In the twelfth chapter of the Book of 2 Corinthians, Paul is continuing a dialogue from the previous chapter in defense of his apostleship. This had obviously come into question within the church at Corinth led by those who opposed Paul and his teaching. The tone of the argument would quite possibly be best described as facetious; using overemphasis and bantering to make his points. Stated differently, he overstresses his physical and spiritual experiences as validation of his position feigning arrogance in order to illustrate humility and reliance on God. One could surmise, rather appropriately I might add, pride was a problem Paul had to deal with in his own life. To say the least, he certainly did not suffer from a lack of confidence. From a positive perspective, confidence was an attribute necessary for the magnanimous calling God had placed upon him; yet, in his flesh, this would have also presented a challenging obstacle.
In a very authentic and open moment of the discussion, taken from the September 23rd reading of the devotional Bible, he discloses, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me– to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NASB).”
As to what the “thorn” consisted of is only arrived at by speculation. Some have believed it was a physical ailment, while others insist it was a spiritual temptation distinct to Paul. With all due respect, that is not the point. In the lives of His children, God is most greatly concerned about His preeminence. When He resides in the mind and heart of His followers as before all things, true living comes into focus. While a “thorn” in Paul’s flesh was unmistakably painful based on his description, he understood the aforementioned reality; therefore concluding to live with and boast about the impediment in an effort to elevate Jesus and diminish himself in the sight of others. In a Christ focused, counter-worldly existence; Paul derived strength from personal weakness.
To summarize, whether in self-pity or self-aggrandizement, it is impossible to make much of Jesus and also promote ourselves at the same time. God brings the “good” and allows the “bad” into our lives for one purpose; to exemplify glory, in and through His creatures, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As His followers, this understanding brings clarity to Jesus’ words, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33, NASB77).”
Do you find yourself in an uncomfortable and “sticky” situation today? “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4, NASB).”