Summary: God often allows trouble and trials to come into the life of His children. The life of Paul provides us with great insight into dealing with the thorns of life.
THE THORNS OF LIFE
Introduction: God often allows trouble and trials to come into the life of His children. God could have kept Daniel out of the lions’ den. He could have kept Job from Satan’s assault. He could have kept the three Hebrew children out of the fiery furnace. However, God had a purpose for each of the trials they endured. The life of Paul provides us with great insight into dealing with the thorns of life.
I. The Privilege of Relationship – verses 7
A. God blessed Paul in his relationship with Jesus Christ by giving him many revelations and insights. Theses were supernatural things revealed to his spiritual eye and divine truths revealed to his human spirit.
B. “abundance of revelations”
C. A benevolent person gave a man a large some of money to dispense to a poor minister a bit at a time, thinking it was too much to send him all at once. The man forwarded a small portion of the money in a letter, with only these words within the envelope, "More to follow." In a few days’ time, the minister received another letter; this second correspondence contained the same amount, with the same motto, "And more to follow." A day or two after came a third and a fourth, and still the same promise, "And more to follow." Until the whole sum had been received, the astonished minister was made familiar with the cheering words, "And more to follow." Every blessing that comes from God is sent with the same message, "And more to follow." "I forgive you your sins, but there’s more to follow." "I justify you in the righteousness of Christ, but there’s more to follow." "I adopt you into my family, but there’s more to follow." "I educated you for heaven, but there’s more to follow." "I give you grace upon grace, but there’s more to follow." "I have helped you even to old age, but there’s still more to follow." "I will uphold you in the hour of death, and as you are passing from this life, my mercy shall still continue with you, and when you land in the world to come there shall still be more to follow." – Spurgeon
D. Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
E. 1 Corinthians 2:9 ISV “But as it is written, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.’"
II. The Purpose of Suffering – verse 7
A. “Thorn in the flesh” – It was used to refer to a stake for a post or for impaling; a surgical instrument; the point of a fishhook. Paul used it to speak of adversity, which troubled him, that was more painful any thorn sticking in the flesh. By divine permission, Satan had a hand in inflicting Paul.
B. Exactly what Paul’s infirmity was is unknown. Some suggest it was cataracts, or epileptic seizures, malaria, sciatica, rheumatism, recurring nightmares, and a myriad of other possibilities.
C. The reality is very few individuals ever go through life without any thorns or speed bumps on the highway of life.
D. Paul clearly states that the purpose of his suffering was to protect him from the sin of pride. – 2 Corinthians 12:7 ISV “To keep me from becoming conceited because of the exceptional nature of these revelations, a thorn was given to me and placed in my body. It was Satan’s messenger to keep on tormenting me so that I would not become conceited.”
E. Sometimes God has to send a speed bump in life in ord er to overcome or PREVENT pride, independence, self-reliance, or other sin in our life. However, God ALWAYS uses the thorns of life to place us where it is best for us.
F. Romans 8:28 Darby “But we *do* know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to purpose.”
G. For two years, scientists sequestered themselves in an artificial environment called Biosphere 2. Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biospherians created a number of mini-environments, including a desert, rain forest, even an ocean. Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one, wind. Over time, the effects of their windless environment became apparent. A number of acacia trees bent over and even snapped. Without the stress of wind to strengthen the wood, the trunks grew weak and could not hold up their own weight. Though our culture shuns hardship, we would do well to remember that God uses it "for our good, that we may share in his holiness" (Heb. 12:10). - Jay Akkerman in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.