2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12 has Paul again focused on being humble and an instrument in God’s hands.  The story is not about him, but the One whom he serves.  Paul has been given insight into God’s Word and His plans and had plenty of reasons to think he himself was the real deal.  But he doesn’t go there.  He keeps his life in perspective to the God he serves. Paul was not immune to the danger of pride.  No one is. “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited”.

Paul is clear that he’s got a thorn that is keeping him from a simple and painfree life.  The root word Paul uses for thorn here describes a tent stake, not a thumbtack.  This wasn’t a simple little inconvenience.  It was a major distraction and Paul wants it gone.  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me”.  Paul prays and asks God to set him free from the thorn that was afflicting him.  Paul did exactly what he told others to do in a time of trouble.  To ask God to set him free.  Does God answer his prayer?  Not exactly the way he would have liked.

God in fact leaves the thorn but provides the means to live with it.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.  God doesn’t rush to set Paul free from his ‘thorn’. When he suffered, his first instinct was to ask God to take it away. We don’t know what the thorn is. Some think it a physical ailment like an earache or headache, some a spiritual affliction like lust or some other sinful pattern, and others a disease like malaria.  The wildest thing I read was that the thorn was his wife or a family member.  But Paul accepts God’s answer to prayer even though it is not what he wants.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Paul accepts the life God has given him, knowing that it allows God to be strong through him.  And even though content with his place, he knows it may not be over. He has to address the thorns in those he is ministering too. “I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced”.  Sin has to be addressed, even if the sinner and those around him don’t see their sin.  Paul knows it is part of God’s call on his ministry.

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