Though Paul was able to declare, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8), Paul also had a thorn—a burdensome pain from which he prayed to God for relief three times (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). We don't know what Paul's thorn was. He never called his beatings and imprisonments a thorn; he considered them willing sacrifices for God's Kingdom. His thorn was something completely different—and ultimately, a great blessing from God.
God knew that His grace would neither manifest nor shine in a strong and self-sufficient person like it would in a man who suffered in weakness. And Paul recognized that his thorn kept him humble and focused on the Lord. His weaknesses resulted in a life so devoted to Christ that it served as a model for all Christians and made his teaching authentic to bear up under scrutiny.
God uses life's stresses—physical and emotional—to draw us closer to Him and prepare us for the good work He has given us to do.
Additionally, in the midst of the pain of the thorn in Paul's life, his obedience to the Lord was unconditional. In Acts 20:22-27, Paul revealed that he was fully aware of the suffering that awaited him as he followed God's call. Once he knew where God was calling him to go, that was the end of the matter; he went.
Paul said, "I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus Christ has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace" (Acts 20:24). Compared to the task of making Jesus known, Paul's personal ambitions meant nothing. His desires were not at the forefront; his comfort was not the priority. Why? Because his life was not his own (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
God didn't forget nor dismiss Paul's thorn, and He won't overlook ours. He uses life's stresses—physical and emotional—to draw us closer to Him and prepare us for the good work He has given us to do.
Paul felt pain, sorrow, and need, yet when the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through him, he experienced joy, contentment, and peace. It certainly takes time and maturity to, like Paul, praise and thank God for our weaknesses. Yet, when we are willing to humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (see James 4:10).
Prayer: Lord, help me to view my weaknesses in the light of Your grace. May I submit to You in pain and pleasure remembering the victory that is already mine in Christ Jesus. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Learn more in Dr. Michael Youssef's sermon The Secrets of Positive Living, Part 14: LISTEN NOW