“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

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"The Conversion of Saul," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

Let us not compare our Christian walk or spiritual gifts with anyone else in the Body of Christ. Romans 12:6-8 makes it abundantly clear that we differ in gifts and those godly manifestations expressed in the body. These are from God and are granted to us by His grace. This is important to realize, for even these blessed gifts by the Lord can be used by our sinful nature to feed our pride.

The enemy loves to turn our work for the Lord into something sinful. It’s not to say the work of the Lord in and of itself is sinful, of course not, but rather that we ourselves may sin in our efforts to be in complete obedience with our Lord. We may have the gift of prophecy and we may serve, teach, encourage, give, lead, or show mercy. Yet, a hidden danger might lie in wait, for instead of acknowledging the source, we may use these gifts to feed our pride. This verse suggests that Paul himself was tempted with this as he followed obediently to complete God’s great works.

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"Apostle Paul," by Rembrandt. oil on canvas, c. 1657

Yet, God in His wisdom knew that this would hinder the great work He was doing through and with Paul. This partnership would have been spoiled if the apostle would have become conceited. So, there was given to Paul a thorn in his flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” to torment him. What this “thorn” actually was has been debated for some time. These range from a physical malformation or defect of some sort, to a sin that tormented Paul. Regardless of what it was, we know that this “thorn” kept Paul grounded with the Lord, and he eventually found that “thorn” to be a blessing, for without it Christ’s power wouldn’t be able to “rest on him” to the degree it did.

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Outside Christ, who was perfect, even the most amazing men of God in the scriptures had grievous faults, which should give us some hope. It certainly does me. Moses for example was a murderer, had anger issues, was a stutterer, and was disobedient to the Lord. Though Moses was disciplined for this by not being able to enter the promised land, God used this faulty man to do an amazing work, as He can use us, as faulty as we are, to do great works as well.

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"Moses Striking The Egyptian (detail)," Amsterdam Hagadah, c. 1695

When we come to the Lord in faith, He is not beyond bringing hardship, weakness, persecutions, “thorns,” and difficulties in our lives so that we may not loose sight of Him. If we are too prideful in our walk with the Lord and in the gifts He bestows in us, we should not be too shocked when, in His sovereignty, brings about a hardship to “ground” us.

Although I don’t like speaking for God, I do feel comfortable saying that God doesn’t want to encourage sin in your life. So if you haven’t been granted gifts to a fullness yet, perhaps if they were given unto you, the glory would go to the self and not God.

Let us pray for the understanding at only comes from the Spirit, that we may be instructed on how to avoid becoming to proud in our obedience and the gifts God pours into us. Let us pray that we will give credit where it’s due, that is, to the source of the gifts we are presented and indeed all things. Let us forever strive not to pervert that which is Holy or shift the glory of God onto the self. May He be forever praised. Amen.

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