Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 17 Number 5 May 2015
Page 14

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

Mark McWhorter

Mark McWhorterIn 2 Corinthians 12, Paul told about him being allowed to see and hear things in heaven. He said that he could not tell what he was told. God does not allow any man to tell others the secrets of heaven.

It is interesting that no one in the Bible who died and came back to life told anything about heaven. You would think that they would go around telling everyone what they had seen and heard. John was only allowed to tell certain things in the Revelation that he saw.

Today, there are individuals who say they have been to heaven and were told certain things. Some write books and boast about the special information they were chosen to reveal. It would be easy to brag and even get a bloated image of oneself if one had really been shown and told the secret things of heaven. Yet, Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 told why he did not get a bloated image of himself.

In verse seven, he said God gave him a thorn in the flesh so that he would not be exalted above measure. The first thing to notice is the word “given.” In the Greek, it is the word for “gift.” God gave Paul the thorn as a gift. We normally think of gifts as something to aid us or to show our love and respect for others. God believed this gift was necessary for Paul and gave it to him in love.

The second thing to notice is the word “thorn.” This word in the Greek was used for an impaling, which caused much pain. This was not just an irritant. This was not just a small thorn that could be plucked out of the skin. This was something that caused Paul great discomfort. The verb tense shows it was something that probably did not go away for any length of time.

Paul says this problem was given to him to keep him from thinking too highly of himself. If only those today who claim to have seen heaven had such a thorn. One wonders how many of them actually want to suffer like Paul did from his thorn.

Do not think too highly of yourself. If Paul, who had been told things that no man should hear, was reminded continually to be humble, so should each of us be humble, too. We have the Gospel that is meant for every person on earth to hear. We should give it to others in a humble spirit.

Study your Bible. If any of this is hard to understand, ask an adult to help you.

Blaming God

Ed Benesh

Ed Benesh“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

When we fail, do we blame God? Maybe the thought has never crossed your mind. If so, then you would be truly unique indeed, given man’s propensity to pass the buck and fail to take responsibility for his thoughts, words and actions. If we are honest and have lived long enough, then, we will see the day when we at least silently ponder the question of whether or not God is to blame for our circumstances, whether it is couched in this obvious language or found in terms like “God is punishing me.” In those moments, after we are first honest with our doubts, we do well to remember several of the attributes of God that place Him beyond and above our situation and circumstances. Thus, He is above the notion of human failure.

First, He is omniscient. In other words, He knows all. He sees even time, which binds our thinking, as a fluid ribbon with a beginning and end, which are also in His perception. We see a single point on the line. He sees it all. He sees our weakness, our hurts and the things we need to bring us to wisdom and maturity, which are often mistaken for trials and tragedy.

Second, He is omnibenevolent or all loving. With His great knowledge and love, He works all things to our greatest good. God does not tempt. God does not compel men to go against His will. As any loving parent would, He teaches us through correction and instruction.

Finally, God does not change, and by virtue of that fact, He does not lie. In Him there is no shadow of turning. When He makes a promise, He then keeps that promise. Not only that, but all that He says is also true and reliable. Men have questioned Him throughout time and have been proven foolish at every turn. In this day, when you go through trials, assume your responsibility and trust that God is working His will for you. Failure to accept correction, chastisement or instruction will only result in lost faith, failure and loss of an ultimate reward.

[Editor’s Note: Certainly, there are scores of circumstances throughout each of our lives at which times we would do well to emulate the Old Testament Bible character Job. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22 NKJV). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]

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