Verse 7: Thorny Gifts. One of the most important things about verse 7 (to me) is the fact that the thorn was given to Him. It actually reminded me of the blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago (click here if you missed it) because God allowed the thorn. I’ll even take the bold route & say that God gave Paul the thorn, which is major in so many ways. First, it shows us that God does give thorns. We don’t talk too much about thorns. Thorns aren’t pretty; they’re the things that keep us from being perfect. Thorns are the weights that are a little harder than usual to get rid of. We love to talk about the good things that God gives us. We love to ‘pull down’ our peace, joy, and love, or spin around for our turnarounds when the preacher says to do so on Sunday morning. We love to talk about all the marvelous things God has done through us or in our lives, and that’s all great….fantastic….but when was the last time you thanked God for giving you your thorn(s)?
Actually, do you even know what your thorn is? I know you’ve got one. Everybody’s got one, which is actually the second major piece of verse 7 (look at that). See, Paul was a pretty big deal back in the day (so big of a deal that we’re talking about him centuries later). He was a major preacher. Everybody (well, a lot of people) wanted a piece of Paul. He was the guest preacher that went around telling people about themselves, and telling lost souls that Jesus yet lives….and he had a thorn. If anybody would’ve been excused from thorns in Paul’s time, I would think it would’ve been Paul. He’d already lived quite a life at this point. You’d think he’d been through enough. Yet, God gave him a thorn. Everybody, from the bishop to the person that hasn’t been in a church a day in their lives, has a thorn. This is why we shouldn’t put our hope in people (they’re just as thorny as you are), but we should put our hope in Christ. He took thorns in His head to be able to handle (and redeem) the ones in our sides.
Why does God give us thorns? Thorns give life to humility. The Message Bible calls Paul’s thorn the “gift of a handicap” that kept him in touch with his limitations. Paul’s thorns, like ours, essentially served as a consistent “say, you aren’t as magnificent as you may appear to be.” It’s a constant reminder that God works through us, not of us. God gives us thorns so that we never forget to give Him the glory.
Verse 8: Keep Pushing. Paul asked God to remove his thorn 3 times. Three….times. This tells me that God was silent on this matter for the first 2 times. Yet, he kept pushing God until he got a response. What do you do when God gets quiet? What do you do when you ask God to stop the storm…and it gets worse? What do you do when you ask for provision…and run out of resources? Do you keep asking? Or do you just assume that He doesn’t care? To keep asking God for anything, especially when He doesn’t answer you, requires faith. You have to have faith because you have to maintain the belief that He is yet able. You have to maintain the belief that He is yet there. You have to maintain the belief that He does still care. It takes a lot of work to believe in a God that you can’t see; it takes more work when life says that God is ignoring you. Yet, through all of the pain, and all of the temptation, and all of the silence, Paul kept pushing. He kept believing God. Paul kept trusting Him. Paul kept asking God for relief, and I believe that God wants us to do the same. How can we do that? Oh I’m so excited that you asked!!!
Verse 9 (my personal fave): Sufficient Grace, Supernatural Strength. So by this point, we’ve established that Paul has a thorn, it sucks, and that Paul asked for relief 3 times to no avail. Yet, on the third request, God responded. He didn’t respond in the fairytale God way. He didn’t respond and tell Paul to speak to the thorn & watch it fade away. God didn’t even tell Paul that the thorn would eventually go away! God told Paul that His grace was all Paul needed to survive this struggle. He reminded Paul that His grace was synonymous with His strength, and that God’s strength kicks in as soon as ours gives out. Not only does God’s strength kick in when we get weak, but it is made perfect in our weakness. The ultimate, supernatural, all powerful strength of God is at it’s highest form when we’re in our lowest state. Why? Because then, we don’t have a try reason to take His credit. Then, we know that we didn’t succeed on our own. Then, we know who to lead people to when they need strength. So often, we try to prove how strong we are. We lie & tell people that we’re alright. We put on our happy front. We take on everybody else’s burdens (when we can barely handle our own). However, I’ve learned that God doesn’t want your front about how strong you are; He wants you to be real & tell Him how weak you feel. Then, He’ll speak words of life & strength into you. Then, He’ll fill you up with His power, and send you out to do things that’ll make you shock yourself. THEN, He’ll carry you through things that should’ve destroyed you. The power you’re looking for, the power and strength that you so desperately need….is in your ability to tell God how weak you feel.
There’s one phrase that I want to take from verse 10 (and close with): for Christ’s sake. Never forget that we do what we do for Christ’s sake. We fight temptation for Christ’s sake. We resist pride for Christ sake. We win for Christ’s sake. We endure thorns for Christ’s sake. As Christians, we’re walking billboards for Jesus. We’re pictures of His love, His grace, and perfect strength. Therefore, we each bear our crosses daily for the sake of Christ; for when we are weak, He’s always strong. So the next time you get weak, feel tired, or good ol fashioned weary, I don’t want you to give in, and I surely don’t suggest that you give up. Before you fall out & purchase decorations for your pity party, I want you to stop & ask yourself “am I covered in God’s strength?” (let me help you, the answer’s yes). Then I want you to simply say ‘God, I need your strength to kick in’. I know that His strength can hold you up; it’s held me up soooooo many times. His strength has gotten me through a few sleepless nights. His strength has gotten me through seasons that I couldn’t have survived without Him. His strength has pushed me to keep going when I wanted to quit. All for Christ’s sake, that I could sit here today and tell you from experience that when we’re weak, His strength kicks in & makes us strong. Be strong today, this week, and forever!
Background Music: When I’m Weak - William Murphy & Strength - John P. Kee
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