Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks for the Thorns

“…there was given me a thorn in the flesh,… most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” -2Cor. 12:7-9 How awesome! Another Thanksgiving is upon us. Our lives are a little different every Thanksgiving with our unique family trials, but what a wonderful holiday. Again, we’re all left with a decision to make: Do I bow to the difficulties and struggles I carry this week or do I turn my attention to the ways I’ve been blessed? We will always have thorns in our flesh. We always have trials in our daily living. We always have challenges emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They are God’s constant reminder of where we need to focus: on His awesome power and strength. And that is not so those difficulties will go away, but so that we can be truly thankful in the midst of the thorns. In chapter twelve of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes his thorn. He had just told the people about a magnificent journey he had taken to heaven and about how wonderful it was. He was probably referring to his stoning in Lystra in Acts 14. You might recall that stoning in the first century was capital punishment. The idea was death. In this miraculous story, Paul was stoned and then life returned to him by the providence of God. Paul describes his heaven experience in great detail. But then he lands back on earth to describe his thorn in the flesh. We don’t know what the thorn was exactly. Some have suggested it was his eyesight, since we know he was blind for a time after his conversion. Some have suggested malaria, as it was prevalent in those days. We simply don’t know. God, in His providence, leaves the identity unknown so that we might fill in the blank with our own particular handicap. Paul goes on to say he “entreated the Lord three times that it might be removed,” but God said “let it be- let my strength be shown in your weakness.” It seems we all have issues that we feel, if they weren’t present, would leave us in great shape. But there a problem with that philosophy- it leaves us in great shape without God. It’s like a baby saying, “If I just didn’t need to be fed, clothed, housed and protected, then all would be great.” That’s true- but what’s wrong with needing a mother? Because, past all of her provision, children need the deeper love of their momma. The same is true in our relationships with God. We don’t just need what God can give us, we need who He is. In that same letter, back in Chapter 9, Paul had thanked God for His “indescribable gift.” When we’re truly seeking God and not just what He can give us, we possess a thankful heart. It’s why we’re urged by Paul again in Philippians Chapter Four to be “anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God will guard your heart and minds.” When we “let God know,” He already knows, but prayer changes our perspective from a spirit of want to a spirit of thankfulness. The old Baptist hymn said to “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” When we do the counting and the naming of our blessings, everything changes. We recognize how good our God really is. Take the time this Thanksgiving season to say “thanks” to God, not just for all you have, but for who He is. It’s okay to pray for “thorn removal”- Paul certainly did- but if God says “leave it,” be thankful. Sara Young says in her famous devotional “God Calling”, “You give God thanks (regardless of your feelings), and He gives you joy (regardless of your circumstances).” Enjoy a “thankful” Thanksgiving this year. Enjoy the food, enjoy the football, enjoy the family, and enjoy God’s love. Be thankful… …for the thorns as well. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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