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Power in Weakness
The most profound thought from this morning’s sermon was the benefit of not knowing the exact nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”. I can say it was profound because it certainly wasn’t my original idea. I don’t remember where I learned this concept but it’s true that the ambiguity of knowing the precise identity of the thorn has served to benefit people in every age.
Even though Paul has traveled to the 3rd heaven, his thorn in the flesh kept his feet on the ground. Instead of living with an inflated ego, he lived with a painful reminder of his need to be totally dependent upon God. I thought of telling the stories of those who have suffered painful afflictions and discovered the work of God in the midst of the pain.
Corrie ten Boom’s struggle in Hitler’s concentration camps is one such example. She and her family helped Jews escape Germany and certain death. The Nazi’s arrested them and sent them to live in the “death camps”. Only Corrie survived the experience. Her story is told in her book, The Hiding Place.
Another example is Joni Eareckson Tada. A sweet Christian girl who had a freak diving accident at the age of 18, becoming a quadriplegic. She eventually suffered terrible depression and wanted to kill herself but was unable to get anyone to assist her. Resigning herself and her condition to the will of God, she became world famous as an author, radio host, and founded Joni and Friends which ministers to the disabled. The story of how she came to accept her condition as her “thorn in the flesh” is told in her classic book, Joni.
In the end I decided not to use these examples or any other except the cross of Christ. Paul, Corrie ten Boom, Joni and countless others learned to live with their “thorn in the flesh” not by the power of positive thinking, or by denying the painful, unending reality they were facing. Rather, they looked to the cross of Christ and put their trust in him.