“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” 2 Cor. 12:7
Paul refrained himself from boasting about surpassingly great revelations because, it had the potential to make him conceited. Thus, thorn in the flesh was given to Paul that was physically painful, and Satan used it to torment Paul.
Notice that the thorn in the flesh was given to Paul not because Paul had moral failures but God allowed this painful hardship to take place 14 years before so that He could use Paul to reveal His power. Oftentimes we ask God to protect us from Satan and his demons. What if God is the one sending them not only to keep us from becoming prideful but also to reveal His power over dark forces of evil so that the gospel can advance through us?
Why does God want to keep us from becoming conceited? God will not release His grace through those who are prideful but through those who are humble. James said, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:16). Thus, to keep us humble, God allows spiritual assaults from Satan and his demons to make us realize our need for His power.
King Solomon said, “Pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18). God humbling us before we become prideful is to protect us from falling into destruction. People think God humbling us is a bad thing but amazingly He is protecting us from falling into sin.
Although Satan’s attack is to separate us from the grace of God and to utterly destroy us, but God uses them to release His power to keeps us alert, fresh, and growing in His grace. Peter said, “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6).
We are to cover ourselves with an attitude of humility with lowliness of mind. Humbling ourselves is to avoid being in opposition to God who opposes the proud, and placing ourselves under His mighty hand is to be under the sovereign power of God who is at work in and through us. Here, in the hands of God, no one will be able to snatch us away from God (John 10: 28-30).
One day, as I was watching ESPN, a story of two high school students in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio caught my attention. Both of the students were wrestlers in their high school and that alone drew me to the story. I gathered my wife and the kids, and we watch the story together. Pastor Eric shared this story site with many of you already, so you may be familiar with it.
Lisa Fenn, who was an ESPN television producer at the time, put the story of two high school students together in 2009. Leroy Sutton was hit by a freight train when he was 11 years old, and both of his legs had to be amputated. His mother felt guilty and soon started using drugs, and his father was in jail most of Leroy’s life.
Dartanyon Crockett was a homeless student, because his mother died when he was 8 years old and was taken to an East Cleveland crack house to live. Dartanyon is legally blind and had lived in five different homes one year. Leroy and Dartanyon became inseparable friends when they met in their high school wrestling team. During the school year of 2009, Dartanyon carrying Leroy on his back was a common sight at every wrestling match. Leroy became the eyes for Dartanyon, and Dartanyon became the legs for Leroy.
When Lisa was asked why she stayed, she replied, “At first, I stayed because I simply could not look away…blind and legless kids from the ghettos don’t get college educations and shiny accolades, but they should. And that is why I stayed. I stayed because I would not be next on the list of people who walked out and over their trust…I stayed because my heart was too heavy for my legs to walk away… I stayed because I vowed right then to fill Leroy’s life with a thousand good things until he simply burst with joy. I stayed because we get only one life, and we don’t truly live it until we give it away. I stayed because we can change the world only when we enter into another’s world. I stayed because I love them.”
What is your thorn in the flesh? We all carry something that is painful and spiritually deadening. We mostly seek for immediate removal of the hardship instead of fighting in faith to be victorious. Any victory without a hard fight is not worthy of the honor. Therefore, let us “Stay strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).
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