For centuries people have argued as to what Paul’s thorn in the flesh might have been. To a large extent we have all guessed it to be one thing or the other, with no real clear definition as to what Paul may have been referring to. Yet if we look at the passage of scripture closely the answer is there in plain sight.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12v7-20
There is no wrong answer here. What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh, and why did he even have one? I believe that this passage of scripture has been taken advantage of by many, to justify almost any problem that comes across their lives. Some scholars have said Paul had failing eyesight – this was his thorn in the flesh, others have thought that he may have suffered epilepsy, yet the scripture is clear – the thorn in Paul’s flesh was a messenger of Satan, sent to torment or buffet him. So, this thorn was not a thing, but rather, a demonic messenger. What does the word buffet mean? To strike continuously, like waves on the shore. How did this messenger buffet Paul? The context of scripture indicates that Paul didn’t know what to pray, and so he cried out thrice to the Lord to “take the torment away”. Paul is asking the Lord to remove persecution not sickness from him. Remember this is the man who endured probably more than most apart from Job. In 2 Timothy 3v12 Paul reminds us that “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. So when Paul spoke of glorying in these infirmities or persecutions, he was speaking of victory even in the midst of continual harassment. If Paul was not buffeted in his flesh by this messenger of Satan, then pride would have been easily established in his life, and the ministry would have lost the impact in radically changing Christianity and the way we serve the Lord today.
Without blame shifting and finger pointing – have you ever wondered why various ministries today are a mockery and have lost their impact and have become a laughing stock across the globe? When pride enters and people become conceited they have chosen to disregard whatever their particular thorn in the flesh might be, metaphorically.
Remember what happened to him In Acts 14:19, Paul was stoned and left for dead, but God raised him up, and the next day he walked at least twenty miles into the next town and started preaching again. The Lord did not stop the persecution, but God’s strength was certainly made perfect in Paul’s weakness (verse 9). Can you imagine what those that stoned him must have thought? They could see Paul’s humanity in the cuts and bruises, but they could also see the supernatural strength of God flowing through him. “For when I am weak, then am I strong”.
So we often try and work out scripture and make it sound reasonable to the point that the answers we come up with are seemingly accurate and because it is written, and God said it that settles it. This is true and correct! But sometimes I think we should challenge our selves to research just a little more especially when we are in such a place of buffeting torment and cannot seem to understand why we are being persecuted and why it seems life is one ride at the amusement park that we just cannot get off, because no one is at the controls.
This all changes today! Jesus is at the controls. He is aware of that thorn in your flesh, He knows what it is there for!
Christ spoke these words to Paul ~ My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Then in verse 10 Paul receives a major revelation; For when I am weak, then I am strong.
If we have any notion of making it through the challenges of life in our own strength we will be dismayed. There is no possible way we could endure on our own, and this is why I believe we are each sent a thorn in the flesh to buffet us, to challenge us, and to cause us with every fiber of our being to cry out to the Lord for His intervention, for His solution, for His perfect will to be revealed in and through us…for it is when we are in that state in our hearts of being weak in Christ, then we are strong. Almost as if the Lord will use every circumstance we encounter to reverse it for His purpose and glory so that those who throw stones and leave the saints for dead on the outskirts of the city, will see the power and might of Christ when we rise up, journey ahead, and preach the gospel with fervor, and humility while still crying out to the Lord in our weakness for Him to be made perfect in us, for the world to see.
Even as Paul was able to see his weakness through the lens of Christ, and be comforted knowing that across the divide in Christ he was strong, so we too must see the state of our own lives and understand that we in ourselves can do nothing, we can accomplish nothing, and when we see ourselves in this state, then He can raise us up and we can be effective for the call placed on our lives.