“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. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
When reading the Apostle Paul’s writings, one of the first things you notice is how brilliant and astute the man was. Earlier in 2 Corinthians 12 Paul points out that many of the insights he received were direct results of the visions and revelations given to him. It’s those communications that became the focus and passion of his ministry.
However, apparently even the great Apostle Paul was afflicted by humanity. In reading we discover that the insights garnered from those visions had the potential of causing conceit. And so he tells us in verse 7 a thorn in the flesh was pressed upon him reminding him that the revelations were of God’s working and not his own. In fact, this thorn, or messenger of Satan, was so imperative that it remained with him his entire life as a constant source of irritation and humbling.
Throughout history many things have been written as to what this “thorn in the flesh” might be. However, if it were that important for us to know in detail, no doubt the Apostle would have told us what it was in specifics. The one thing we can gather from his experience is a definition of weakness: it’s something in our lives that’s impossible to fix.
Paul’s lack of transparency on the matter was to show us a powerful principle at work. Weaknesses are an opportunity to see God’s strength! We may be disappointed by God’s refusal to remove a weakness. However, our disappointment in God’s rebuff is His appointment for our lives!
Paul’s thorn was a daily reminder of his humanity and without which he would have succumbed to the dangerous arena of conceit. Every time he saw the greatness of the visions and revelations at work, there was that thorn to rediscover just how weak he was. And that weakness led him to one thing every time he saw it—surrender!
The principle that’s working behind weakness is our surrendering completely to God! Let’s read the thought again, beginning with verse 8:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Three times Paul sought the Lord to fix the impossible, but the one time the Apostle surrendered in trust he discovered that through his weakness God would make him strong. The power of Christ rests on those who surrender. Disappointments become His appointment of power. For, as Paul concludes, “when I am weak, then I am strong!”
J. Robert Hanson