A construction crew had been on the job site for about a week when one of their men was hurt and a new guy, named Jason, was hired. He was a broad-shouldered, powerful young man and a really good worker. But he was also very annoying.
Jason was always bragging that he was stronger than anyone else at the worksite and he especially made fun of Ralph, one of the older workmen. Finally, the old fella had enough.
“Sonny,” said Ralph, “why don’t you put your money where your mouth is. I will bet a week’s wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that outbuilding that you won’t be able to wheel back.”
Jason smiled and said: “You’re on, old man. Let’s see what you got.”
Then Ralph reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then, nodding to Jason, he said, “All right, young man get in.”
There are a lot of applications to this story, but it reminds us that there are all kinds of burdens. Some are physical, and others are emotional or mental. And there are some things we can’t handle ourselves. We need someone else.
The apostle Paul speaks to that issue in 2 Corinthians 12 when he wrote about his “thorn in the flesh.”
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. 8 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. (2Cor. 12:7-10)
The context deals with Paul’s thorn in the flesh. He doesn’t identify it, so, we don’t know what the thorn was. But it was a problem for Paul. It hurt. It was pricking him. It slowed him down. It caused him pain.
The text tells us what Paul did about it. First, he recognized the source of the problem–the devil. He didn’t blame God, but understood that the thorn was a “messenger of Satan.” Secondly, he realized that the thorn was a means to keep him humble, to remind him not to be conceited or proud. Thirdly, Paul responded with prayer. Three times, he asked God to remove the thorn.
God answered Paul’s prayer, but He didn’t remove the thorn. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God’s answer to our requests is not always, “Yes.” Sometimes, it is “no.” Other times it is “wait a while.” Or it may be, “I will give you help, hope, and strength through MY grace.”
Instead of turning bitter at God’s answer, Paul allowed the thorn to make him stronger. To demonstrate God’s power. To actually be glad that he could use the devil’s infirmity to make him a better Christian.
The Grace Factor
This text also reminds us of some great lessons about God’s amazing grace.
(1) We are Saved by Grace.
The reason Paul could access God’s grace was because he had been saved by it. To the Ephesians, he affirmed, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
(2) We are Sustained by Grace.
Since we enjoy God’s saving grace, we can be sustained through difficulties, trials, various thorns in the flesh. Grace nourishes us. Nurtures us. Supports us.
(3) We are Strengthened by Grace
Like Paul, we find the power to overcome problems. God’s grace gives us the strength to go on. To accept life’s hurts. To grow. To even be empowered to accomplish great things for God.
Are you dealing with a thorn in the flesh? Hold on. Have faith. Pray. Help is on the way. God’s grace will give you the strength to overcome your “thorn in the flesh.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman