So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10(NLT)
The apostle Paul was a pretty smart guy. He was also motivated, energetic and fearless. He was also wrong about which side he’d chosen. Paul was fighting against God’s will and God’s church. He was the chief persecutor.
But when Paul met Jesus and had his life turned inside-out, upside-down, and, finally, right-side-up, he was still Paul – smart, tough and clever. The one thing the apostle was not…was humble. So God made sure that happened; Paul got a thorn in the flesh which became Paul’s pride antibiotic. (Whatever the thorn was is not clear; some have suggested it was nearsightedness, epilepsy or migraines).
The “thorn” (interchangeable with “splinter” or “stake” in Greek) drove Paul to pray for relief, and in the praying he found an answer more valuable than having the thorn taken-away, Paul found a life’s principle about how crowns are won in the Kingdom of God.
Paul’s pride got splintered, staked-out, dried-up and dismantled!
If you put aside two-thousand years of Christian history and New Testament theology, and tell me that serving God would bring on a thorn, or stake in the side of my flesh, I would reply: Well, thanks a lot, God! And that’s how it went for Paul; he served and got clobbered.
Paul asked for relief and God told him, my grace is all you need.
Did you check-out the laundry list of the side-effects of his thorn? He endured insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles; but because of God’s grace, none of it bothered the apostle; every bit of what happened to him turned out to be a strong nail in building-up Jesus’ Kingdom.
And so, this morning as we come to this table of God’s grace – the communion of God’s people celebrating the gift of being set free from our sinfulness and shame – I want to acknowledge that there are many of us here who have a problem with the thorns of our lives…hardship, insults, troubles and persecutions. And you’ve prayed for a little relief, and it seems like heaven is silent.
Now, if that’s the case in your life, here’s the way to come to the table this morning. At the table you will find the crown in the prayer of thorns:
His weakness at the cross became your strength to live eternally.
Your weakness in the flesh becomes His strength for the Kingdom.
Just like Christ’s greatest humility became His highest exaltation in heaven, whatever weakness you experience in this life will become Christ’s strength in you to honor and bless the name of Jesus.
Come, eat, drink and rejoice; the Crown is in the Prayer of Thorns!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen