us in order “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2Cor. 4:7)?  I say that I want to know the filling and enabling and empowering of the Holy Spirit . . . maybe I need to more aware that you fill that which is empty . . . that you enable that which is disabled . . . that you empower that which is without power. Paul got it. He was no masochist . . . he pleaded for the henchman of Satan to be removed . . . but when God said, “No,” Paul looked to the grace and power of God to sustain and enable. He saw it as the opportunity for God to increase and for Paul to decrease as the power in Paul’s life was clearly of the Lord . . . that it was from Him whom the man desired to magnify and not from the man himself.

Honestly, I’m not looking to get any “weaker” than I am . . . sufficient is the frailty of this man for God to manifest His power. But perhaps I need to embrace my “thorns in the flesh” more as they afford God’s strength to be made perfect in my weakness . . . that His amazing grace which saved me might also be seen as the sufficient grace which sustains me . . . that the power of Christ may rest on me . . . for when I am weak . . . then I am strong . . . and God get’s the glory.


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