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Thorns in the Flesh

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I want to speak with you this morning about thorns in the flesh. Thorns in the Flesh. Leaders in the church in the city of Corinth have launched an attack against the apostle Paul. Their goal is to undermine or overthrow Paul’s influence and authority within the church. They have decided that character assasination will be their weapon of choice.
The letter we know as 1 corinthians has given them ammunition, 2 Corinthians is Paul’s defense against the attacks of these would be leaders. In that book Paul defends himself against the onslought of lies being levied against him.
2 Corinthians is his defense is Paul’s defense then is Paul’s his final argument. Have you ever had someone launch an attack against you? Have you ever had someone who spoke lies about you when you were not around? have you ever had people in your life that wanted to make life difficult on you simply because they didn’t like you?
Throughout chapters 10-13 in the book of 2 Corinthians we fiond Paul defending himself against the attacks of his enemies. He defends himself aggressivly, and passionately. But if you read you can still see that Paul is even defending himself sarcasticly. Yet there is a sense of caution in his writing, you feel the tension in (1)
“I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it....”
Paul’s enemies in the church in Corinth boasted about their credentials, and their spiritual experiences and their ministerial accomplishments and they claimed that Paul was not authentic, because they calimed that he didnt have anything to boast about. Paul, thought the boasting of his enemies was foolishness. He was offended that the Corinthians would be so moved and entertained by the stories of these pirdeful boasters. He refused to join in their sin, yet he says even though it is not priftable to boast it is neccesarry for me to boast.
You don’t gain anything from boasting but I have to do it anyway, “I must go on boasting even though there is nothing to be gained by it. Do you hear the tension there? Paul is caught between a rock and hard place. If he does not defend himself he will lose his influence within the church in Corinth which would be a devastating blow both to their spiritual health and his heart.
But at the same time Paul did not want to sink to the level of his enemies. He didnt wanna say or do anything that would cause him to lose credibility with the church or even worse get him into to trouble with God. So he says I MUST GO ON BOASTING EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NOTHING TO BE GAINED BY IT
“I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.” This is what is found in visions and revelations from the Lord. These enemies of Paul were lifting up themselves and putting down Paul by saying that they had visions and revelations of the Lord, and they were saying Paul did not have any comparible experiences.
But the truth is as you keep reading the chapter Paul had visions and revelations too. In fact Paul had visions and revelations that were so great and so powerful that they would blow his enemies out of the water, but Paul was under a divine gag order he wasn’t allowed by God to talk about his visions and revelations. But he brings them up here in chapter 12 to explain why he cannot talk about his visions and revelations.
His explanation for why he cannot talk about his heavenly experiences becomes the thing which silences his enemies. This morning were going to be talking about thorns in the flesh.
2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
2 Corinthians 12:7
WHAT WAS PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH?
There are a whole lot of answers some say it was something physical, if you remember when Paul was saved the damascus road he was blinded by a light from heaven. there are some who say he had a physical issue of eye trouble. Some say he had a degenerative eye disease called opthalmyia. Others say he had migraines, TB, some say he had a speech impediment which was why he could write so well but he couldn’t impress people when he was speaking.
They suggest his thorn was physical. Others say it wasn’t something physical it was something spiritual. Maybe it was depression, or great temptation, or some humbling habit. Or just the general suffering of Paul’s life. Then there were those who said no it wasn’t physical or spiritual it was relational, it was the enemies in his life.
Or the false teachers who followed him to every city he went to. J VERNON MCghee sates in his commentary that a scottish cholar had said that his thorn could have been his wife. Which tells us the ole Scott had some family troubles because Paul wasn’t even married.
But the smartest minds have only been able to guess at what paul’s thorn was. We don’t know what the thorn in the flesh was but thats alright, listen instead of getting all in a fuss over what the Bible doesn’t tell ya learn how to just focus on what it DOES say.
There is a reason the Bible speaks like it does and leaves out what it does, you see if Paul said to keep me from being conceded God gave me eye trouble. You wouldn’t be able to relate to that could ya, but God the Holy Spirit moved Paul to state that whatever the problem was it was painful, and nagging, and humbling.
You may not know what Opthalmia is but you do know what it means to have a thorn in your flesh.
(Me and Tray)
I learned the lesson as a little boy trying to hide in Grandmas rose bushes. You know what it is to have a thorn in your flesh dont ya?
Sharp,prickly, IT HURTS
I think this is all Paul is saying, I went through a painful experience. I want you to hear me that’s the reality of the Christian experience. You CANNOT ENJOY THE ROSES OF THE GRACE OF GOD WITHOUT EVERY NOW AND THEN GETTING PRICKED BY A THORN IN THE FLESH.
There will be times where even though you are saved and blessed and on your way to Heaven, and praying and giving and serving in spite of all of that you will still endure painful experiences.
you still will have thorns in the flesh. You will still go through pains in your life that you would change if you could but you try and you cant ALL OF US WILL HAVE THORNS IN THE FLESH!
If you follow Jesus there will be trouble affliction hardship, in YOUR LIFE ALL OF US, if you just keep going to bed at night and waking up in the morning will have a THORN IN THE FLESH!
Paul says:
2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
I think Paul tells us what the thorn was right there in that phrase a messenger of Satan to buffet me. Messenger is the word for angel and Paul says Satan has angels too, there called demons. Unholy angels, Paul says my thorn in the flesh was really a demonic hitman, that Satan sent into my life to harass me. I like the King James better when it says this messenger was sent to buffet me. The word means to hit with a clinched fist its the word used in the gospels to describe how the soldiers beat Jesus before they took him to the cross.
Paul said I was going through a painful experience and beyond the pain was spiritual warfare, the devil, sent one of his goons into my life to rough me up.
This is why church you gotta learn to look beyond the obvious, there is no accidents in the life of the believer, there is a war going on in the Heavnly realms and its going on everyday of our lives. Beyond the circumstances there is a spirutal warfare.
Listen to what Paul says “BECAUSE I WENT TO HEAVEN, THE DEVIL SENT SOMEONE TO BOTHER ME.”
Are yall in here with me today?
The closer you get to the Lord the more the messengers of Satan will BE ON YOUR TRAIL. Its a damnable thing for a man to get in the pulpit and decieve the people of God to think that Christianity is some free ticket to a easy life. THERE WAS NO MORE GREATER CHRISTIAN IN HISTORY THAN THE APOSTLE PAUL, HE LIVED FOR GOD SO MUCH THAT GOD LET HIM VISIT HEAVEN BUT EVEN THOUGH HE VISITED HEAVEN, HELL WAS STILL ON HIS TRAIL!!!
You stil gonna have thorns, thats the bad news, heres the good news.
There was a thorn in the flesh, but beyond the thorn in the flesh, there was spiritual warfare it was the messenger of Satan beating me down. But beyond the spiritual warfare there was divine providence watch this:
He says because of the surpassing greatness of the visions and revelations a thron was given to me in the flesh.... The question you need to ask is given BY WHO?
Well we read the verse and say, well its a messenger from Satan so it must have come from Satan… NOPE
Because the beginning of the verse and the end of the verse says it was given so that he would not become concieted… Do you think the devil would send something to keep Paul from being conceited?
Absolutely not he would send something to cause Paul to get lifted up to the point where Paul would begin to think he was something when he wasn’t, because no being in the universe knows better than he does that PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION AND A HAUGHTY SPIRIT BEFORE A FALL.
Satan does things to lift us up to make us think we are more than what we really are, because he wants us to fall, THE FACT THAT THE THORN IS GIVEN TO PREVENT HIS CONCIET IS PROOF THAT THE THORN WAS GIVEN BY GOD!!
Im trying to tell you something this morning, even when the devil is doing his worst to you, god still has everything under control. Thats reality.
WHY WOULD GOD SEND A THORN?
What kind of father would send the enemy to beat up his children…

The Reason For the Thorn in the Flesh

TO KEEP ME FROM BECOMING CONCEITED, LEST I BE EXALTED ABOVE MEASURE, SO THAT I WOULDNT GET LIFTED UP IN PRIDE, TO PREVENT ME FROM READING MY OWN PRESS CLIPPINGS, SO THAT I WOULDNT BEGIN TO THINK I AM MORE THAN WHAT I AM, SO THAT I WONT START TAKING CREDIT FOR WHAT GOD HAS DONE.
TO KEEP ME FROM BEING CONCEITED A THORN IN THE FLESH
God saw Paul’s heart getting filled up with hiimself cause he had a visit to heaven, So God allows Satan to send one of his own henchmen to beat up on one of his own apostles. To keep his heart from pride. theres a lesson here.
YOU ARE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY
A Christian has 3 enemies: The enemy beyond Satan, the enemy around the World, and the enemy within (THE FLESH) While we spend so much time talking about what the world is doing haw bad it is and how busy the devil is, sometimes we let the worst enemy slip in unaware and your biggest enemy is not the world or the devil.... ITS YOU!
YOU ARE YOUR OWN BIGGEST PROBLEM.
The greatest enemy is the enemy IN ME.
Think about Paul’s experience Paul went to Heaven and back, and God still couldn’t trust him to do right. “YOU KNOW IF I COULD JUST SEE THE LORD…I KNOW HES REAL...” HE SAW THE LORD AND HE STILL COULDNT BE TRUSTED TO DO RIGHT.
IN FACT HE WAS SO PRONED TO DO WRONG THAT GOD SAYS ITS BETTER FOR HIM FOR ME TO SEND THE DEVIL INTO HIS LIFE THAN TO LEAVE HIM TO HIMSELF.
You are your own worst enemy.
Nobody wants trouble but when you get in trouble… ITLL MAKE YOU PRAY MORE, MAKE YOU GET IN YOUR WORD, MAKE YOU TRY TO LIVE RIGHT AND ANYTHING THAT MAKE YOU GET CLOSER TO GOD HAS GOTTA BE A FRIEND!
Sometimes God sends trouble to protect you from you!
I had a note to myself that I left for myself in my Bible written from years ago. It said two words on it:
REMEMBER ABIMILECH
That was all the note said and I couldnt for the life of me remember who Abimilech was let alone why I wrote the note. REMEMBER ABIMILECH
Remember Abimilech is the King of Egypt in , Abraham went down to Egypt where he had no business going. He was scared that the pagan men would take his wife Sarah and he told her hey when we get there dont tell em you my wife tell em you my sister. They did and the said this is a fine woman our king will love her and they took her in and in the night God awoke Abimilech .... and this was the first word Abimilech hears from the Lord.... imagine this is the first word you hear from God.... YOU A DEAD MAN
He says you got another mans wife in your house .... he said no on Lord dont kill me I am innocent he told me that was his sister she said that was her brother!
I DIDNT KNOW he said and ON TOP OF IT LORD DONT KILL ME BECAUSE I AINT TOUCHED HER!! I liked her but i didnt touch her LORD HELP ME
Listen the Lord said your right what you did you did in itegrity… its a sad day when pagans got more integrity than Gods children. He said what you did you did in integrity, but dont try to claim credit here because the only reason you didnt touch her was because I KEPT YOU FROM IT.
This is why you cant boast in your own goodness because there are some things you cant boast in not because you are so good or holy or righteous or just or goldy some things YOU AINT DONE EVEN THOUGH YOU WANTED IT BAD BECAUSE GOD KEPT YOU FROM IT!
HE EVERY NOW AND THEN HAS GOT TO PROTECT YOU FROM YOU!
Some times our hearts are filled with such pride that he has got to send trouble, some times he has to lift the hedge and let the devil run in, to protect yo from you.

The Cure for the Thorn in the Flesh

what should you do if you got a thorn in the flesh?
2 Corinthians 12:8 HCSB
Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me.
take it to God in prayer
I didn’t just pray once, not twice but three times, and this is not just meaning he prayhed 3 prayers its whats called an idiom, he was praying over and over again.Take it to God in prayer but heres the warning, you prayer will be short circuted if you pray with a hidden agenda.
PAUL SAYS I PRAYED # TIMES AND PLEADED WITH THE LORD TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME.
Thats how we pray when were in trouble isnt it?
Thats how we pray Lord either take this from me, or take me from it.
When there trouble LORD JUST TAKE IT AWAY
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
THE LORD SPOKE TO PAUL
BUT HE DIDNT SAY WHAT PAUL WANTED TO HEAR… He said my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
sometimes the answer is NO
If the request is wrong God says no, if the timing is wrong God says slow, if your not ready God says grow but if the request is right and the timing is right God says go.
Some of you right now are thinking about things in your life that you are asking God to take away. You have pleaded with him make it stop Lord… change it!
God says i aint gonna change it because you aint changed yet.
EVEN THOUGH IT HURTS EVEN THOUGH YOU DONT LIKE IT, WHEN TRIALS COME, WHEN TROUBLE ABOUNDS LOOK FOR THE LESSON GOD IS TRYING TO TEACH YOU. It was because Paul was made weak that the strength of God would flow through his life unhindered.
So I leave you with one question:
Could it be that that thing your begging God to take away from you, is really the greatest blessing in your life right now?
Could it be that you would never be humbled and never seek him as you should if it wasn’t there?
Could it be that your asking God to take away the one problem he has sent to bring about the greatest move He has ever done in your life spiritually?
Listen to me this is being lost today:
If you will learn to be content with God… you can go through anything with joy.
2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Godly strength is only found when they are on your last nerve, when you are on your last bit of strength, when you have nowhere to look but up.
TRUST GOD WITH IT, AND THANK GOD FOR THE THORN IN THE FLESH.
(Let’s pray)
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