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What About Paul's Thorn
thorn in the flesh is probably one of the most popular
passages of scripture used to convey the thought that God
will put sickness or disease on you and expect you to suffer
2 Cor 12:7-10 NIV
7 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. 8 Three
times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may
rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in
weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in
difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
First let’s establish some points in the above story:
• The problem was coming from an evil spirit dispatched by
Satan, not God. God uses the Holy Spirit and angels to teach
His people – He does not have to rely on Satan or demons.
Paul recognized it was an evil spirit dispatched by Satan,
he clearly said so, “messenger of Satan.”
• The mission of the evil spirit was to hinder Paul’s
ministry. It was not a physical ailment. Paul knew the
difference between sickness and demons. He did not ask God
to heal him because Paul didn’t need healing. The phrase
“thorn in the flesh” in modern English would be “pain in the
neck”. The same phrase is used in other parts of the Bible
o Num 33:55 KJV: 'But if you do not drive out the
inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will
become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.
o Josh 23:13 KJV …Instead, they will become snares and traps
for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes…
o Judges 2:3 KJV Now therefore I tell you that I will not
drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides
and their gods will be a snare to you."
• God’s answer was not, “No.” – rather, God answered Paul
with the solution to Paul’s problem, “My grace is
sufficient.” God’s grace is sufficient to solve Paul’s
problem with the devil. Just like you could ask me for
bigger muscles and I would answer, “My weight bench is
Paul didn’t ask for healing because he didn’t need healing.
A demon had been assigned to stir up persecution against
Paul for Christ’s sake. Note Paul said, “for Christ's sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in
persecutions, in difficulties…” Paul realizes that in his
human weakness is when God’s power kicks in. Think about it,
if we can handle the situation in our own human ability (and
sometimes we can) then we don’t need God’s power. But when
the situation is too big for us to handle in our human
weakness, then we can kick into supernatural mode with the
power of God. If my car needs washed, I don’t need God for
that – I can handle it. But if I need healing or I need
spiritual help, I’m too weak in my own ability to handle
that. In my weakness, God’s power will shine forth.
Paul knew he was dealing with a demonic force that was sent
by Satan and it was on a mission. Paul was growing
spiritually stronger and the devil dispatched demonic agents
to try and stop God’s mission in Paul. If you are working
for Christ there will be demons assigned to you as well. If
you start to grow spiritually, Satan will assign even
stronger demons to try and stop God’s power in your life and
ministry. Through God’s grace you can overcome them. Jesus
said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
God answered Paul by stating, “My grace is sufficient.” In
other words, God’s grace is sufficient to solve the problem.
What is God’s grace? It’s everything we received from the
blood and body of Jesus that we didn’t deserve: forgiveness
of sin, healing, spiritual authority over the enemy, peace,
wisdom and abundance. All of these characteristics of God’s
grace are backed up with promises from God to accomplish
each and every one of them in our lives.
Later, in a letter to Ephesus Paul describes our spiritual
authority. First he establishes Christ’s authority.
Eph 1:20-21 NIV
20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the
dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly
realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and
dominion , and every title that can be given, not only in
the present age but also in the one to come.
Then he establishes our authority, right there with Jesus
Eph 2:6-7 NIV
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in
the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the
coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his
grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
He goes on to describe our spiritual armor and reinforce the
fact that we need to deal with the spiritual realm.
Eph 6:11-18 NIV
11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your
stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is
not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against
the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the
day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and
after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm
then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with
the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your
feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of
peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of
faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows
of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the
sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.