How to: Survive a Thorn in the Flesh

Hello! I’m so thankful and blessed you stopped by today. First, let me say that there have been some discrepancies as to what a thorn in the flesh is. Many scholars of the Bible conclude that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a sickness.” Some go to the lengths of guessing which specific sickness he had and that he got it from the Lord to keep him from being too proud. Today, I’d like to show you from the Word what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, and how to survive one if you have one.

The first important verse we need to cover is:

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:20

“Private” is the Greek word idios, which is also interpreted: one’s own. “Interpretation” is the Greek word, epilysis, the verb form of this word is epiluo, which means letting loose upon, like a puppy off its leash runs loose. So the Bible is not for one’s own letting loose upon. We’re not supposed to bring our own explanations and guesses to the Word of God. I was recently at a Bible study where the Pastor asked everyone in the room what they thought. He came up with ten different opinions about the same verse. How can that work? We know that if the scriptures are not for our own conjectures then it must a) interpret itself or, b) have no interpretation whatsoever. The Bible does interpret itself in one of three ways; in the verse, in the context of the verse, or in its previous usage in scripture.

Peace I leave you-001

First, we must find out what a thorn in the flesh is.

2 Corinthians 12 is the passage where Paul describes the thorn in the flesh.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” vs. 7

This verse does not tell us what a thorn in the flesh is, only whom it was sent from. Do you see it? It was a messenger of Satan. Satan sent the thorn. Why did Satan send it? To obstruct Paul’s work and ministry. We can’t tell what it is in the verse, so let’s continue reading the context.

“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” vs. 8-10

Does this section explain the thorn? No. And none of the remaining New Testament describes the thorn in the flesh. So what do we do? We must find it’s previous usage.

“But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them [shall be] pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.” Numbers 33:55

Pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your side is a figure of speech and are not to be taken literally. But what are the pricks and thorns? They are people. Previous usage explains Paul’s thorn in the flesh. It takes all the guess-work out of it. Just to really solidify this in our minds let’s go to another previous usage.

“Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out [any of] these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.” Joshua 23:13

Joshua shows the same thing, people again were snares, traps, scourges in your sides and thorns in your eyes. These are figures of speech as well.

What about in Judges?

“Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be [as thorns] in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” Judges 2:3

The people were the thorns in the side. Every time Paul taught the Word of God there were people constantly trying to alter the gospel. They followed him and tried everything to obstruct his ministry. Remember in Acts when the people took Paul outside the city and stoned him, then they left him for dead? The next day he was out preaching again. Who stones people? People stone people.

What about you? Do you have a thorn in the flesh? We all have the ministry of reconciliation, that is the ministry of bringing new believers into the body of Christ. We all have that calling. But if you’re living with someone, a person of flesh and blood, or have a family member undermining that ministry you too have a “thorn in the flesh”. What can you do about it? I’m so glad you asked!

Remember Paul in 2 Cor. 12 “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.”

He, Paul, went to God and asked to remove the person who was a messenger of Satan from his presence. He went to God, and that is our first task as well. A great way to approach it is; ask God, “If you were me God, how would you handle this person?” He may tell you this person isn’t a thorn at all. Ha! Surprising. Maybe they’re just a little stubborn, but inside want the Word to be living and real. He may ask you to remove the evil spirit in the situation, by casting it out in the name of Jesus Christ. Or, he may tell you what he told Paul.

“And he (God) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…”

In any case, God has the answer. Our job is to stay calm, walk in love and take out the spirits, if need be. Then just do this verse until Jesus Christ returns.

“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;” 1 Thess. 4:18

What is our “work”?

“For we are his workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

God bless you today!

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