Monday, December 8, 2014

Our Own "Thorn in the Flesh"

Thorns hurt! I know. I poached by accident and the landowner shot at me several times. As I heard bullets whizzing by my head, I was forced to run speedily across the creek on a log where I lost my shoes. Without shirt already and in cutoffs, to escape death, I ran through a blackberry patch. Due to the adrenalin I felt little pain, but afterwards thorns had scored my skin from head to foot! My entire body was bloodied and due to all the rips in the skin, it looked as if I had been tortured!

I had thorn wounds all over! For those who never picked blackberries, thorns are the fishhook-like barbs on the wood of the plant. They are extremely hard and  sharp! When they puncture the skin the sting due to the sap on some bushes irritate the skin even more than the barb itself. Furthermore, the sting is lasting!

The blackberry patch was a "thorn in my flesh". That's in a literal sense!  However, as with many words, thorns have tertiary definitions. From a biblical standpoint the expression "thorn in the flesh" means something which irritates or causes great distress. Of course that includes blackberry thorns, but the bigger thorn in my flesh was the irritated landowner! I'm sure he wasn't so concerned about a few blue gill in his strip mine, but he was worried that we would poach his marijuana patch which was surely there! Hence, not only was the briers and the landowner "thorns" but so were the evil influences driving the landowner! My thorns were real briers, another man and the devils motivating the man. They were all irritants to me and stressful!

But that's not what Paul was suffering from:
2 Corinthians 12:7b "...there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me."
Paul was struck hard (buffeted) with his "thorn in the flesh". The nature of the thorn was a "dark angel"; a principality or an evil presence! Hence, Paul's "thorn" from which he was distressed was a spiritual battle within. Someone or something was ripping and tearing his spirit, and it was something worldly. From "Paul's Thorn in the Flesh" written earlier today, I proposed that Simon the Magician was Paul's thorn. The success of Simon's foolery was effecting the ministry of Paul. It made it harder for him to minister the word. Paul was likely in stress and discouraged!

Jesus had a "thorn in the flesh". His thorn was the devil himself. Jesus was tempted for forty days, Satan offering him the entire world, which Satan knew that Jesus would someday own anyway! During his entire ministry, the devil taunted Jesus and drove others to persecute him. The devil caused people to humiliate, flog and murder Jesus. Even the temptation of Jesus was a "thorn" although Jesus never budged! He felt the same desires which we have, but he dealt with them through God.

I would believe that we all have a "thorn in the flesh". For most men who are honest, the visual stimulation of an appealing woman has confounded the souls of many otherwise pure men from King David and Solomon to Samson. Jezebel was a thorn in many men's eyes and still is today. However, not to blame women entirely, men have desired women for thousands of years; even chaste women.

My own dad, a godly man, when he was around eighty when I asked "When does this go away?", replied "It never does!" The fair sex is a thorn in the flesh of most normal men. It's something men deal with through prayer, scripture and the help of good and dutiful wives. It may be that women have a similar "thorn in the flesh" since it seems to me that they battle the same principalities! They can judge themselves!

The thorn is the temptation. It pricks and irritates. The poison on the thorn can only be treated by spiritual salve. Of course, if folks give in to temptation, another thorn appears: guilt! Guilt is God's way of making people uncomfortable in sin. The fear of guilt is a great deterrent to sin, but people must still deal with the thorn of temptation regardless

Jesus, having the temptation, didn't sin. When we're tempted,  it's not sin. Both are, however, thorns in the flesh. The thorn digs deeper when people submit to the thorn and become guilty! Never blame a person for the temptation, but only the submission to the temptation! That's the true meaning of "Thou shalt not judge!" It's as if one is implying that they are never tempted!

In addition to this common "thorn" the bush is full of many others hybrids. For some it's alcohol; for others gambling. Any sin or even temptations which we deal with on a daily basis is a "thorn in the flesh". Paul never sinned as far as we know with his thorn. It's likely that he was tempted to give up his ministry, but he didn't! The thorn was still real to him. Likewise, with our own temptation can be a thorn, although we never sin with it! The devil was still a thorn to Jesus although Jesus not one time even considered sinning!

The devil is always behind "thorns in the flesh". Even as I write this, Satan is saying "Don't publish this! You know that others may be thin-skinned and even angry. (as they always are at truth)." The devil this instant is my thorn, but I won't cave to the temptation. I'll publish anyhow and suffer the consequences. Some may even be angry that I, a Christian, sometimes am tempted with impure thoughts! I wish that it wasn't true, but all righteous men have the same plague which I have. It's called "original sin" and is inherited from my forebears.

Examine your own thorns in the flesh. What are you constantly tempted with? Do you sometimes fail God? Do you sometimes feel guilty for sinning? Guilt is a sure sign that God still guides you. Those who never feel guilty are reprobate. They are the the psychos who are beyond caring.  I thank God that I have a weapon against my thorns and that I'm still able to feel guilt and sorrow! My weapons are God-given:
Ephesians 6:11 "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
The "wiles of the devil"  are the scoring of my soul by the barbs of Satan. "What is the full armour of God"?
Ephesians 6:12 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints..."
You see we are protected and have our own weapons! Me, studying the word, considering it and applying it are some of the weapons of which Paul spoke. I fight Satan by writing these words.  It's not coincidence that Paul had a "thorn in the flesh", but dealt with it using this armour! The thorns are even mentioned in these passages: "be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked". Those fiery darts of the wicked are what's "thorns in our flesh"!

Dust off the armour and put it on! Get out the sword and fight the spirits of the dark. God stands with you. Who, other than Satan, can be against you?

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