September 19 I Thursday
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” —Proverbs 16:18
There is always a great danger when God does something in and through our lives, where we are excited and grateful, but we may want to take credit for it. We may take recognition for it by saying, “God did this, but it was really with me He did it with.” The danger is that many of us enjoy being recognized and affirmed. When God does something or God lifts us up in some way, we want to go one step further by lifting ourselves up a little bit higher. This is a temptation none of us are exempt from; if the Apostle Paul was in this danger, we are likely to face this danger as well. Our old ego and pride likes to take ownership and be prominent.
Yet, a holy man or woman is always a humble man or woman. The devil’s first, biggest and most prominent tool is pride. Paul tells us, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Whatever Paul’s “thorn in my flesh” may have actually been, it was given to prevent him from getting in trouble with the temptation of becoming conceited. Notice that the “thorn in my flesh” was preventative in its purpose and there was no malice, spite, suffering for its own sake or “pain is good for you.”
Also, note the way Paul describes how he received the “thorn in my flesh”—it was not inflicted but given to him.” Like a gift, the “thorn in my flesh” was given to Paul, which then begs the question, “given by whom?” Paul tells us it was from a messenger of Satan. Whatever the “thorn” is, its origin is satanic, deliberate and not a question of being in an unfortunate circumstance or something happened to go wrong. Nonetheless, we see from the Book of Job even though it was Satan who attacked Job, it was God who permitted this attack to take place because it brought about the well-being of Job—not the destruction of him—by the end of the book.
Paul recognized that the “thorn in my flesh” was under God’s express permission because everything Satan does God has allowed. This perspective can only come from knowing God and His ways. There is no better friend than the hardships of life—“thorn in my flesh”—that keep us humble and dependent on God. Can we look at our “thorn in my flesh” and see it as a means of humbling us before an almighty God?
Prayer: Dear Almighty God, thank You for the “thorn in my flesh”, and even though at times it may be unbearable, I know You are using it to draw me closer to You. Humble my heart before You.