2 Corinthians 12:7-11
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…
Apply this to —
I. TEMPORAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. If we examine closely the lot even of those who seem the most signally favoured of fortune, we shall perceive that their happiness is not full-orbed. Something is wanting. He is rich, but a stranger, it may be, shall inherit all that he has. He is famous in the world, but has no joy at his domestic hearth. A noble career opens to him, but health fails. Fortune seems to give everything, but yet in a strange irony withholds the one thing which would make all the rest to have any true value. This, of course, is still more observable with the many who are not so favoured; everywhere there is some good thing withheld or some sad thing added, some "thorn in the flesh." It is sometimes evident to all the world, in other cases only the sufferer himself knows.
2. How easy it is to grow impatient under a discipline such as this — at first to ask that it might be removed, and then if, as it seems, we are not heard, to fret and murmur. Very often a man is the more irritated because there is nothing romantic or heroic about it. Alas! we do not know that such messengers as these to humble us are a most important part of the discipline of our lives. It takes very little to puff up these vain hearts of ours. The "thorn in the flesh," that is the appointed means to keep us low.
II. SPIRITUAL LIFE. There is perhaps nothing which so much disappoints the young and earnest Christian as the slow progress which he makes in holiness, and his exposure to temptations of the lowest, the meanest kind. He had hoped that he was to travel on from one height of Christian attainment to another without hindrance. He, too, having been in his third heaven, counts that he shall never come down from it, or at any rate does not expect that henceforth he shall be liable to the everyday vulgar temptations which he sees to be besetting so many round him. Soon, however, he learns his mistake. God has provided some better thing, not release from temptation, but victory in and over temptation.
Parallel VersesKJV: And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
WEB: By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively.