Summary: Learn to give thanks to God for our thorn (s)
The year 1527 was the most trying year of Martin Luther’s life. On April 22 he was preaching in Wittenberg when he became dizzy and fainted. Over the next several months he dealt with debilitating depression and sickness. It had been 10 years since he had published his 95 theses. He had battled long and hard against the church and government, even against other reformers. Now he was broken and beaten. He wrote a friend about his illness, "I spent more than a week in death and hell.
My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But through the prayers of the saints, God began to have mercy on me and pulled my soul from the inferno below." Eventually with the help of doctors he regained his strength and health.
Just as he was recovering a plague struck Wittenberg. Even though his wife was pregnant, Luther’s house was transformed into a hospital, and he watched many friends die. Then his son became ill and it looked as if he to would die. In the midst of all this he wrote his most famous hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
You could say that Martin Luther had been dealing with many thorns in his life when he wrote that beautiful and majestic hymn. Sometimes in life we encounter thorns. We try to avoid them, but they are everywhere. Even something as beautiful as a rose has thorns on its stem.
I believe that when Paul writes and says something like: in order to keep me from being arrogant, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me,” he is talking about some sin that he struggled with. Paul asked the Lord three times to take it away.
Three is a significant number in the Gospels. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the Father three times to take away the cup He was about to drink, Peter denied Jesus three times, and Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved him after his resurrection. So, when Paul writes that, he asked the Lord three times to take away his thorn, he is connecting his story with the story of Jesus. Jesus responded to Paul by saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Jesus offered Paul grace for his thorn. Why do we need the grace of God? it is because we have sinned against God. I love Paul’s response to Jesus’ answer. “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, for insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The city of Corinth was a city where power was celebrated and honored with Monuments and civic buildings. Other buildings had inscriptions praising wealthy donors. In fact, the culture of the Corinth revolved around power. Despite having a culture that revolved around power, boasting was frowned upon. Paul’s boasting about his weaknesses was contrary to the culture he was writing to.
There is little doubt Paul knew the City of Corinth quite well, and thus knew what he was doing when he penned those words. He was challenging their cultural mind set to help them start to think in a more Christ-like way. All Christians should think in a Christlike way. But Jesus did not have any weaknesses. Jesus was not weak. Jesus was a lot of things, but weak was not one of them.
We have a powerful, but humble Lord and Savior. The people in Jesus home region were not humble enough to allow them to believe in Jesus. They watched Jesus grow up. The circumstances of His birth were probably not talked about much if at all. Who would believe that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus? It was probably something that Joseph and Mary kept secret just to keep the peace.
When we encounter thorns in life, and we all do, we can boast because we know that Jesus will strengthen us to deal with them. Paul wrote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Christ gives us strength to do all things. That includes dealing with the thorns we encounter in life.
Think about the thorns in your life right now.
If you say that you don’t have any, then one of two things are true. Either I want your life, but probably the more accurate truth is that maybe lying to yourself is a thorn in your life. So, think about your thorn or thorns.
It doesn’t have to be a sin. it could be anything that is causing a difficulty in your life. It could be a relative, a health problem, finances, just get a mental picture of your thorn and then tell yourself I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Say it again. Do this during the next week as you encounter your thorns. And as you do let Christ fill you with His strength.