Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Thorn and the Delay

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, "My grace is sufficient for thee (II Corinthians 12:7-9).

"Therefore His sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick... when He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where he was" (John 11:2-4; 6).

The Apostle Paul desired and prayed for removal of the thorn and the pain it caused. In His loving wisdom, God instead gave to Paul the grace of His unexpected and unmerited favor (the meaning of the Biblical word "grace").

The Lord Jesus Christ allowed Lazarus to die, delaying his arrival at the sad scene of His friend until a miracle not of healing, but of resurrection could be performed.

Our Heavenly Father often works in our lives to reveal the greater wonders of grace and resurrection. We have prayed and sent messengers, as it were, but no Divine aid seems forthcoming. We hurt, and our natural reasoning tells us that a thorn removed and a sickness cured would surely be the best supply for our need. Instead, if we could audibly hear the voice of God, "My grace is sufficient for thee" would ring in our ears. If we could understand our Lord's delay, our hearts would rejoice in the coming resurrection that infinitely surpasses the lesser miracle of healing.

It doesn't feel that we are being unexpectedly and undeservedly favored when our thorn remains. Resurrections to come may seem far away when our particular Lazarus is gravely ill. Nevertheless, in our present existence, the fragrance and beauty of the Rose of Sharon are often best experienced when the blood of its accompanying thorn streams from our pierced hearts. And waiting for our Lazarus to "rise again" necessitates the faith that causes the born again believer to be truly and vibrantly alive in a measure that only patient trusting of God can foster. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17).

Had Paul's thorn been removed, his story would not reach through the centuries to honor the grace of the Lord Jesus. Had Lazarus been healed, the pages of Scripture would not bear the wondrous account of a man raised from the dead. What will our Christ-exalting testimony be in times to come because our thorn remains, and our Lord delays His coming in order to reveal the surpassing glory of He who declared, "I am the resurrection?" (John 11:25). We will likely only know in eternity. However, of this we can be sure: if Paul and Lazarus could speak to us, they would proclaim that the thorn and the delay are prelude to joys known only by those honored to walk the path paved by our Savior Himself...

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."
(II Corinthians 4:8-11).

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