Thorns of Life

 

Thorns in Life

2 Corinthians 12:8–10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord 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 all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That 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.

God’s Grace is enough for you today and every day. Let me say it again, God’s Grace is enough, sufficient, complete and intended for you today and every day. Why does God require weakness to manifest His Power and Strength in us? Why must Christians endure hardships in order to be saved? The Word of God in no uncertain terms tells us that one who endures or stands firm to the end will be saved. Jesus was warning His Disciples of the days to come and left encouragement for those who live for Him long after these men were gone.

To better answer our question, why do roses have thorns? In God’s Design could it be that the thorns protect the fruitful production of beautiful yet delicate roses. The aroma of fragrance given off by the rose could very well please God so much that He places thorns along the stems to give it solitude and protection as it grows. God allows thorns in our life, too. Paul asked the Lord repeatedly to remove “the thorn in his flesh” but God didn’t do it. Why? What is the purpose? To make us uncomfortable. To bring about change. To increase productivity. To manifest growth. All these things are true. Yet in the midst of the pain of the thorn and pressure of the messenger – His Grace is enough for me.

When I am weak, then I am strong. Our flesh hates this statement. It balks at it. Finds ways around it. Works to avoid it in every way. Weakness is submission. It is surrendering fully to the Lord before we overcome and see victory. When a believer takes God at His Word, and peacefully, prayerfully and full of praise chooses to keep walking in God’s Power rather than relying on human strength. Lord make me strong in you today. Help me to apply Your Word to my life. May Your Will be done in my family, church, and life.

2 Corinthians12:8-10 was the scripture that God gave me in response to my petition following our son’s third cancer diagnosis. At first, I thought I had grabbed it rather than the Lord sharing it because of the “third” thing. God has jokes. He finds ways to keep me guessing, entertained and intrigued enough to pursue Him daily. When the doctor shared the gravity of his condition and the invasion of cancer which was much worse and widespread than before, I literally fell to my knees and said, “God, I cannot do this anymore.” Well, His Response to me in prayer the next day was this verse. I loathed it at first. Where is the hope in “my power is made perfect in weakness”? It doesn’t say anywhere that the Lord ever took this “thorn” from him. God’s Grace was not only enough for that round of cancer but two more before our son was healed.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible was written by Matthew Henry who was a “nonconformist” of the Puritan church in England. This body of believers was considered the “free church” because it did not conform to the states mandate on uniformity of religion. They were church rebels like the early believers. I use Mr. Henry’s commentary many times when I study God’s Word. When I read his thoughts on this familiar passage, I couldn’t read it, digest it, or note it quickly enough. I will share some of his thoughts with you today.

2 Corinthians 12:1-5 (NIV) I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

Saul was the Pharisee who met Jesus on the Road to Damascus – no doubt to slaughter more Christians. Saul thought he was on a mission from God. He believed that he was honoring God in his actions. When the Lord spoke to Saul, he was stricken with blindness. Maybe it is during this time that he saw visions of the third heaven also known as paradise, heaven of the blessed and the place where God manifests His Greatest Glory. This is when Saul became Paul through the saving knowledge found in repentance. Saul turned into Paul. The Pharisee turned into an apostle. I wonder how many Pharisees are hidden in today’s churches believing they are doing God’s Will but headed toward a Damascus-moment when Jesus reveals the truth to them.

Though Paul received these revelations and had this experience 14 years before – he chose not to share it. Paul kept it to himself. These images and inexpressible words shared by the Lord to this man where not public knowledge until this passage. Why? I think Paul believed that revelations from God should be tested by time and God’s Word, protected in our heart until just the right time. We talk too much. The church as a whole is a big chatterbox not talking about the relevant but constantly debating things that really don’t matter. What if we stopped talking and began to savor God’s Insight, Words and Revelations before making them public fodder? Could it be that our loose lips are sinking the ships?

“It is an excellent thing to have a lowly spirit in the midst of high advancements and those abase individuals shall be exalted.” – Matthew Henry. Lowly means humble. Abase means to lower or humble also. Humility is important to God and the standard of elevation in Heaven. Spiritual growth is not upward but downward. The more of our life humbled to the Lord identified in our weakness can be infused with His Power and Strength. One might call Paul a super apostle. Did you know that you are an apostle? One who is sent to share the message of Jesus Christ to the world? You are. I am, too. To share Christ and our experiences as believers humbly will always be identified by those who use the world “we” not “you”. We all fall short of God’s Glory on a daily basis. No one is perfect. Not a single one.

2 Corinthians 12:6-7 (NIV) Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

***Spoiler Alert*** Salvation does not exempt us from thorns in life. Trials and temptations will come. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1) We will experience thorns in life. Things that bring pressure and pain. Some will be easily removed and others will linger but stay tuned this is good news much better than it sounds. Jesus wore a crown filled with thorns. Perhaps this was a message to us that He bore these weaknesses of ours on the Cross. The enemy meant this for the Lord’s humiliation. But God had different plans that in His Submission to God’s Power just three days later Jesus would emerge from the grave victorious over death which is the hope we live for. Did you see it was “three days”? Jesus prayed to God in Gethsemane – three times yet still made His Way to the Cross. “Father your will not my will.”

The messenger of satan could use some discussion. Every time we mess up – the devil does not deserve the glory. When we make a bad choice – he didn’t make you do it. We are free to choose and we make that choice. There are two distinctly different voices that we must discern. There is demonic influence and then there is fleshly influence. They are different. Demonic influence was exhibited in the wilderness when Jesus was tempted by the enemy. However, many times it is our flesh acting up rather than the enemy to avoid crucifixion. Romans 7:15-25 is a transparent commentary by the apostle of his struggle with sin and his flesh. “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” The enemy has ill-intentions for us. He seeks to “steal, kill and destroy” us. (John 10:10) But God uses these challenges both external and internal with a purpose. He uses every detail of our life for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) God uses these “thorns” and “messengers” to reveal just how weak we are so that His Power can be manifested in this revelation.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord 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 all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 

“Prayer is the salve to every sore, a remedy for every malady, and when we are afflicted with thorns in the flesh, we should give ourselves to prayer.” – Matthew Henry Trials and temptations lead us to pray and seek the Face of God. When our life is contrary to His Word and His Way, we seek answers to our questions from the source of life. The thorns in life should lead us to prayer, teach us to pray, and guides to continue in instant prayer even if we find relief. We learn to persistently pray through pain and pressure in life. The very things that force us out of the way make room for more of God’s Grace and Glory in our life. There will be one of two outcomes when we pursue God through prayer. The Lord will change us or our situation. I find the first to be the prevailing factor.

What do we do when the thorn is not removed? Grace in our life signifies two things. The good will of God and the good work of Christ. Grace is the good will of God is enough to enlighten (give us wisdom or discernment) or enliven us (with power and strength as to renew and revive) us as the Lord proves the sufficiency to strengthen and comfort us in All afflictions and distresses. God’s Will is His Word active in our life no matter our current conditions. It is His Word, His Promise that we hold on to.

Grace is the good work of Christ in us is that allows His Fullness which is full of authority and power. Jesus gives us grace that is suitable and seasonable and sufficient in all things. “Jesus knows us, knows our need, and will proportionate the remedy to our malady, and not only strengthen us but GLORIFY HIMSELF. Nothing I can do will ever match or exceed what Jesus Christ is working in me and through me. He gives me grace to survive this change.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV) That 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.

“The Christian paradox – when we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – when we see ourselves weak in our ourselves, then we go out of ourselves to Christ and are qualified to receive the strength from Him and experience most of the supplies of divine strength and grace.”

Jesus Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Weakness is not just a physical state, but mental, emotional and spiritual one. Pride lies to us and robs us of the power that God’s Grace is ready to administer in our life. We cannot grow spiritually when prides refuses to bow down to Jesus. Pride makes it into the church in the hearts that refuse to accept God’s Grace. To never admit our weakness, pain, trials and temptations is to send the message that God’s Grace is not needed and not enough. I need the Grace of God every day. I fall short every day. Through the illness of our son over three long years, yes three, God changed me. It started with a completely broken heart. I had allowed pride to overcome my spiritual growth. Not knowingly and unwillingly. It changed me completely. I am weak. Any strength that eeks its way out of me is Christ in me. I promise. I am nothing without Him.

“God gives us grace sufficient for us, we haven’t reason to complain, nor to say that He deals ill by us. It is a great comfort to us, whatever thorns we are pained with that God’s Grace is enough.” Matthew Henry

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