Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What Is Your Thorn in the Flesh?

Readings for the Day
1 Samuel 13, 1 Chronicles 2-3, 2 Corinthians 12

Verses of the Day
in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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. 10 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.

As Paul continues to answer his critics, who have slipped into the Corinthian church to undermine his ministry, he recounts an amazing experience he had. Paul speaks in the third person ("I know a man"), but he is clearly speaking about his own revelation. He says he was caught up into the third heaven and saw things he was not permitted to tell. Again he is saying if anyone had reason to speak about their religious pedigree and spiritual experiences, he could "one up" them if he wanted to. But he was not going to do that. He was not going to brag.

But if he was going to brag he would rather brag about his weaknesses. Notice he says "weaknesses" in the plural. Paul was well aware of his shortcomings and never tried to cover them up, because they show off God's grace. Then he tells the story about the "thorn in his flesh". Apparently there was something in Paul's life that was causing him much grief, and possibly even temptation. Some think it was an illness, but usually "flesh" means some aspect of our sinful nature. So I think it was a sin in his life that kept plaguing him despite his asking God to get rid of it.

But then he realizes that God allowed this thorn to stay in his life because it kept him humble. It kept him reliant on God's grace on a daily basis. It reminded him that it was not about his strengths or spiritual pedigree that made him great, but only God's grace and strength. You could say this thorn in the flesh reminded him, "it is not all about me!" It also shows that our true power comes from God and is a gift. So true power is realizing that God has the power and you don't.

What is your thorn in the flesh? What is it that God allows in your life that helps you to rely completely on God's grace? Although it may cause you a lot of grief dealing with it, it can lead you to a deeper sense of reliance on God versus self. It will continually remind you that your true strengths can be shown where you are naturally weak. And it shows the world more clearly where your strength comes from.

Jesus, thank you that you give us strength even in our weaknesses. Help us to surrender them to you, so that we will more clearly see your power and grace working through us and show the world that you are the source of our strength. Amen.

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