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Paul’s “thorn” – not our suffering for Christ

I used to hear this.

“I have this terrible problem but I know I am, like Saint Paul, to bear graciously as Paul did over his thorn in the flesh.”

There are several things wrong with this interpretation of the passage involving the thorn.

2 Corinthians 12:6-12 (NASB) 6 For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Can you lay claim to this passage

First, The persons who lay claim to this passage very often (1) do not know the Bible very well (2) have had no great special revelation (3) have not performed miracles, great or small (4) nor in danger of being exalted by their friends and contemporaries, rushing to them for healing and deliverance. Courts call this “standing at law” or justification for your position.

My suffering does not add to Jesus’ suffering

Second, Jesus paid it all. My suffering on my personal cross does not and cannot add to His work at Calvary. It does sound like I am saving myself by my works. There are some denominations which believe that you can pay for your sinful flesh by causing it pain. I think of the flagellants in the Philippines at Easter time marching through the streets at Easter, flogging themselves with whips. Nothing you can do to your physical body can substitute for the salvation of the body or the cleansing of the flesh. All false religion wants us to “do” something. We are called to believe and “be.” Much harder.

There are forms of bragging

Third, their claim not only does not make them humble, nor do they sound humble but it fact it sounds very much like bragging.

God has prlvided us with all we need

Fourth, Paul did not say he was stuck with this problem, whatever it was, until the bitter end. God told him that His Grace was available. Or, in other words, that He had provided for mankind everything they need as individuals and as groups to handle any problem.

God opened up the future

God was opening up to us, the future generations, the option of learning where all these solutions might be found. The 20th century became a major source of advancements in medicine, knowledge, language, culture and political understanding and freedom.  It also opened the options for vicious tyrants to take over nations. But the solution was always there whether it was Syria struggling against evil or Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine which change medicine across the globe. It was all the grace of God, but it was not for the 1st or 2nd centuries but for the heirs in future generations to come after Paul and his coworkers.

That is His message to us. No matter what problem you now have “in the flesh” – God has an answer somewhere. God gives revelation to those who seek Him with unmixed motives. That message goes way beyond any kind of thorn. You can look for yours!

It may well be at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

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