Of thorns and men

I wanted to talk today about "Thorns", I had realized in conversation with a friend that I had studied this topic for so many years, but I had never actually placed my thoughts down on pad, or in this case into the 0s and 1s of my blog; so, today is the day I tackle the subject.

Firstly, I want to make it abundantly clear that Paul's thorn in the flesh was not "sickness", any teaching claiming it was sickness is untrue. I wont go as far as saying it is satanic in origin, but it is promoted by those that have been misled. We are speaking of a man that walked in healing in such a powerful way that fabric that touched his skin would be used to heal those miles away. He had no problems when it came to healing, there is not one documented time he failed in healing. 

Someone may say "hold on, what about Timothy (1 Tim 5:23)?" But in that case I believe the issue was simply something similar to what happens if an American goes to Mexico and drinks the local water. I won't paint a picture of what happens, but anyone who has heard or experienced this, or the outcome of drinking water in a 3rd world country, can relate. Of course you can be healed of the stomach issues, but if you continue to drink the water, the sickness will return. So he offered wisdom to cut out the source of Timothy's stomach troubles, the local bacteria filled water.

Now that I've cleared that up you've most likely also noticed that this is not going to be a review of the show "The Thorn Birds", so if you were here for that, I'm sorry to let you down. 

Did I just date myself?

Well before I get to far off track let me share the scripture in question here:

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. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 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 12:6-9 (KJV)

Many have written on this subject, and I have shared a variety of views in the past, but I had a request that I share it in my own words, and my own manner of speaking, so I'm tackling it today. Another prominent belief regarding this scripture is that this was, as it reads, a messenger of satan, or a demonic presence. I don't disagree that darkness was involved, but I do disagree with the belief that it was a demon that God would not allow Paul to rebuke.

First, Paul had no problems with rebuking spirits. One of the times he rebuked a spirit he ended up getting into a lot of trouble. I am sure he know the consequence of his actions in that instance. He, as we do today, had the authority to cast out demons and would never of needed to ask or beg God to make them depart, he simply would have used his authority, even if it caused him trouble, and they would have departed. As he did here:

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. - Acts 16:16-25 (KJV)

Secondly, Paul used metonymy and metaphors many times throughout his writings. He used figures of speech relating to satan a variety of times. Such as a time when he said he would deliver a man unto satan (1 Cor 5:5). He obviously didn't call satan to the town and hand the man over. He was using a figure of speech, where instead of getting involved and counseling the man, he would allow the man's own consequences of his behavior catch up to him and allow him the chance to choose who he would follow, God or flesh. 

Sin has consequences and sometimes a person has to come face to face with those consequences before there is change. That's not to say that God is punishing the person, it's simply that at times we will suffer for our own sinful decisions, but thankfully, like the prodigal son's father, God is waiting for us. In this case Paul and the Corinthian church was waiting as well for the man to return to the right path. But that's a topic for another blog. I hope you get my point and I've show you support for it.

So, the odds that it would have been a demon, or demon possessed person, have been lowered.

Third, we can go to our Strong's concordance and look up "thorn(s)". As I stated earlier metonymy is used throughout scripture. A "thorn" was used as a figure of speech quite often, but the key is context, people, context. In scripture a thorn in reference to people, was just that, people. We can be sure that we will face persecution for the gospel. Do not confuse this with persecution for being a nasty person. There are a countless number of Christians that act nasty or crass in speech, behavior, or both, and face a backlash for it, that is NOT persecution. That is a consequence of sinful behavior. Many that are spouting scripture in people's faces thinking God is behind them are actually unwittingly prisoners to sin.

We can take Paul's words to mean he was facing persecution, fierce persecution. Was some of it influenced by darkness? Of course it was. But, the people involved were not necessarily demon possessed people, they were simply influenced by darkness. satan was well aware of the Holy Spirit power Paul walked in, possessing people would have failed, Paul would have cast out the spirits and set the people free. Influencing them is a different story. 

Just look at what Paul went through when it came to persecution. He had to flee different towns, stoned at Lystra, 5 times he received 40 lashes minus 1. He very well may have died, went to the third heaven, and been raised from the dead. He was imprisoned in Philippi, suffered imprisonment in Jerusalem, imprisoned in Rome, and finally executed. 

This is just what is recorded in scripture. Paul very well may have faced even more persecution than was listed but the key in why his statement is in scripture, is not to spend years finding out what the "thorn" actually was, it's to see that no matter what we go through, God's grace will carry us through, we have access to a "power pack" to power through any and all situations. We are not victims, we are victors. We must remember when faced with persecution, it's par for the course. Don't go around whining about persecution, rabble rousing, starting "I stand with..." Facebook pages, reinforcing an "us against them" mentality. Those people in place to persecute you are not your enemies, they are the sheep you are to lead to Christ. When you are facing persecution, look to Christ, stand tall and stand firm. Keep sharing the Gospel. Keep walking in love. His grace is sufficient for you. Period. Hallelujah!

I hope this has helped a little bit. Ultimately, do not fear satan or his minions, do not use a perception of what a "thorn" is be used by satan to keep you in bondage. Never allow anything satanic in your life believing that God refuses to remove it. As I said, yes, we will face persecution for the Gospel, but attacks on your mind, attacks on your health, attacks on your family, attacks on your job, attacks on your property, attacks on your well being, is not persecution, give the enemy no place and no dominion over anything in your life.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.  


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