Paul’s thorn in the flesh has gone well beyond the Bible. Many use “thorn in the flesh” or “thorn in my side” to describe some constant irritant in their lives. Yet Paul’s thorn is unique to him. So we can learn about thorns in our lives from him. Yet we need to take care in applying everything from Paul’s thorns to our own.
Yesterday we learned 2 facts about Paul’s thorn. It was given to keep Paul from pride because of the great vision God gave. We also learned that God gave Paul this thorn. God, in his great wisdom, discerned that Paul needed this thorn for protection from deadly pride that might derail his life. Our thorns, by their nature, humble us. But they may not have been given by God to deal with some pride issue. Now let’s move on to more facts about Paul’s thorn.
Fact 3 – It was a thorn “in the flesh.” The flesh refers to the human body here. So Paul’s thorn could have been something that afflicted his body or mind. Or it could have been something that he experienced in his life. We can identify with both of these possibilities with our life thorns. We may have some health issue or physical limitation that constantly hinders us. We may have mental struggles that periodically show up. Or we may have some life issue that shows up regularly.
Fact 4 – it was a “messenger from Satan.” This could refer to some demonic oppression. It could point to a person or people who constantly opposed Paul and God. Yet it surely refers to something that met Satan’s approval. This means the thorn was bitter. It was not a good thing. We sometimes have to guard against trying to comfort people by saying “your thorn is good.” Cancer is not good. Mental health struggles are not good. Abuse is not good.
Rebellious children is not a good in God’s eyes. God can bring good out of the situation. This phrase reminds us of the bitterness of our thorns. Yet we can take some small comfort that through our thorns, Satan goads or pokes us, God remains sovereign over them. Satan does not have unlimited freedom to wage war against us.
Fact 5 – It constantly harassed Paul. The nature of Paul’s thorn and many of ours, includes regular harassment. Our thorns are not like sliver that poke us for a few minutes until we can get them out. They remain with us for long periods of time. They bother and hinder us. We may often wish that they were not part of our lives. This brings us to the next fact.
Fact 6 – Paul pleaded with the Lord 3 times for the Lord to remove the thorn. The Lord said no each time. That must have been tough for Paul. It’s tough for us when the Lord says no to an earnest plea from our hearts to remove some thorn. Yet the Lord did not coldly dismiss Paul or tell him to “shut up and put up.”
He responds, “My grace is sufficient for your for my power is made perfect in weakness.” More on this great promise next time.
“Lord, I pray today for everyone reading this and the thorns they bear (including my own). It is tough for us to understand why we must live with their constant harassment. Yet we thank you that you didn’t just shut Paul down or coldly ignore his pleas. We thank you that you know all about our thorns and have the power to bring good through them. So please sustain us with your ample grace and power.”