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Why You Should Keep the Thorn in Your Flesh

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.



Paul actually boasted about his spirituality because some leaders in the Corinthian church were doing the same thing. They were boasting about their skills and capabilities, and bragging about their experiences.

Paul joined the conversation and did the same thing the other leaders were doing. He boasted that he had plenty of spiritual experiences he could share. Even though Paul was boasting, he was doing it to show how foolish such boasting really is in the life of a mature Christian.

Explanation of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Paul talked about the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. He indicated that he prayed three times for God to remove it. Instead of removing it, God gave him some advice that he wasn't expecting. Perhaps we can use that same advice.

So, what was the thorn in Paul's flesh? The Bible doesn't say. Perhaps readers are not told what the infirmity was so people won't think if they have an earache, headache, or back pain their afflictions are like Paul's thorn. Just knowing it was something that was uncomfortable is enough to get the point across. However, we know that the expression was used as a metaphor to describe a chronic infirmity, annoyance, or trouble that bothered Paul so much that he wanted it to be gone.

Paul tells his story this way.

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:17-9)

Even though most people know the metaphor Paul used, there are other places in the Bible where the expression is used. Joshua 23:13 speaks about the metaphor as being thorns in the eyes. Ezekiel 28:24 also mentions a thorn as a metaphor of pain and discomfort.

Paul Explains His Thorn

We learn a lot about Paul's thorn in his flesh from what he said. First, he said he should be exalted above measure through the revelations he had. Instead, the messenger of Satan gave him a thorn in the flesh to buffet him so he would not be exalted above measure. Notice "exalted above measure" was used twice to show how much Paul thought he deserved the exaltation.

The word "buffet" means to "harass, torment, torture and to be made to feel uncomfortable." In other words, the thorn was given to Paul to keep him humble and on level ground. With a thorn in his flesh, Paul would not think he was or should be more important than others.

Since the thorn came from the messenger of Satan, some think the thorn in Paul's flesh was put there to hinder his work for the Lord. If Satan gave Paul the thorn in his flesh to hinder his work, God allowed Paul to keep it to enhance his work for the Kingdom of God.

Paul continued by calling the thorn in his flesh "this thing." He said he talked to the Lord three times about "this thing." He prayed that it would depart from him. God answered Paul's prayer but not in the way Paul expected. God did not remove the thorn. Instead, God gave Paul something greater.


Meaning of "My Grace is Sufficient"

Some people quote, "My grace is sufficient" without having a clue about what it means or why God said it to Paul. Besides, merely quoting the first few words of the scripture takes away the meaning of the entire verse.

God did not do what Paul wanted, but God gave him what he needed the most. God said, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul understood exactly why God wanted him to keep his thorn. God's grace would help him serve God better even in his weakness. Too often we think God wants the strongest and near-perfect servants. On the contrary, God wants weak servants because His strength is made perfect in weakness.

Paul concluded that he would rather not only keep his thorn but he would also glory in his infirmities in order for the power of Christ to rest upon him and remain with him.

In other words, Paul agreed to keep his thorn. He never prayed for its removal again. We should want to keep our own thorn also like Paul.

Benefits of Keeping Your Thorn

At first, Paul thought if God removed the thorn, he could serve God on a deeper level without the discomfort. At the time, he was constantly been attacked by enemies everywhere he went. He was stoned, beaten, thrown into prison, and faced other hardships. Paul probably thought surely God would remove the thorn from such a faithful servant.

With God's grace, Paul understood that it was not a matter of getting rid of his enemies and hardships. It was a matter of handling his enemies God's way because of His grace.

Paul was made humble by keeping his thorn. He no longer felt the need to be exalted. He was more useful with his thorn than without it. The thorn in his flesh was a reminder of God's grace. Paul realized that through his weakness he was made strong. We should keep our thorn for the same reasons Paul kept his.

Good Advice: Keep Your Thorn

It is human nature to want to get rid of uncomfortable things. Most people want burdens, afflictions, trouble, and suffering to leave them alone. To be useful to God and to serve Him the way He wants to be served, it is much better for us to keep our thorn. God's grace will show greater through our troubles.

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