Summary: God can turn our Pains into Praises!
Bouquet of roses! Yeah. It is a common and a beautiful gift that a man could give to his lady. Man, you could win her heart. Believe me on this one. A bouquet of roses is made up of several single rose in bloom. But it is interesting to note that a rose, whatever color it is, has a stem that is studded with prickly thorns. It makes me think that everything beautiful has a twin risk – anything lovely has threatening thorns. That notion proves true the saying, “Every rose has its thorns.”
In our spiritual life, anything promising and beautiful that a believer would receive by grace has its own thorns. The apostle Paul was not deferred from the thought. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” has drawn a lot of interpretations from bible commentators. “Skolop” is the term used in Greek. It simply speaks of a pointed thing. But it, allegorically, depicts something of a bodily annoyance and disability. In a broader concept, we can interpret “thorn in the flesh” as something that bothers us…. physically, mentally, emotionally…. even spiritually. I would render a “thorn in the flesh” as a “pain” that annoys us in any area of our life.
Paul prayed that his “thorn” be taken out. But God seemed to have responded, “Let the Pain Remain, Paul, it’s good for you”. I firmly believed that Paul understood well the idea that “God can turn our pains into praises”. And that is exactly the message that I am aiming to deliver to you – “Let the Pain Remain” and implore God to turn all your pains into praises.
But to allow God to transform those “thorns of pains” into “horns of praises”, I would suggest that we undertake few steps:
1. Simply Accept the Presence of your Pains.
2. Humbly Appreciate the Essence of your Pains
3. Wisely Apply the consequence of your Pains
In going through these three steps we can open our lives and allow God to accomplish His work, transforming our pains into praises.
1. Simply Accept the Presence of your Pains!
v.7..To keep me from becoming conceited, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Paul’s pain was not an offer. It was given. God gave it. And if God gave it, it must be good for Paul. Indeed, we can read through the Pauline epistles that his thorn turned out to be good. Most of the times we overlook; actually, more often than not; that our pains are God-given. We are a comfort-oriented and a success-driven generation. We view the presence of pain and problems to be unwanted, let alone unneeded, ingredients of life. But that is not one of the injunctions of the Bible. Pains and problems are essential components of Christian life, and there are uncontestable gains that we can expect from our pains.
a. Pain keeps our Feet on the Ground. “To keep me from becoming conceited”… v.7.
The word used in the original text is “huperairomai”, which can be translated literally as “to exalt self above measure”. Do you know someone who can be labeled, “from rags to riches” through mere luck or hard work? There are people who are self-made and luck-made wealthy people. And a number of them have become big-hats – bigger than their success and luck. But when they found themselves into a hopeless situation – say, terminal illness, irretrievable loss, and any downgrading event in their life… they begin to realize that they are still walking on earth where the other lowly creatures tread.
The same is true with Christians – leaders and followers alike. Sometimes they get engrossed overwhelmingly with success in their ministries. Some simply receive blessings, both material and spiritual, in a manner and volume far and beyond their expectations and supplications. To reach to that level is self-damaging. Pain becomes an eye-opener. Pain is God’s tool to protect us.
b. Pain keeps our Faith on the Grind! “A messenger of Satan to torment me…” v.7
The word used in the original text for “torment” is “kolaphizo”, which can be translated literally as a “strike with a fist”. We have a saying, “strike the iron while it is hot”. It was meant to put Paul in the anvil of God, and turned out to be a useful experience when he went through diverse situations of life, both life-threatening and life-ravaging.
One good reason to simply accept our pains – they sharpen our faith. A Christian who went through series of trials eventually becomes a believer who possesses a faith that can conquer the most dreadful trials. Pain is God’s tool to perfect us.
Years ago in the northeastern United States codfish was a big commercial business. There is a market for eastern cod all over, especially on the West Coast. The demand posed a problem to the shippers. At first they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freezing took away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive, in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, the cod still lost its flavor and, in addition, became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected. Finally, some creative person solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in a tank of water along with their natural enemy - the catfish. From the time the cod left the East Coast until it arrived at its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. And, you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market; they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before. Each one of us is in a tank of particular and inescapable circumstances. It is painful enough to stay in the tank. But in addition to our situation, there are God-appointed "catfish" to bring sufficient tension that keeps us alive, alert, fresh and growing. It’s part of God’s project to shape our character to be more like his Son. (sermoncentral/illustrations/Stephen_sheane).