There is a Biblical mandate to give thanks. Yet, too often we are distracted with the busyness of life or simply choose to focus on the negative. Over the next few posts we will look at four reasons to give thanks. Of course, these are merely four out of countless reasons for thanksgiving. The third reason … strength in weakness.
Even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
What you didn’t read … 14 years prior to our passage Paul was allowed to see the third heaven. What does that mean? Well, a ton of academic ink has been spilled trying to figure it out. The conclusion? No one really knows. But it must have been nice.
In verse 7 Paul informs us that to keep him from being conceited he was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment him. What was is this thorn? Again, a ton of academic ink has been spilled trying to figure it out. Here are a few possible options:
- Physical ailment: Some think Paul is referencing an eye issue mentioned in Galatians 4:13-14
- Mental ailment: Some think Paul suffers from the worry and stress of leading the missionary movement.
- Persecution: Some think Paul is referencing the cost of preaching the gospel. Look at the preceding chapter (2 Corinthians 11:16-33). Or simply look at verse 10 of our passage! Paul experienced beatings and lashings for preaching the gospel.
We don’t know the exact details of the third Heaven. Ultimately, we don’t know the exact details of Paul’s thorn. But what I do know: At times, experiencing God comes at a cost. Jacob wrestled with God and was left with a limp. Paul saw the 3rd Heaven and was left with a thorn. What about you?
To our direct passage …
Paul pleaded with God three times for this “thorn” to be removed. Three times God (in the form of Jesus) said, “No.” Yet, as usual God did not leave Paul without hope. He told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Did Paul get upset that his request wasn’t granted? No.
Did Paul bring up all his good deeds and ask God to reconsider? No.
Brief aside on prayer:
Prayer is an intimate conversation between God and his people that leads his people to the will of God.
It is through prayer that Paul comes to know the will of God.
Paul doesn’t get upset with a “No” in the form of prayer. Rather Paul states “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.”
Paul resting in God’s strength was the will of God.
Now here is the question: Would Paul trade his reliance on God’s strength in exchange for his thorn to be removed? I don’t think so. Why are we so quick to exchange the things of God for the things of this world?