My Grace Is Sufficient…

8 Three times I begged the Lord to take this thing away from me; 9 but He told me, “My grace is enough for you, for My power is brought to perfection in weakness.” Therefore, I am very happy to boast about my weaknesses, in order that the Messiah’s power will rest upon me. 10 Yes, I am well pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties endured on behalf of the Messiah; for it is when I am weak that I am strong.

~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10  — CJB ~

grace-thorn-in-the-fleshHave you ever pleaded with God to take something away from you (pain, physical imperfection, disease, you name it…)? Have you ever been brought so low that you were certain you couldn’t take anymore? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. The truth is, I’m still making my way through, and just when it seems like I’ve got this thing beat or under control, it rears its ugly head up and knocks me down again.

Paul felt that way. You see, in this passage, Paul was telling us his experience of having visited the third heaven. He also spoke of how he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming prideful…

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

~ 2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

2 corinthians 12v9When I read this passage of scripture, I feel a stirring within, as I wonder about that thorn in the flesh. What does the scripture passage photomean? What is a thorn in the flesh?

Lord, I don’t want to take Your word out of context. I don’t want to shame You by reading something into it that isn’t really there. I pray Father, that You would open the eyes of my heart, and give me a true understanding of Your word. Holy Spirit, speak to me through Your word, and reveal the truth of Your word in Jesus’ precious name, amen.

For the record, no one knows exactly what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Some have speculated that his thorn in the flesh was poor eyesight, often citing these scriptures…

Look at the large letters I use as I close in my own handwriting. 

~ Galatians 6:11 — CJB ~

2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him (Paul) on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?”

4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”

5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

~ Acts 23:2-5 — NASB ~

depressedThis theory may or may not be true, though in all honesty, unless the Lord clearly shows us, we will never know for sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Perhaps we don’t know for sure, because if we knew exactly what his thorn in the flesh was, we would be less likely to try to apply this scripture to our own lives, but who knows for sure?…

Still, I feel compelled to study this passage of scripture so that I can apply it to my life.Therefore, let’s start with the things that we do know for sure…

  • One thing is certain — Paul visited the third heaven (though whether he was in his flesh, or out of his body, he wasn’t sure)
  • Paul was given a thorn in the flesh
    • He received this thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself because of the revelations he had received from God
    • His thorn in the flesh was a messenger from Satan, sent to torment him and to keep him from exalting himself

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

Since I want to understand what Paul was telling us in this passage, so that I can apply it to my own life, I’m going to start by examining the original Greek text… The Greek word used for the phrase, Because of the surpassing greatness, is hyperbole

I.     a throwing beyond
II.    metaph.

A.     superiority, excellence, pre-eminence
B.     beyond measure, exceedingly, preeminently
C.     beyond all measure

Paul's VIsionAccording to this, the revelations that Paul had were superior, excellent, pre-eminent, exceeding and beyond all measure. Has the Lord ever spoken to your heart or given you a revelation? He has spoken to my heart many times, and those times are precious to me. They are awe-inspiring and exciting. Indeed, I would say that anytime God reaches down to one of His adopted human children, it is an extreme moment. For it is during those times that we experience Abba’s excellence, His superiority, and His preeminence.

All too often, I’ve seen men and women who have claimed to have a close personal relationship with the Lord, become prideful, and even arrogant, as though the Lord couldn’t speak to someone else.. I’ve seen men and women, who claim to have heard from God, live in utter rebellion to His word, while claiming that all we need to live a life of  One of my biggest fears is that I might become prideful because the Lord has spoken to me. That’s why I often pray, “Father, help me to stay low. Help me to be humble and to stay humble. Please don’t let me become prideful because of the work that You have done in me.” Perhaps that isn’t an area that you struggle with, but it is one that I always pray about, because if the Apostle Paul, who was such a powerful man of God, struggled with pride (as 2 Corinthians 12:7 alludes  to), then it is something that I need to pray about, because I am nowhere near as mighty in Christ as he was.

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

The Greek word for revelation is apokalypsis, which is defined this way…

I.     laying bare, making naked
II.    a disclosure of truth, instruction

A.     concerning things before unknown
B.     used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn
         from view are made visible to all

III.   manifestation, appearance

According to the words spoken so far in this scripture verse, Paul had a supreme experience that was beyond all measure, when he had his apokalypsis. You see, my beloved readers, he received a disclosure of truth and instruction concerning things before unknown. Things that were hitherto withdrawn from view were made visible to him. They were manifested before him.

Is it any wonder that Paul was in danger of becoming prideful and therefore needed to have a thorn in the flesh after such an experience? Often times, we forget that all of the great heroes of the bible were mere mortal men, like we are, and as such, they too, struggled against their flesh, just as we do…

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

The Greek word for “keep me” in this verse is mē, which means, no, not lest. Let’s look at the next word(s) so we can place it together with mē, and gain understanding.

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

The Greek word for “from exalting myself” in this verse is hyperairō, which means:

I.     to lift or raise up over some thing
II.    to lift or raise up over some thing
III.   to carry one’s self haughtily to, behave insolently towards one

Therefore, Paul was given that thorn in the flesh to prevent him from raising himself above others. He was given that thorn in the flesh to remind him not to carry himself haughtily and that he not behave insolently to others. Pride is one of ugliest of all sins.

It was pride that caused Lucifer to be cast out of heaven. It was pride that caused his fall to the earth, and it is his pride that has caused his ultimate fall into the lake of fire. Pride is the cause of Satan’s destruction, and it is the cause of our destruction as well. Pride causes us to disregard the needs of others. It causes us to think more of ourselves than we should, and less of others. Pride causes us to think and feel that we are gods. Pride leads us into other sins. Pride leads us to hell.

Therefore, in light of this, when I read this passage of scripture, I’m able to see God’s love, His mercy and His grace in ordaining Paul’s thorn in the flesh. You see, although Paul’s thorn in the flesh tormented him, God used that torment to help Paul stay humble, for He knew that if Paul became prideful, his ministry would suffer. He knew that if Paul became prideful, he would no longer minister life to either the Gentiles or the Jews, because the ministry would no longer be focused on Christ, but on Paul, himself. God knew that if Paul became prideful, he would be in danger of hell…

But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).

~ James 4:6 — AMP ~

What about you, my beloved readers? Do you have a thorn in your flesh? Have you prayed and asked God to remove it, but still it torments you? Has it occurred to you that perhaps, out of His immeasurable grace and love, God has given you a thorn in the flesh to keep you humble? 

I’m speaking to myself as well as to you. Many times, I’ve asked the Lord to heal my body, and I have believed, only to be disappointed. I’ve even had different leaders within the church imply that the reason I’ve suffered with my affliction is because my faith is not strong enough, or perhaps, I did something to cause my pain. All of that has caused me to question my own faith, but then I read this scripture. Whatever Paul was tormented by did not leave him when he prayed about it, and certainly no one could imply that Paul’s faith was weak. 

So hold fast to your faith, my brothers and sisters. Unlike the message that much of the church preaches nowadays, God’s servants are called to suffer. Read your scriptures — both Old and New Testament apostles, prophets, judges, evangelists and ministers of every kind, who were called by God, suffered greatly for the Lord. Unlike today’s church would have you believe, they were not exempt from pain and suffering, and neither are we. Therefore, we must come to realize that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And know this, my beloved suffering readers, God’s grace is sufficient!

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers

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