Thorn, according to some scholars, may not be the best translation of the Greek word (skolops) the apostle Paul used to denote his "thorn in the flesh." The term denoted anything "pointed" and could mean a "stake," a "splinter," or, as usually translated in 2 Cor. 12:7, a "thorn." Whatever it was it was pesky and a frustrating bother to the apostle.

Paul was so troubled by it that he went to the Lord three times in prayer to request its removal. And three times the Lord said, "No!" Paul, at first, faced this problem like most men would: "Lord, take it away." That, of course, is understandable. We all move quickly with a pin knife, pair of tweezers, or whatever and work till we get those annoying splinters out of our fingers.

Spiritual "thorns," however, are not so easily removed. Unfair bosses, incompetent or uncooperative fellow-workers, incorrigible children, nagging wives or boorish husbands, un- relenting pain, unloving and harsh brethren, mocking infidels, job frustrations, poverty and poor job opportunities, inconsiderate neighbors -- on and on the list goes.

It's to anyone's credit that they take matters of these kinds in prayer to God. After all He is infinite in wisdom and power and love. He knows how and is able to handle these things better than we. And when we do pray, we, no doubt, as Paul did, call on the Lord to remove these pesky irritants. And that's fine. That's where Jesus started when He faced the "cup" of death: "if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me" (Matt. 26:39). He also prayed three times.

What, then, do we do when the thorns in our flesh just won't budge? When Paul's remained and he had to deal with it, he became stronger. "When I am weak," he said, "then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). This demonstrated what God had told him: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). The key is that the apostle handled it with God's help and by greater dedication and faithfulness to the Lord and His kingdom. Otherwise, it would have destroyed him.

Thorns are more than pesky when saints are overcome by them. They become deadly. The worldly infection of bitterness, pessimism, indifference, whining, murmuring, self-pity,
depression, and a host of other problems set in. Brethren lose their focus, prayer to God ceases, the Lord is ignored, assemblies are forsaken, brethren are abandoned, the devil
wins, and a soul is lost.

So, brethren, what are you doing about those troubles of life that beset you? Much depends on what your goal or focus in life is. Are your eyes trained on going to heaven or are you set on finding comfort and ease in this life? Both Jesus and Paul pressed on in life to do the Will of God. That's why you don't hear them whining and complaining over their discomforts.

The key to living with thorns in the flesh is to live above the world. That's what Paul did as reflected in his letter to the Philippians. Imprisoned in Rome, he set his mind on defending the gospel; harassed by brethren trying to raise up affliction against him, he thanked God the gospel was being preached; beset by bickering brethren in Philippi, he called on them to think of others above themselves; reminded of his earthly pedigree in Abraham by evil workers, he tossed it aside like so much garbage and pressed on toward the high calling of Christ; recalling both good and bad times, he cast his anxieties on the Lord and learned to be content in any circumstances. "Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, rejoice" was his upbeat message to these brethren (Phil. 4:4).

Got a few thorns or splinters, brethren? Get on your knees and talk to God about it. Get up off your knees and sit for a spell to read some pertinent words revealed from the mind of God in Scripture. Get up out of your chair and visit a brother or sister who knows what it means to really hurt. Get yourself to Bible study and to the assembly and lift your thoughts reverentially to God in worship. Get your mind daily on things above, on the kingdom of God's righteousness, and on the hope set before you.

Every time those pesky thorns or splinters remind you they are still there, send a quick, short prayer to God--for wisdom, strength, courage, boldness, comfort, contentment, increased faith, greater love, mercy, and grace. Do this thirty times a day if you must. Just don't let up. "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes. 5:17). You ought always to pray and not to faint (Lk. 18:1). When all of Paul's fellow workers forsook him at his trial in Rome, the Lord stood by him and strengthened him (2 Tim. 4:16,17). As your Intercessor and Advocate (Heb. 7:25; 1 Jno. 2:1,2), He will do the same for you -- if you seek Him!

By L.A. Stauffer in Biblical Insights, Vol. 6, No. 5, May 2006.

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