How to Be Thankful for a Thorn [Part 1]

By Alan Wright — August 22, 2018

Are you ready for some good news?

God doesn’t take you out of the fight; He gives you grace to win it.

Today’s Text: “… a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9, ESV)

Years ago, during the boom of the codfish industry in the Northeast, fish companies sought a way to send the cod all over the country in the freshest way possible. Freezing the fish robbed it of its flavor. So they experimented with live shipments – bunches of cod travelling in big tanks of seawater. But the live shipments didn’t work either. The fish kept more of the flavor but lost proper texture – no one wants  a soft, mushy codfish. Finally, someone had the bright idea to send the cod in the water tank with a twist. They also inserted the codfish’s natural enemy – the catfish. From the time the cod left New England until it arrived on the other side of the country, the catfish chased the cod all over the tank. The harassed cod arrived all over the nation fresh and tasty.

The codfish story might be a bit apocryphal but its moral is simple: unless you have something chasing you, you’re probably going to get mushy and stale!

There is a great deal of confusion about Paul’s thorn. Some suggest that the thorn was a sickness or a physical disability. Others have suggested that it was a besetting sin. Still others have claimed it was an emotional illness – maybe Paul was depressed. But the “thorn” isn’t nearly so enigmatic as commentators make it. Paul actually spells it out: the “thorn” was a “messenger of Satan.” It was, literally, an “angel” of Satan. The thorn was a demon.

Everywhere Paul went he encountered spiritual opposition. The forces of hell knew that Paul had been anointed and empowered by God to preach the Gospel and Satan wanted Paul stopped. So, everyday of his life, Paul was in a fierce spiritual battle.

While lesser demons might be assigned against the ordinary saint, Paul confronted hell’s strongest. And it was hard. Very hard.

If you’ve ever had the feeling that you just want to take a break from the battles of life, you can imagine what Paul felt. He asked God three times to please let the spiritual intensity lift. Couldn’t he just be an ordinary person for a while? Couldn’t he just once enter a town and not feel the heavy weight of darkness pushing against him? Couldn’t he just have it easy for a while?

And God said no. God didn’t relish His beloved servant Paul suffering. But God knew that the intensity of the spiritual battle kept Paul yearning for God’s help. So Paul wasn’t ever going to become a mushy cod. Your battles today serve you by requiring you to be near to God. That’s how a thorn can be a blessing. And that’s the Gospel!

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