When we understand righteousness by faith in Christ alone, we will come to the point where we can thank God for the thorns of temptation He allows to come to us. Paul understood this when he wrote:
“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 Cor. 12:7-10).
Many things can be thorns in the flesh. Paul lists some of his thorns: infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distresses. Paul prayed for God to remove them. But God said no. Why? God’s grace was all Paul needed in order to deal with the thorns.
God also gave Paul a very important truth to remember and to share with others when He said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The weaker we know we are, the sooner we stop trying to exert our puny strength to overcome a thorny temptation in our life. Then the sooner we will begin experiencing God’s mighty power in our life. Our own exertion of effort to overcome a temptation actually gets in the way of God’s power to deliver. You see, when we do that we are looking to our strength and ability to overcome even though we think we are also depending on God to “help” us. God wants to do much more than “help” us. He is the victory. Christ is our deliverance from temptation. When we back off from such efforts and get ourselves out of the way, then Christ can begin manifesting Himself in and through us. You have probably heard the saying, “Let go and let God.” This is what that saying means.
This is why the Lord will leave some thorns of temptation in your life. I am sure you have prayed for God to remove thorns of besetting sins. They have brought discouragement and defeat in your life. However, God leaves them because He wants you to learn the lesson that His strength is made perfect in your weakness. When you begin experiencing Christ’s deliverance in you then you, along with Paul, will declare, “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.
You will come to the point that you actually thank God for the thorns in your life. Why? It is because of them that you came to experience the amazing delivering power of Christ. Because of them Christ has become even more precious to you. As He gives you the victory over your temptations, your praises for Him fill your heart.
You also rejoice in the thorns because they are opportunities for God’s glory to shine forth through you as Christ manifests His life in and through you. They are opportunities for you to become more and more like Christ in those areas of your life as He manifests Himself more and more in your life.
This is what James was speaking of when he wrote: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [endurance]. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
You will then experience what Paul describes “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). Even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances you will be able to rejoice because Jesus is manifesting Himself in you. Your faith in Christ develops an endurance that will lead to Christ manifesting Himself in you fully. During this process, you will become ready for His return.
Personal Reflection and Discussion:
1. What did Paul realize about the thorns in his life?
2. Why does God not remove some temptations and trials in our life even though we ask Him to remove them?
3. Instead of trying hard to resist the temptation, how are we to obtain the victory over sin?
4. What do the thorns of temptation in your life enable Christ to do in your life?
5. How can Christians come to the place in their life where they can thank God for the thorns of temptation in their life?
• Call your prayer partner and discuss this devotional with him/her.
• Pray with your prayer partner:
1. Pray for God to baptize you with His Holy Spirit.
2. Pray for God to revive you and His church.
3. Pray for God to continue to lead you to understand and experience righteousness by faith in Christ alone.
4. Pray for Christ to manifest His victory when you are tempted.
5. Pray for the individuals on your prayer list.”
Excerpt From: Dennis Smith. “40 Days.”