Summary: Yes Paul is a Hero, but is he a hero we desire to follow
Corinthians 12:7-10 (January 27th, 2002)
Who has been a light in your life? Well, since you’all don’t have the opportunity to stand up here today and answer that question, I’m going to turn it around and share with you who has been a light or a hero in my life. First of all, let me say that all of you have been a light in my life. You have all been a rock of support that has constantly reassured me that I am where I should be. You have all been a light or a hero in my life. Thank-You!
As I mentioned earlier my father was also a light and a hero to me. He taught me all about the characters of the Bible and these in turn became heroes and lights in my life. I remember as a youngster when all my friends would be outside playing cowboys and Indians, I would change the roles so we would actually be playing David and Goliath, or better yet the Israelites verses the Philistines. Then when I played alone I would pretend my giant Airedale was a ferocious lion and I was Daniel.
I loved all the Heros of the Bible and it seemed every chance I could get would enter the world of the Bible and actually be one of those Heros. But you know what? There is one person in the Bible that I never pretended to be. One person whom I never consider a hero. And that person is the Apostle Paul.
Let me reread the second lesson of today. Paul writes, “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
You see Paul was always going through what the Greeks calls perisatasis, or simply circumstances. And in Paul’s case these perisatasis or circumstances were always of difficulty and danger. Why in the world would one pretend to be Paul? Plus Paul was weak! He even admits its. Not only admits it, but boast of it. Why in the world would one want to go through a life Weak and full of danger and difficult circumstances. You see, Paul suffered way to much for me, and there is no way I would want to pretend and actually be Paul, let alone have him as a hero or a light.
But you know what? As time went on and I got a little older I realized that I was going through a life that was full of danger and difficult circumstances, and I came to notice also that I couldn’t make it through all these difficult circumstances by myself. I was Weak and too proud to admit it.
You see, Paul understands very well what most of us, what all of us eventually must endure, dangerous and difficult circumstances, or as this text says, a thorn in the flesh. In my forty five years of life and in my brief career in the ministry, I have notice that so many of the wonderful souls that I had the opportunity to speak with and get to know personally was unfortunately because of some crisis had stuck them like a giant thorn or stake in the flesh.
There are many theories about Paul’s thorn. Could he be referring simply to the Corinthians as being this thorn. Or perhaps it was some type of illness. Scholars have pointed to epilepsy, some have claimed Paul was legally blind, and some have claimed that Paul may have been deformed and simply unappealing to look at. In 2 Cor. 10 Paul even quotes his opponents and writes, “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is pitiful.’” Maybe deformed and perhaps spoke with a slur or a lisp.
Oh! And to go along with this thorn, Paul also mentions other peristasis or difficulties, later in chapter 11. “Five times I have received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. (Designed to break the back) Once I was stoned. (Real stones guys, not the other kind) Three times I was shipwrecked.
He says, I was in danger from rivers, dangers from bandits, dangers from my own people, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers from false brothers and sisters, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked, and under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.