Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Our Friend, the Thorn"

     "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).

    We do not know the nature of the Apostle Paul's thorn.  I suspect this relates to the fact that all believers will face some persistent challenge, as did Paul, but of different modes and measures that accord with God's personal purposes in our lives.  What constituted the thorn therefore does not matter (as evidenced by the fact that God does not tell us).  The salient point rather involves the administrations of God's grace Paul could not have known without the prick and its pain. 

    Two things we know for certain about thorns.  First, they hurt.  Be they physical or emotional, they hurt.  Moreover, they protect their bearer from outside influences that would do it harm.  For the trusting, committed believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, continuing pain such as the Apostle experienced leads to consistent approaches to our Heavenly Father.  "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto Thee, into Thine holy temple" (Jonah 2:7).  At the Lord's throne, Paul received not the extraction of the thorn, but the assurance of God's undeserved and unexpected favor (the definition of grace).  Our brother of old was given provision for the heart that made the enduring of his thorn possible, actual, and abundant.  "As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:36-37).

    Paul also experienced protection by the presence of the thorn.  The Satan who originated sin by proudful self affirmation - "I will be like the Most High" - doubtless sought to infect the Apostle  with the same pride (Isaiah 14:14).  The thorn helped to keep Paul from such temptation, and also enabled him to overcome it when challenged.  The same will be true in our lives.  "Why is this happening to me?"  Sometimes the answer is the same as our  brother discovered: "Lest I be exalted above measure..."

    If our Father will not remove our thorn, whatever its nature, we can be sure He offers to us the grace that constitutes us as "more than conquerors."  We must receive such grace by faith, of course, frequently treading the path to God's throne that still bears the footprints of Paul.  Doubtless, our brother would tell us that the grace he received far transcended the mere removal of a painful condition, circumstance, or situation.  The same will be true in our lives as we trust the Lord.  The thorn bears the continual message of our need for grace, and of the place of humility whereby we walk in the truth of who God is, and who we are.  Thus, we must view our personal challenge, whatever its nature and measure, in different terms than our normal inclinations foster.  Yes, the thorn blesses us as God's faithful messenger and protector.  It is our friend.

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes."
(Psalm 119:67)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
(II Corinthians 5:1)

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