By: Joe Stowell, Strength For the Journey
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9
A small, older, hunched-over lady greeted us with a glowing smile at the doorway of our little son Matthew’s Sunday school room. She was one of the most effective Sunday school teachers at our church, and Matt loved her. I’ll never forget the time she told me, “Pastor, God made me small and bent over so that I can be right down here where the children are! If I weren’t like this, I couldn’t relate to them so well.” I was blown away by her perspective on her plight in life—her “thorn in the flesh.”
A thorn in the flesh is any affliction in our lives that, if we aren’t careful, can defeat us with a good dose of self-pity and embitter us toward God. But the important thing to know about our thorns is that Satan desires to use them to defeat us, while God is determined to use them for our good and His glory.
The apostle Paul is probably the most famous example of someone who was stuck with a thorn in the flesh. Paul knew right where the thorn had come from. He referred to it as a messenger of Satan. And though Paul never tells us what his thorn was, I think it’s clear that it was a serious problem to Paul. He said: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (2 Corinthians 12:8). God didn’t answer his prayer with a miraculous healing, but rather assured Paul that, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
It’s important to know that when God permits a thorn to remain, He gives us grace to accept it and sometimes even the grace to understand the purpose for which the thorn is intended. Paul came to realize that God permitted his affliction “to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul was a gifted person and could have easily become proud in his abilities and accomplishments. That proud spirit would have been a disaster to his usefulness for God. So God took what Satan had intended to defeat Paul and turned it into a smashing victory by enabling him to stay appropriately humble and therefore useful.
Getting a grip on why God permits our afflictions, weaknesses, or disabilities to remain has a powerful effect on our attitudes. Instead of shaking his fist at God and grumbling about his thorn, Paul realized that God’s power was being made perfect in his weakness. That insight produced an upbeat spirit of delight and satisfaction. As Paul said, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
We normally don’t think of being strong in weakness, but that’s just how God works. He knows that if we think we are strong in and of ourselves, then we will become proud and self-sufficient. And when we feel that way, we are in reality very weak and unable to accomplish much of anything except for thinking how cool and capable we are. God has a better plan. When He needs to accomplish really great things through us, He sometimes needs to get our twisted view of ourselves out of the way. So He takes Satan’s intrusions into our lives and beats Satan at his own game! You may see it as a thorn, but God sees it as a triumph!
You don’t have to be Paul to start seeing what God is doing through your thorn. Rejoice that He cares enough to keep you from getting in the way of the great things that He wants to do through your life!
The hope of future bliss
By: Charles Spurgeon
“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Psalm 17:15
Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 7:13-17
He will be satisfied, the Psalmist says, when he wakes up in God’s likeness. Satisfaction! This is another joy for the Christian when he shall enter heaven. Here we are never thoroughly satisfied. True, the Christian is satisfied from himself; he has that within which is a well-spring of comfort, and he can enjoy solid satisfaction. But heaven is the home of true and real satisfaction. When the believer enters heaven I believe his imagination will be thoroughly satisfied. All he has ever thought of he will there see; every holy idea will be solidified; every mighty conception will become a reality; every glorious imagination will become a tangible thing that he can see. His imagination will not be able to think of anything better than heaven; and should he sit down through eternity, he would not be able to conceive of anything that should outshine the luster of that glorious city. His imagination will be satisfied. Then his intellect will be satisfied.
“Then shall I see, and hear, and know, All I desired, or wished, below.”
Who is satisfied with his knowledge here? Are there not secrets we want to know—depths of the secrets of nature that we have not entered? But in that glorious state we shall know as much as we want to know. The memory will be satisfied. We shall look back upon the vista of past years, and we shall be content with whatever we endured, or did, or suffered on earth.
“There, on a green and flowery mount, My wearied soul shall sit,
And with transporting joys recount, The labors of my feet.”
Hope will be satisfied, if there be such a thing in heaven. We shall hope for a future eternity, and believe in it. But we shall be satisfied as to our hope continually.
Joy and peace in believing
By: Charles Spurgeon
‘Joy and peace in believing.’ Romans 15:13
Suggested Further Reading: Ezekiel 13:1–16
You must take care, while valuing joy and peace, that you do not overestimate them; for, remember that joy and peace are, though eminently desirable, not infallible evidences of safety. There are many persons who have great joy and much peace who are not saved, for their joy springs from a mistake, and their peace is the false peace which does not rest upon the rock of divine truth but upon the sand of their own imaginations. It is certainly a good sign that the spring is come, that you find the weather to be so warm, but there are very mild days in winter. I must not therefore infer because the heat of the sun is at such and such a degree, that therefore it is necessarily spring. And, on the other hand, we have had very cold days this week—cold days which, if we had to judge by such evidences, might have indicated to us that we were rather in November than in May. And so, joy and peace are like fine sunny days. They come to those that have no faith, that are in the winter of their unbelief, and they may not visit you who have believed; or, if they come, they may not abide, for there may be cold weather in May, and there may be some sorrow and some distress even to a truly believing soul. Understand, that you must not look upon the possession of joy and peace as being the absolutely necessary consequence of your being saved. A man may be in the lifeboat, but that lifeboat may be so tossed about that he may still feel himself exceedingly ill, and think himself to be still in peril. It is not his sense of safety that makes him safe; he is safe because he is in the lifeboat, whether he is sensible of this or not.
For meditation: Luke 16:25; the Christian may have a tough time in this life, but the best is yet to come (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 12:11; 1 Peter 5:10). The unbeliever may have a good time in this life, but the worst is yet to come (Psalm 73:3–5,17–20).