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.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)
We do not exactly know what Paul experienced in his Christian walk as his thorn in his flesh, but we all have persistent weaknesses that we will bring to our grave. Our journey here on earth will still be full of challenges – whether it be uncontrolled anger, lust, lying, imperfect relationships, financial struggles, resentments, low self-worth, etc. But even in our weakness, we can turn them into something good – in humility, we need to rely on God’s grace and power to overcome those weaknesses. The plain truth is that we are nothing without God. We are pathetic sinners through and through before God. But with the Lord’s forgiveness, power and grace, we become transformed sinners into saints, loved, valued, holy and acceptable to God.
So How Do You Deal with Your Thorn in Your Flesh?
- Focus your life on God, not on yourself, including your ability or inability to conquer specific challenges. Focus on the Lord’s faithfulness, not your lack of it. We tend to focus on our self – even in our trials.
- Be patient with yourself as much as God is patient with you. Many times, we tend to condemn our inability to conquer repeated sins and flaws. Look through your situation in God’s eyes, not your limited vision and understanding. Focus on the Lord and His love and mercy, not your faults, failures, and inabilities.
- Desire and seek holiness day by day. Many times, we let our guards down and allow opportunities for sin to creep into our minds. Be conscious of your thoughts; submit them to Christ. Do not sugar-coat or justify sin. Call sin a sin and do not make excuses. Count yourself dead to sin. [I do not do those things anymore – I am dead in those things.] We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5). Holiness never comes to you easily; you have to seek and strive for it – daily.
- Do not live in the past. Do not re-live the “sins of our youth.” Consider yourself dead to sin, including your past sins. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV) Press on and move forward.
- Know your weaknesses; after years of following God, you already know your strengths and weakness. Avoid situations that lead you to face weaknesses. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9A ESV). Even a candle wax melts before the fire. Fleeing from “fire” is an excellent plan.
- Seek wisdom, counsel, and accountability from an elder brother or sister who can help you overcome your nagging weaknesses. The power of darkness diminishes when it is exposed in the light – see Ephesians 5:11. Once darkness is exposed to the light, its power is greatly diminished.
- Lastly, develop holy habits and get rid of those unhelpful ones. Grow in Christ-like character little by little. Speak positively and think positively. Do not be quick to judge people. Spend time with people of good influence, not the ones who will drag you down.
OTHER SCRIPTURE PASSAGES:
- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)
- Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
- Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 ESV)
- Other Bible verses: Romans 8:3-5; Romans 12:1-2; and James 4:7.
FOR REFLECTION OR SHARING:
- Have you identified your thorns in the flesh?
- What can you do to overcome them?
Tom Caballes is the National Senior Administrator and a National Coordinator of the Lamb of God, a community of the Sword of the Spirit with 7 branches located throughout New Zealand. Tom also leads Kairos New Zealand, an outreach program for high school, university, and post-university aged people. Tom and his wife Mhel and their two daughters live in Wellington, New Zealand.