I originally wrote Thorn in the Flesh sitting in a boat on the bonefish flats in Key Largo some 15 years ago. What started out as a series of sermons became a book. It went into reprints both in the USA and UK and also has been translated into several languages. Paul Crouch chose it as a giveaway for TBN viewers – I believe he said they gave away 197,000 copies.
I got interesting responses, mostly from offended people enamored with ‘prosperity teaching’ and the notion that you should never be sick or poor. A follower of a well-known prosperity teacher wrote me, “Satan loves your book man” but he did not sign his name or give address. Yogi Berra said “Never answer an anonymous letter” so I didn’t! The anonymous writer followed the man who said, “If the Apostle Paul had my faith he would would not have had his thorn in the flesh” – possibly one of the most despicable, reprehensible, sick, disgusting and theologically unsound statements I have heard in my (almost) 79 years.
Paul said that he was raised up to be an example – pattern – for those who would receive eternal life (1 Tim.1:16). How dare some man disregard Paul and imply he is more spiritual than Paul! This is what happens when you deny the supremacy, infallibility and finality of Holy Scripture when it comes to sound doctrine.
In any case, Paul testifies to a thorn in the flesh. I am glad we don’t know what it was; otherwise, we would dismiss the idea and say “only Paul had that”. But because he used an “umbrella term” – we an all get under the phrase “thorn in the flesh” – and know that God sends such to all believers! The Greek word likens Paul’s thorn to getting stuck with a fish hook; you can’t get it out and if you try it hurts all the more – so you live with it. That is the idea.
We won’t know until we get to Heaven (of course) what Paul’s thorn was. It could have been his bad eyes. Health. Enemy. Living single. Who knows? I am glad he admitted to praying “three times” that it be taken away – for God who gave it could have taken it away; if Paul doesn’t get all his prayers answered why should I feel bad if I too experienced a lot of unanswered prayers?
Do you have a thorn in the flesh? I do – latest count: three.
The thing about the thorn in the flesh is that it is painful – and you can’t not think about it all the time. It is “in your face” (so to speak) – so intrusive. But it is God’s way of keeping us humble.
No single translation explains the purpose of a thorn in the flesh. One translation is “lest I be exalted above measure” (KJV) – implies that it kept people from thinking too much of Paul. Other translations – to keep him from being “conceited” (NIV ESV) – shows how human Paul was (does this surprise you?).
If you had a choice between the removal of your own thorn in the flesh and a double anointing of the Holy Spirit, which would you choose? Paul wasn’t given a choice but God answered his prayed with the promise of “sufficient grace” – which surely is better than having the thorn removed. I would prefer a greater anointing of the Spirit on me than anything. So if this is why I have my three thorns, I say “YES LORD – leave things as they are”.
We are selling Thorn in the Flesh at the discount price of $8.97 this month!