|Volume 19 Number 4 April 2017||
Donald R. Fox
Most of us are familiar with the apostle Paul and his 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” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
I would suggest that many of us have such problems. As a matter of my judgment, I would be leery of one that said, “I have no annoyances and no problems.” Perfect, we are not! According to definition by Webster, “thorn in the flesh (or side), a cause of annoyance, irritation, etc., especially a persistent one.”
Paul’s reference to his thorn in the flesh has fascinated people for ages. Notice below an extraction from First & Second Corinthians Commentary by James Burton Coffman (480-481), a review of what many scholars thought Paul meant concerning this annoyance.
Tertullian thought this was a headache. Klausner believed it was epilepsy. Ramsey identified it as recurrent malarial fever. Chrysostom said it was “all the adversaries of the Word.” Calvin made it “fleshly temptation.” Luther considered it “spiritual temptations.” Knox decided it was “infirmities of the mind.” Catholic commentators, generally, “lustful thoughts.” McGarvey: “acute, disfiguring ophthalmia” [inflammation of the eyes]. MacKnight spoke of some who believed it was “the false teachers.” Lightfoot suggested “blasphemous thought of the devil.” Alexander was sure it was “Malta fever.”
Coffman added his view by stating, “It would seem rash to some to venture an opinion in the face of such a mountain of scholarly disagreement, but this writer would like to get in his two cents worth also. The thorn in the flesh is believed to be the malignant opposition of secular Israel…”
As a student of the Word, mind you, I said student, I also believe that brother Coffman was right. Further, in my estimation, I would suggest that this thorn in the flesh would also include all those that oppose and combat the furtherance of the Gospel of Peace.
I have been plagued from my childhood with inferiority complexes. From a youngster, I have understood why such was the case and have worked very hard to overcome such annoyances. However, it’s still a thorn in the flesh. If I am honest with myself, I find other irritations that have beset me. Is this not a human factor with all of us? To recognize one’s thorn in the flesh is a blessing and the beginning of solving or the accepting of such. May we also say with the apostle Paul, “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” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Through The Difficulties
“When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:30-31). Those were Moses’ words to God’s people under the Old Covenant, but the principle is still valid for us. God is loving, patient and kind. When things aren’t going well in life, He’s still there—loving us, being patient with us and treating us with kindness. Our God is a God who works through the difficulties of life to refine His people. Today, how do you think God is refining you? Are you fighting it? How could you better work with Him through the difficulties?