"With the Thorn"
Our present lives in a fallen world most often involve the overcoming of challenges, as opposed to their elimination. Certainly the Lord may sometimes deliver us by extricating us from difficulty. "This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:6). Frequently, however, our Heavenly Father allows our challenges to remain, at least for a season, in order to reveal a far greater measure of His ability to redeem us. "My grace is sufficient for thee" declared the Lord to the Apostle Paul when He determined to leave the thorn, but add the Rose of Sharon (II Corinthians 12:9; Song of Solomon 2:1). Indeed, when God delivers us from a problem, He acts upon circumstances, situations, and conditions. When He delivers us in the problem, He must work upon our hearts.
Sympathy might certainly have led the Lord to pluck Paul's thorn. Wisdom allowed it to remain. God graced the Apostle with opportunity to know the presence of His heart as opposed to the power of His hand. It doubtless did not feel like opportunity, which motivated Paul to thrice seek his Father's administration of efficient grace. "Get me out of this, Lord!" The Lord responded with His promise for sufficient grace. "I will be with you in this, Paul." Such response humbled Paul, and thus fulfilled the reason for his thorn. "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh" (II Corinthians 12:7). God deemed Paul's heart, life, and ministry as too valuable to be felled by pride. Thus, sufficient grace rather than efficient grace led the Lord's hand not to pluck the thorn, but to provide Himself with the thorn.
Efficient grace is a glorious thing. When God answers prayer by saving us from our troubles, we rightly rejoice in the power of His hand. Sufficient grace nevertheless unveils an even more glorious wonder of our Lord's ability to rescue us. Such working provides opportunity to know the presence of His heart as the thorn remains, or more to the point, because the thorn remains. This makes possible a "peace, which passeth all understanding" and a "joy unspeakable, and full of glory" (Philippians 4:7; I Peter 1:8). If Paul could presently speak to us, he would doubtless confess the challenge of having known God's grace with the thorn. But he would also tell us that he discovered peace and joy he would never have known without the thorn as God kept His servant in the proper place of humility. We will one day know the same. May it be this day as we rejoice when God plucks our thorns, and by faith rejoice no less when He doesn't.
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
Weekly Memory Verse
"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple."