Seeking Jesus First - Aug. 17, 2023

Seeking Jesus First - Aug. 17, 2023
Photo by Museums Victoria / Unsplash

What was Apostle Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh?

What does Paul mention so many times in his writings that followed him everywhere he went?

“…A messenger of Satan sent to buffet me…”?

From Paul’s own writing, separated by a few verses, Paul first mentions all of the troubles that he faced and then mentions them a second time in the context of them being a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him.

Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” (2 Corinthians 11:23–29, NKJV)

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10, NKJV)

All of these things were sent by Satan. This means that they were not sent by God. Otherwise, why would God tell Paul that the grace of God would see him through it victoriously. Why would God war against Himself by sending Satan to distress Paul only to comfort and strengthen Paul in His distress. The reasoning always seems to be that God is teaching Paul to trust Him. How can you trust someone who beats you up for the soul purpose of making you dependent on them? That sounds messed up no matter how you say it. Is the argument that God sent the Judaizers to test the followers of Christ Jesus? Did God send the serpent to test Eve? I know there is a large portion of Christians, maybe even the majority, who believe that is exactly what God did and does. And in one sense, that is great faith. I honor them for their loving faith in God through Jesus Christ while believing that God is the author of all of their distress. That is not a joke nor is it sarcasm.

However, I do see things differently. I don’t believe that we were made as a bunch of dolls for God to play with. (Please don’t take that as a jibe.) I believe that we are created to be sons of God. I believe that we are created to be God’s family. I believe that He works very hard to influence us and teach us what He desires for us to learn and do. I also believe that He allows us room to make choices. With this as a premise or pretext, whichever you think it is, I believe that human choices affect other humans. I believe that the kingdom of darkness tries to influence humans to make bad choices that end up hurting other humans. One of the truths we have come to believe is that, “Hurting people hurt people.” But it is also true that people are hurt by their own perceptions of others without the knowledge of others. This happens because the kingdom of darkness introduces lies and division just as the serpent did with Eve.

In order to live as sons of God, we must receive His loving transformational words and promises by faith. The incorruptible and transformational seed/word of God must be received by faith. It must be planted over and over again in our lives just like a farmer plants and harvests, season after season, year after year. Each year he plants the seed from the best of the harvest - not the worst. He doesn’t replant seed from small, diseased vegetables and fruit. He replants the seed from the most luscious and healthy fruit and vegetables that he harvested. It is not enough to plant one seed, one time. The farmer will get the fruit of one harvested plant if that plant happens to grow and produce fruit.

Instead the farmer plants row after row of good seed. He plants as much as he can afford to plant and as much as he is capable of harvesting. I believe this is how God wants us to grow in his promises. We are to plant His seed and word in our lives as much as possible. We are to tend our garden and reap our harvest and plant again - over and over again - until the way we live in the earth reflects His loving heart for all of His creation. While we are doing this, the kingdom of darkness is trying to hold on to our inheritance. We submit to God AND we resist the devil. If the devil is God’s messenger, why would God want us to resist Him? I know that is a circular argument based upon my limited natural understanding. However, it is also based upon my understanding and experience with God through His Word and His Spirit. I believe I am willing to receive correction from Our Father, through His Spirit and His Word, even on this way of understanding Him.

Faith allows us to approach Him in the only way that pleases Him, so, whichever way you approach this, if your faith allows you to see Him and receive His love and fall more deeply in love with Him, You are on the right path. Your Father is pleased by your faith in Him.