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    The Thorn in the Flesh

    The Thorn in the Flesh

    2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NKJV)
    7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “ My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
    This portion of scripture is the most misunderstood of any that I have ever seen throughout all my years in following Christ. Most interpret this "thorn in the flesh" as a physical malady focusing on the assumption that Paul had trouble with his eyes. To prove this theory, they often point to his letter to the Galatians.
    Galatians 6:11 (NKJV)
    11 See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!
    This single verse alone has been one mostly used to indicate that Paul must have had issues with his eyes but the point of Paul's statement was missed altogether. Whether his letter was written in Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, there existed no bold or italic lettering to be used to place emphasis. Today, in this world of high technology, when texting, bold and italics are also unavailable so when we wish to place an emphasis on part of our message, we generally write that portion in ALL CAPS. This can also be interpreted as SHOUTING that part of our message.

    Paul was writing to a people in Galatia that were prone to misunderstandings and wished to place as strong an emphasis as possible on the urgency and importance of his message to them, so the only way to show this emphasis was to increase the size of the letters themselves to gain that effect. It had no bearing on the condition of his eyesight or any other malady that he may or may not have suffered. His letters were increased in size, by his own hand, to stress the emphasis by which he was speaking to them.

    Getting back to the main emphasis of explaining what Paul was actually talking about regarding this 'thorn in the flesh' that was afflicting him, now that we have laid to rest the theory of some issue with his eyes. As a Jew, especially one trained under Gamaliel, that one known by Paul as the Pharisee of all pharisees, let us take a look at what was common knowledge then that is no longer common knowledge today.
    Numbers 33:51-53 (NKJV)
    “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; 53 you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.

    Numbers 33:55-56 (NKJV)
    But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. 56 Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them. ’”
    As can be plainly seen in Numbers, God warned the children of Israel that if they do not drive those nations from the land He was giving them but allow some of them to live among them, then those who remained alive among the children of Israel would become as pricks or irritants in their eyes and thorns in their flesh or sides with the intent to do to the children of Israel what God intended in judgment to those nations.

    This action of allowing some of those nations to live among the children of Israel is viewed by God as an unacceptable compromise! The very reason God was giving these lands promised to Israel's fathers was to fulfill His promise and because of the wickedness of those nations. Similarly for us, when we were still the children of this world, children of darkness with the devil as our father, our land, that land of our lives, was given over to all manner of idolatry, wickedness and as the gods that those nations were worshiping, our lives was given over to the worship of those spirits of darkness we have yielded ourselves to.
    Romans 6:16 (NKJV)
    Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
    When we came to Christ, it was His purpose in our lives, to deliver us from that world of darkness and subservience to the powers of darkness and be translated into the kingdom of His Father. Our coming to Christ is similar to the children of Israel being delivered from Egypt and passing through the Red Sea. This was their water baptism, leaving the land of bondage and entering into a place where God can begin the work of salvation in their lives.

    When we came to Christ, we too were emerging from a land of bondage and being brought to a place where God may be able to begin that work in us to transform us into the likeness of His Son. This is not a work that can be completed in a day but takes time. As we receive His word in our lives, we have the choice to either believe and let that word change us or we can do as the children of Israel did and reject that word and rebel against God by refusing to enter into the land promised us because of the seemingly impossible task that lies ahead. If we have faith as Joshua and Caleb did, even after they too saw the monumental obstacles that were in their way, then we may enter but if we have unbelief as the rest of the children of Israel, then the fulfillment of God's promise to us will be aborted.
    Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)
    But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
    To sum this part up, God has a promise He wishes to fulfill in our lives, to give to us that land of our lives that was previously occupied and under the control of those powers that were greater and mightier than us. This is what the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was intended to do. Free us from the powers of darkness and bring us, as new born children, into the kingdom of His Father. As new born children, we are in need of food and training in righteousness in order to grow up into all things pleasing to the Father until we reach a full man, a mature man, able to walk in all those things of the Father's will and desire.

    This takes time and the way is fraught with challenges and tests and trials, to prove us and our commitment in our faith and trust towards God. Just as God tested the children of Israel in the wilderness, we too are tested throughout the course of our lives, for our benefit, so that WE can see where we stand. So that we can know whether we will obey Him or not and learn how it is that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

    Getting back to the original text of this message. It is vital to understand God's intentions in our lives as we grow in Him. Just as He says in Jeremiah:
    Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
    For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
    It is this understanding that we must all have, to know and accept this truth that God is truly the author and finisher of our faith and that nothing can occur in our lives without His plan being implemented and authorized by Him, plans for our good.
    Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
    And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
    With this truth in mind, let us look at Paul's thorn in the flesh, once again. Paul is speaking in reference to something that was common knowledge among the Jews as what God had warned them of, came to pass in many of their forefather's lives. For although they were told beforehand, the children of Israel made compromise with some of those remnants of those nations they were instructed to utterly drive out. As a result, these remnants became pricks in their eyes and thorns in their flesh, just as God said they were to be. So Israel suffered and was punished in this manner. Paul, knowing this, used this same terminology to describe the purpose of that messenger of satan that came to buffet him.

    Why this? Does God really use demons to afflict His children? If Jesus gave his life to defeat the powers of darkness, how then can they still afflict the believer? Paul, just as the rest of those who believe in Jesus Christ, is not immune to the powers of darkness whenever there remains any area of his life in which he will compromise. That area of compromise in Paul's life was something that afflicts us all. PRIDE! Consider how Paul described the reason for this affliction.

    "Lest I be exalted above measure for the abundance of revelations."

    Although Paul was a pharisee himself before his sudden encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he required to be retrained, to have his mind renewed, after the order of the working of righteousness by grace instead of the working of righteousness by the law. For the end of the law can only produce death while the faith received by grace produces life.

    This reworking of truth in Paul was done by direct revelation given by the Holy Spirit and not given through the teachings of man or by the other Apostles. Consider what was accomplished through Paul as most of what is considered the New Testament came by his hand. The knowledge and understanding we walk in today, came by Paul's many revelations of the kingdom of God. It is by this very method of the Holy Spirit's teaching to Paul that Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against. These revelations of God and truth are the very foundations by which we are enabled to expose and destroy all the works of darkness. Paul, receiving an abundance of such revelations has put him into a very dangerous position in that it would be easy for him to consider that it was his own great intellect that was the driving force behind his work and understanding of God's will. He was in very real danger of lifting himself up in pride, thus the term, exalted above measure.

    Just as it was pride that filled the heart of that first fallen angel once known as Lucifer, that brought the rebellion against God causing as much as a third of all angels to follow him to their own rejection by God and their ultimate condemnation, so the danger of pride in the heart of this man of God, needed to be challenged, exposed, so that it can be defeated.

    Paul cried out three times for God to remove this and could not find any way for this affliction to be removed. Had he found a way, even that would have fed the pride beginning to grow within the heart of this man of God. It was for Paul's own good that God refused to remove this adversary. For without this adversary, Paul surely would have been taken by pride. This is not the first time that God has used His and our enemy to accomplish His purpose of delivering those who trusted in Him. We have only to look at Job as another example where the devil was allowed access in to his life in order to expose something that only God was able to see and deliver Job from.

    That thing that God saw was something called FEAR. For it was by fear that Job sacrificed daily, just in case, one of his sons should sin against God. That which he "feared" the most had come upon him. Not that his sons sinned but what Job feared was that punishment of losing all he had, all the freedom, all the joy, all the great possessions he had. For it was fear and not faith, that brought Job to sacrifice every day for what his sons did not do. This fear manifested itself in Job that during his afflictions, he justified himself rather than God. Job had become self-righteous. (Job 32:1) Had Job's sacrifices been of faith, his testimony concerning his sons would have been along the order of thanksgiving, knowing that God was able to keep them, just as He was able to keep Job. Instead, Job's testimony exposed the doubt and fear he had in his heart and by this fear, he sacrificed. None of these things escape the eyes of The Lord.

    It was BECAUSE of God's great love for His servant Job that God baited Satan into doing His will and set the limits as to how far Satan was allowed to go. Understand, it was God's plan all along, to use Satan as His tool to afflict Job until that which was hidden in Job's sight, became visible. Notice Job's confession to God:
    Job 40:3-5 (NKJV)
    3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
    4 “Behold, I am vile;
    What shall I answer You?
    I lay my hand over my mouth.
    5 Once I have spoken, but I will not answer;
    Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.”

    Job 42:1-6 (NKJV)
    Job's Repentance and Restoration
    1 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
    2 “I know that You can do everything,
    And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
    3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge? ’
    Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
    4 Listen, please, and let me speak;
    You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me. ’
    5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
    But now my eye sees You.
    6 Therefore I abhor myself,
    And repent in dust and ashes.”
    It was this repentance that God was seeking from the outset. He knew that the fear that existed in Job would bring him to ultimate ruin but God, in His great love and mercy, allowed those afflictions to overtake Job for the express purpose of exposing the ugliness of his heart to Job so that he would repent and be restored. This, more than any other example, reveals the truth of which Jeremiah spoke in 29:11 and that which Paul spoke in Romans 8:28. God has a plan and it is IN that plan that He who is Master of all things, in heaven above and in the earth below and that which is below the earth, will accomplish His will, even if it means to use his adversary to do according to His bidding while setting limits to what the devil can do.

    With this in mind, God knows the frailty of mankind and knew that through the abundance of revelations He has given, Paul would be tempted with a great temptation to become lifted up in his own eyes and pride would then arise, destroying all that God had worked in Paul. It is because of God's great love and mercies that Paul was given this messenger of satan to buffet him, to oppose him, to hinder him. God would not remove this "thorn in the flesh" because to do so would allow that pride to grow unchecked within His servant Paul. Paul therefore needed to yield to God's working of grace in His life in that God used this demon to work in the manner of pruning something in Paul that needed to be pruned. Eventually, once Paul had grown in grace and would no longer be tempted by pride, that "thorn in the flesh" would no longer be needed and would be removed.

    It is important that we all understand, What is allowed in our lives must be brought before The Lord with a heart that stands ready to be shown our sin for repentance. For it is only when we are repentant that His purposes will finally be seen by us and understood for the wisdom of God that has initiated it. We must remember, at all times, the following:
    Psalms 34:19 (NKJV)
    Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    But the Lord delivers him out of them all.


    Jerry Sundberg

    Soon after I received the Lord in 1976, I started receiving prophetic visions and warnings about the future of the church and the United States. I share my visions on my Hidden Manna websites and offer free of charge my two ebooks entitled “Hidden Manna” and “Hidden Manna 2”.

    Website: Hidden Manna

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