Summary: Paul could have easily boasted on how he had it all together and everything he had accomplished, but as soon as he wanted to boast, God gave him a thorn to remind him that it is wasn’t about him. What is a thorn? Thorns are any form of physical issues, hu
From Thorns to Thankfulness
A seaman meets a pirate in a bar, and take turns boasting of their adventures on the high seas. The seaman notes that the pirate has a peg-leg, hook, and an eyepatch. The seaman asks "So, how did you end up with the peg-leg?" The pirate replies "We were in a storm at sea, and I was swept overboard into a school of sharks. Just as my men were pulling me out a shark bit my leg off." "Wow!" said the seaman. "What about your hook"? "Well...", replied the pirate, "While my men and I were plundering in the Middle East, I was caught stealing from a merchant and the punishment for theft in the Middle East is the loss of the hand that steals" "Incredible!" remarked the seaman. "How did you get the eyepatch?" "A sea gull dropping fell into my eye.", replied the pirate. "You lost your eye to a sea gull dropping?" the sailor asked incredulously. "Well...", said the pirate, "...it was my first day with the hook."
Why is it so easy to boast and talk about your accomplishments, and so difficult to boast on your weaknesses, struggles and failures. We live in a culture where exposing our weaknesses is a form of failure. Our society thrives on boasting about our strengths and numerous accomplishments. Reality shows like The Apprentice, American Idol, Fear Factor, even Survivor talk always base their accomplishments on strengths and never talk about weakness. Even on talk shows when stars come to reveal their inner demons and struggles, they don’t focus so much on their weaknesses as they do their strength in overcoming them. If you show weakness, people think your less of a person. It’s not popular to be viewed as weak in America or to boast on your weaknesses.
The Apostle Paul knew differently. He struggled between boasting on his weaknesses and bragging about his strength. Paul had alot to boast about: the numerous churches he started the pastors he raised up and mentored, the people he converted, even the great revelations and visions that God had given him. He had had great success and it was only natural for Paul to talk about his accomplishments rather than his personal imperfections. However, Paul chose not to boast about his accomplishments and strengths, but instead his shortcomings and weaknesses.
One of the themes throughout Scripture is that anybody who has made a radical impact for God did so because God used their weaknesses and personal imperfections for His greater purposes. Throughout this series we have seen several people who God used weaknesses and all to accomplish His purpose. Abraham and Sarah who were barren but became the parents of a great nation. Jacob, a cheater and deceiver, conned his brother Esau of his inheritance, deceived his dad to get his father’s blessing and then his father-in-law to get the majority of his wealth. Jonah’s fear and disobedience to God’s call. And Moses’ had anger problems.
Paul could have easily boasted on how he had it all together and everything he had accomplished, but as soon as he wanted to boast, God gave him a thorn to remind him that it is wasn’t about him. What is a thorn? Thorns are any form of physical issues, hurts, hardships or hang-ups that God uses to remind us of our inadequacies and our weaknesses. Thorns can cause severe pain and constantly irritate us. Nobody fully knows what Paul’s thorn was. Many theologians question whether it was spiritual, physical or emotional. We just don’t know but what we do know is this: Paul’s thorn constantly nagged him and gave him much pain.
What Paul learns is that God allows thorns to enter our lives for a purpose. Thorns are ultimately used to transform us into the character of Christ. Like roses, all of us have thorns. They come in various forms: the deaths of loved ones, failed relationships and marriages, the loss of a job, failures, emotional struggles and even financial disasters. All of us have thorns, but many of us either have ignored them or haven’t detected that painful place in our lives. What’s your thorn today? The most painful area of our lives is what God wants us to deal with the most.
First, thorns change our perspective. “Therefore in order to keep me from becoming boastful or big-headed, I was given a thorn. I was given pain in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to constantly torment me.” God allows thorns to afflict us to give us the proper perspective about our lives. Paul realized that the thorn that God had given him was to remove any form of pride. It kept Paul humble. Paul’s thorn reminded him that it wasn’t about him. God knew that pride and boasting was one area in Paul’s life he constantly struggled with and so he allowed Paul to be afflicted with this thorn because he wanted him to remain humble amidst all the great things He had accomplished.