The Ministry of the Thorn in the Flesh

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

II Corinthians 12:7-10

Introduction: The thorn is a divinely appointed dart to burst the bubble of self-sufficiency. Disappointments and deterrents caused by thorns keep us near the Cross. Do not sing "Jesus keep me near the cross" unless you are prepared to be nailed to it!

Every thorn can have a ministry of blessing in your life. The ministry of the thorn is indeed an advanced course in the mysteries of the Providence of God. God's works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful acts of preserving and governing all His creatures and all of their actions.

It is sometimes supposed that God knows the future but does not control it; that He upholds the world but does not intervene in it; or that He gives general direction, but is not concerned with the details. The Bible emphatically rules out such limitations of God's providence.

The doctrine of providence teaches Christians that they are never in the grip of blind fortune, chance, luck or fate. All that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice, knowing that all is for one's spiritual and eternal good.

1. The Thorn Necessitates Provision - Grace in Trials (12:9)

2. The Thorn Stimulates Perfection - Growth in Weakness (12:9)

3. The Thorn Activates a Principle - Gladness in Infirmities (12:9)

4. The Thorn Generates Power - Glory in the Tent (12:9)

5. The Thorn Calculates Pleasure - Groanings in Obedience (12:10)

6. The Thorn Indicates a Paradox - Strength in Weakness (12:10)

Conclusion: The New Testament "thorn" is synonymous with the Old Testament concept of affliction as found in Psalm 119: 65-72,75, 107. There is a "treasury of thorns" found in 12:10:

Infirmities are weak spots
Reproaches are danger spots
Necessities are emergency spots
Persecutions are hot spots
Distresses are tight spots

A study of the Greek terms is full of help and meaning:

Infirmities (ASTHENEIAIS) - weakness and inability to produce results
Reproaches (HUBRESIN) - injuries or harm.
Necessities (ANAGKAIS) - distress, pain and need.
Persecutions (DIOGMOIS) - pursued and driven out.
Distresses (STENOCHORIAS) - narrow places.

Modern preparations for the education of young people usually ignore these principles. God works through the person He has wiped clean and turned inside out with life emptied before the Lord until he is hopelessly weak -- that no flesh may glory in His presence.

Alan Redpath was right on the mark when he said that God and the Devil are equally concerned about every thorn and pressure in the believer's life. If God gives it, Satan seeks to distort it. If Satan gives it, then the Lord seeks to sanctify it and use it.

Comments for The Ministry of the Thorn in the Flesh

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Aug 26, 2010
by: Julia D

This little treasure packs a punch! Thanks for sharing.

Aug 02, 2009
the ministry of the thorn in the flesh
by: Loy Clements

There maybe thorns and tears for the night;
but healing and joy shall always come in the morning.

Aug 01, 2009
Thorns Can Be Useful
by: Dale Anderson

I still remember this poem from my days at TTU from Jan 1979 to August 1981:

I stood a child of God, before His royal throne,
And begged Him for one priceless gift for me to call my own
I took the gift from out His hand, and as I would depart
I cried, "But Lord, this is a thorn, and it has pierced my heart.
"This is a strange and hurtful gift which Thou hast given me!"
He said, "I love to give good gifts, I gave my BEST to thee."

I took the gift, and tho at first, the cruel thorn hurt me sore,
As long years passed, I grew at last to love it more and more.
You see God never gives a thorn, without this added grace,
He takes the thorn, to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

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