“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7, NKJV).
There is a big difference between cutting down and pruning. We cut down plants that we don’t want anymore; we prune plants that we want to develop into greater fruitfulness. Both processes, however, do involve a sharp knife. Indeed, pruning requires cutting parts off the plant that might seem to a novice gardener like destroying it. In a spiritual context, Bruce Wilkinson writes, “Are you praying for God’s superabundant blessings and pleading that He will make you more like His Son?
“If your answer is yes, then you are asking for the shears.” — Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2001), p. 60.
People have wondered what Paul actually meant by a “thorn in my flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7, NIV). Ideas range from Paul’s having constant attacks from enemies to having a speech difficulty. It seems that this was actually a problem with his eyesight (see Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1107). Amazingly, Paul believed that his “thorn” was “given me.”
What do you think Paul meant by “given me”? Who gave it to him? How was God able to use it for Paul’s benefit?
Notice that Paul’s “thorn” had a definite purpose: “to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7, NIV). It was not because of any specific sin he had committed, but to prevent him from sinning in the future. Paul recognized that by nature he had a weakness to sin, and that this “thorn” could guard against it.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. How does Paul deal with his “thorn”? Do you think that Paul’s weakness had any other spiritual benefits to him? How can the way that Paul responds help you to deal with “thorns” that you may have to carry?
|In what ways might God’s ideas for your spiritual development be very different from your own? Think about areas in your life in which you need to become more fruitful in righteousness. What spiritual qualities would you like to ask God to develop in you through His “pruning”?|