Thorn in the Flesh

I don’t like being weak. I don’t like asking for help. I’m a pretty independent guy. I can pretty much do it for myself and I have to ask you to help me, then it’s not worth doing.

I hate asking for help. I hate not being able to do it myself.

But, here’s the thing about faith. We can’t do it by ourselves. We can and aren’t able to save ourselves. We have to ask for help; we have to ask for God’s help.

Listen to what Paul talks about today in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul said to keep him from boasting, he had a thorn in the flesh given to him. No one knows what it was, but whatever it was, it made him weak. It humbled him. It made him turn to God and ask for it to be removed.

He asked God to take it away. And each time, God said no. Because God’s power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness.

Why? Why does Paul have this thorn? Why do we have to deal with similar things? Why must we go through this?

Because God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is all we need. And we have to turn to it for strength.

For comfort.

For life.

Today, especially, if you are like me, the “not ask for help, I can do it all myself” type person, stop. Turn to God. Find His grace. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness.

We can’t do it alone. We aren’t good enough or strong enough. We need Him and His life.

Turn to God. Find His life. His mercy. His hope. His purpose.

Today, may we find our strength in His strength. And may we find our life in His life.

May our thorns in the flesh be used for what they were made for.

To turn us to Him.

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We’ve seen a lot of passages this that call us to get up and go! We can do it! Keep pushing! Keep working! You can do it!

And I feel that way. But I also drink a lot of coffee, so it could just be the caffeine talking.

There are times though. There are lots of times in our lives when we are just too weak. We are too tired. We just can’t do it. We are give out. And we want to give up. We just can’t do it.

In those times, remember what we see here in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

None of us are strong enough. God doesn’t love us because we are strong. He doesn’t love us because we are awesome. He doesn’t love us because we are perfect.

So, today if you feel imperfect, that’s ok. If you feel weak, that’s ok. If you feel like you can’t do it, that ok. Because it’s God. It’s God working though us. It’s God that carries us. It’s God that calls us. It’s God that saves us. It’s God that grows us.

It’s God through us.

Instead of feeling bad or ashamed at being weak or unable, we can boast in it. We can boast in our weakness. Because it’s God. It’s God in us. It’s God through us.

Yes, we are weak. And He loves us anyway.

Now that’s awesome.

Boasting in Weakness

Boasting is not something we are supposed to do. The Bible tells us in Proverbs, it’s the pride that goes before the fall. If we brag, if we boast, if we get too full of ourselves, trouble will come.

Boasting is not good.

Yet today, we see Paul talking about boasting! He says – I will boast. You would think such a statement would be something that would be leading him to trouble.  Listen to what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul says – I will boast in my weakness. For in my weakness, I know Christ’s power. In my weakness I am strong.

That’s something to boast about.

That goes so different from our world. Our world tells us to boast about how awesome we are. How great we are. How perfect we are. It’s about us.

Paul says to that – No! I will no boast in anything about me, but I will boast in Christ thought me. Every great thing in my (and our) life is no because of us.

It’s because of Him.

We have not earned it. We can’t earn it. We can’t boast in ourselves. We boast in Him. As I tell folks at Asbury, if anything I do is good, He gets credit. I’ll take credit for the bad stuff.

His love, His mercy, His grace, these are gifts. And when we realize how weak we are, we can boast even more in them. That’s what Paul is saying. He has realized how much he does not deserve God’s grace, and God gives it any way.

Which makes Him love God even more!

So, today, don’t boast in yourself. Boast in God. Boast in His goodness, mercy, and grace. In our weakness, His strength is made perfect. When we are lesser, He is greater.

If you’re going to boast, boast about your weakness. And when we know that we are weak, we will find that He is strong.

And that’s something to boast about.

Not as Strong as We Think We Are

My favorite Christian singer of all time was Rich Mullins. There are a lot of Christian artists that I really enjoy, but he was my favorite. At a time when I was struggling with the faith and what it means to really be a Christian, the words of his songs really spoke to me and really drew me into a truer faith.

Today’s reading from Psalm 78 reminds me so much of one of his songs “Not as Strong as We Think We Are.” The mistake we can make as humans is that we can think we are so much stronger than we are. We can think we can do so much, we get so prideful and think more of ourselves than we ought. And then we mess up, we fall down, and we are reminded just how weak we are.

The Psalmist writes this:

37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him, *
and they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 But he was so merciful that he forgave their sins
and did not destroy them; *
many times he held back his anger
and did not permit his wrath to be roused.
39 For he remembered that they were but flesh, *
a breath that goes forth and does not return.

Man, I am so thankful for those words this morning.  The people’s hearts were not steadfast towards God. They turned away. They didn’t turn to Him. They didn’t seek Him. They chose their way over His way, their cravings and sin over what God wanted them to do.

And God was right to be angry with them. But, the text says, because of His mercy, He held back.

And remembered they are just flesh.

God knows we are not as strong as we think we are.  He knows we are weak and frail.  He knows we will get ourselves in trouble like lost sheep.

He knows that.

And loves us anyway.

In spite of all of our weakness.  All our frailty. All our faults. God knows. And He loves us.  In spite of ourselves.

He knows that we need Him for even our next breath. He knows we can’t do it without Him. He knows we bring nothing to the table for Him.

And He loves us.  Anyway.

Sometimes, all the time, really, we forget we are weak and frail. We are not as strong as we think we are.   We are not.

We really are not a big deal.  We really aren’t.

We are just a breath that will be gone someday.

And God still loves us!  In spite of what we’ve done, in spite of our frailty, we are loved. God knows we are weak. And He loves us.

Today, thankfully, we are not as strong as we think we. May we turn to Him. And in Him, we will find the strength we need. We can’t do it ourselves. Through Him, we can do all things.

Through Him.