The Thorn In The Flesh
November 15, 2021
Today we are going to talk about something we all deal with… the thorn in the flesh. Some have many thorns so to speak, but all have at least one. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes his thorn and answers any questions as to the purposed “why” this thorn is a blessing and not a curse. With understanding comes clarity and with clarity we can rest and trust in the Lord that all things are purposed and planned according to His will. When we have faith to believe He has us and uses everything for our good we will embrace, rather than fight against everything which comes our way… Including thorns, which not only remind us we still have that flesh nature to overcome by the Spirit, but also teaches us the importance of letting go and letting God, but the truth that humility if of high value in His Kingdom.
So today, in keeping with New Creature habits… we are going to explore the true nature of the thorn in our flesh and the value it brings to our Spiritual life. One might be prone to think, if I am a new creature why would I even have to deal with something painful like a thorn – Paul answers that question too, by reminding us, the purpose in remaining humble and not prideful so the Lord granted the presence of the thorn to insure we not get swept away in thinking we are better off spiritually than another. Thorns keep us on a level playing field with others and keeps compassion locked in to our daily walks so we are moved to comfort others.
Let’s read what Paul wrote in the Word so we have more understanding in truth, not hearsay or opinions of man.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to [b]buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We can place ourselves in this Scripture very easily… Just in case due to the abundance we receive from the Lord, it is possible anyone of us could be exalted above the measurement of Jesus in us and begin to place self mixed in with the Gospel and start to lean upon our own understanding of Spiritual things. In order that doesn’t not happen and we get swept away with vain imaginations/thoughts…
A thorn in the flesh was given to me (he presents it like a gift, doesn’t he?) – What is a thorn? In Greek, thorn here means a splinter to pierce ones flesh, an infirmity or bodily ailment as a reminder that no matter how spiritual someone is, they are still in a mortal body and a fragile human.
Paul compares this thorn to a messenger who is an adversary (one who opposes him) to buffet (strike with the fist and treat with violence) him so he is not exalted above measure (be haughty or treat others like they are less than, spiritual pride).
Paul pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave him… (no resisting of this enemy would cause it to flee – it had been granted permission by the Lord to remain, to keep Paul from falling into the pit of pride)
This is what Jesus said to Paul about thorns – My grace (lovingkindness/favor) is sufficient to get you through it and when you are weak my strength is made perfect in and through you. Its almost as if He keeps us broken and weak at times so we lean upon Him and not ourselves quite often.
Paul’s rejoice was… to boast about his infirmities (something that could potentially corrupt our flesh – but we will talk more about that in a minute) so that the power of Jesus would rest on him.
Infirmity – Is a weakness, disease, sickness which reveals the feeble frailness in our mortal bodies – but what is so interesting is, in the Greek, it also describes the soul and being sick in it – to be found wanting, having corrupt desires and bear trials and troubles… It reminds me of the Scripture that says I would that you prosper (be whole) as your soul prospers and how each time Jesus healed, he told them their faith in Him made them whole and to go and sin no more.
Paul is teaching us here how purposeful for the glory of the Lord it is to have such infirmities so the power of Jesus rests upon us by demonstration on how we overcome all things, no matter what as an encouragement to others. When we are inflicted, it is a mighty demonstration of Jesus, not when we seek to be delivered from the trial, but He is Who we rely on during it, then our faith grows as an encouragement to others. Can we praise Him in the storm or only on the good days?
Verse 10 helps us to see more clearly exactly how a thorn presents itself to us and inflicts actual pain in our flesh and souls, reminding us just because it comes, it may be permitted to remain, but so does Jesus and we can lean upon Him during our trials and tribulations – because when we are weak and we need to see just how weak and fragile we truly are at times in order we see He alone is the strong one, not us, but Him. I can see why not many – not all – but many boasters and braggers in the church body, remain in a constant state of affliction… it makes perfect sense now doesn’t it?
So real quick, let’s define the afflictions which come as thorns again:
Infirmities – a weakness in the body such as a feebleness of health or sickness or a soul who is in need of strength to understand something, to rely on Jesus to restrain from corrupt desires and bear troubles and trials in that your soul does great things and is glorious.
Reproaches – to suffer being harmed by the pride of another, to be wronged or suffer hurt, insult or have a mental injury caused by violence done towards you.
Necessities – when in need due to circumstances, by the laws in place bringing calamity or distress or when taken advantage of by being put in constraints.
Persecutions – to be made to flee when being pursued in a hostile manner, to suffer mistreatment by one who seeks to cause harm or entrap you.
Distresses – to be positioned in a place of anguish, to find yourself in a narrow place due to extreme calamity or affliction.
So like I said, none is above the affliction of thorns… And when we face the fear of just how purposed they are to keep us in a place of humility, surrendered to the Lord and reliant on only Him and not ourselves… All anxiety is settled in our hearts. He is the Prince of Peace which rules within us in our times of need, when we can’t seem to find our own peace, His peace moves us beyond reasonable human understanding.
These thorns also equip us for the dying to the flesh daily… they destroy the strongholds the flesh has over us and teach us what adversities may come – Jesus has us in the palm of His hands… to walk with us through the purifying fire, not always deliver us from it. I will say, once we stop asking for the thorn to be removed, it is then we can take the first step in learning to overcome that thorn in Him.
In the last verse – verse 11 it says –
I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
We see here the true reflection of our broken state in these mortal bodies… to be glorifying about ourselves in anyway is foolish. Paul said it best… I am nothing – What he was saying here is – anything we do that is good and holy and full of light is only when we are hidden in Christ. Any good within me or you is HIM. And just in case we forget… here comes that thorn to irritate and remind us, a part from Jesus within our own wills and strength, we can and should do nothing.
So as I was ponder with the Lord… He began to show me… if I boasted a little less, and I thought a little less about myself than I ought to and I surrendered a lot more to Him, giving Him alone glory – then possibly, quite possibly the thorns would diminish or at the very least not irritate as often. That if I sought to remain in a constant place of humility, the thorn may be present on the outside looking in – but I would be untouchable by it… So I started to think about the times in my life where severe thorns were piercing not only my flesh and my soul and I realized they usually came when I was at my height of glory, or based in works, or being Martha instead of Mary and He would lay me out flat… there have been times He has even silenced my mouth… So considering all that – He pressed upon me to be more in tune with Him and the Spirit and to rely on HIM first before He asks me to via a thorn, to be obedient, meek and humble and I began to realize – the thorn was sent because Paul needed it – but it is possible to get so low with Jesus we are truly hidden within Him, no longer requiring the afflictions of the flesh and soul for the pressing of surrender. It is not the thorn needs to change, but I do. Thorns do what they do – but with us… He is molding us into the image of His Son Jesus, which requires all the fruits of the Spirit to manifest to override our wills… I think He is telling us to stop waiting and watching for Him to change others – and say, change me Lord because it is in my weakness You are made strong and since You are strong, in You so am I. I realize now, I only get weary and tired when I am operating out of self and not heeding to His commands or to even rest occasionally, to refresh and rejuvenate spirit, soul and body.
Jesus would often go up alone into the mountain to rest and commune with the Father. Before He went to the cross during His fasting and prayer time – He was so shaken He sweat blood and there was a time an angel came to touch Him and strengthen Him because His flesh was so weak.
Again, we are to follow in His footsteps… Do we really think we can go and go without rest from all things and not be brought low, if even Jesus needed to withdraw occasionally? This explains more about thorns being used to purposefully show just how frail we truly are, whether we realize it or not.
Thank You Jesus for pointing out our frailties so that we remain humbled by Your majesty, knowing without You we should be doing nothing. Thank You for keeping us on the straight and narrow path of humility, no matter what it takes – you make our election as Your child sure. Amen.
💕love in Jesus ~ Angela