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SERMON DATE AND TITLE: 20180415 PAUL'S THORN

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       Senior Pastor Phil Roland

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              Pastor Ray Scott

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PAUL’S THORN

Sermon Starter

I have wrestled with the problem of Paul’s suffering first as a theology student and later as a pastor.  How could someone like Paul who wrought miracles in Jesus’ name while at the same time struggle with physical infirmity?  How could Paul, the apostle who wrote in Ephesians 4:26
26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
27 nor give place to the devil.

admonish us not to allow the sun to set on our anger, say emphatically, in 2 Timothy 4:14, “Alexander the Coppersmith did me much harm, may the Lord repay him according to his works?”
Could it be that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was his own stubborn fleshly will that would not relent on issues he doggedly believed he was right and his adversaries were wrong?  Was Paul’s Thorn a person, himself, something or someone sent to “keep him humble?”  Could Paul’s Thorn have simply been as simple as an ophthalmological problem? In this message I wrestle with Biblical references regarding Paul’s Thorn.
          The significance of Paul's struggle for we contemporary believers is that if God could send Paul a Thorn in the Flesh and he was an apostle, how could we think we would be exempted from trials from our own Thorn in the Flesh?? For this pastor I believe it doesn’t matter whether Paul’s Thorn was physical or relational.  What does matter is that we keep our eyes on Jesus deciding for ourselves to follow Him no matter what occurs.

Pastor Phil  <><<
A
Sheepfold Ministries, April 15, 2018
Pastor Phil Roland
PAUL’S THORN
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - 2 Corinthians 10:7-10
“It’s not clear what Paul’s Thorn in the flesh was. We do know that he struggled in his circumstances and relationships with people. It is a natural consequence of following Jesus."                                        Pastor Phil  <><<

7 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. 2 Corinthians 12:7

THORN =  σκόλοψ  = skol'-ops  =  Root Word, Tent Stake

EUPHEMISMS - "The substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt."
Eg. "To Pass Away" is a euphemism for "to die."
Commonly used Euphemisms:
          Correctional facility instead of jail
          Departed instead of died
          Differently-abled instead of handicapped or disabled
          Fell off the back of a truck instead of stolen
          Ethnic cleansing instead of genocide

          (List some of your own euphemisms)

I.  PAUL’S THORN WAS PROBABLY NOT PHYSICAL
            A. Speech Impediment, Stuttered. . .
                    1. Severe Eye Difficulties
                    2. Leprosy
                    3. Malaria
          B. Mental Issues
                        1. Chronic Depression, BPD  Bi-Polaris Disorder
                    2. Migraine Headaches
                    3. IED - Intermittent Explosive Disorder
          C. Spiritual Issues 
                    1. The Flesh. . .Our old nature without Christ in our lives
                    2. An unbridled temper and tongue
                    3. Gave full vent to his rage. . .

II. PAUL'S THORN COULD HAVE BEEN CIRCUMSTANTIAL
          A. Trials and Tribulations - Mark 10:29-30
                    29 So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one
               who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or
               children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 who shall not receive a
               hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and
PAUL'S THORN, cont. p.2

               mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to
               come, eternal life.    
                    1. Trials and Tribulations can mean that Jesus is Present
                    2. Trials and Tribulations can mean that Persecution will occur
                    3. Remember, the Curse for Adam was Sweat and Death
                    4. While the Curse for Eve was Pain and Conflict
                    5. Jesus will lead us THROUGH life's Persecution and Trials
                                    "If God will take you TO IT, He will take you THROUGH IT!"
          B. Paul's Consequences for earlier Persecuting the Church - Acts 8:3
                    3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and
              dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
                        1. IMAGINE. . . the one who formerly had you beaten and                                               imprisoned, now wants to speak at your Sunday morning service!
                        2. Paul was often was consumed with guilt about his past         
                    3. Why do you think Paul wrote 1 Cor. 13, the Love Chapter?
          C. Paul's Guilt and Shame could have been his Thorn
                    9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an
              apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of
              God I am what I am. . .     1 Corinthians 15:9-10a

III. PAUL'S THORN COULD HAVE BEEN RELATIONAL
          A. Contention with Alexander the Coppersmith - 2 Tim. 4:14
                    14Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.
               May the Lord repay him according to his works.
                    1. Paul's own abrasive nature rubbed people the wrong way
                    2. Apostle's are confrontive, directive and persuasive
                    3. Paul was probably an "in your face" personality
          B. Contention with Hymenaeus and Alexander - 1 Tim. 1:18-20
18This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies
               previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good
               warfare, 19having faith and a good conscience, which some having
               rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20of whom are
               Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn
               not to blaspheme.
          C. Contention with Hymenaeus and Philetus' Heresy - 2 Tim. 2:15-18
                    15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not
              need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane
              and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17And their
            message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort,
              18who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is
              already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
D. Contention with John Mark - Acts 15:36-41
                    36Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and
              visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the
              Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37Now Barnabas was determined to
              take with them John called Mark. 38But Paul insisted that they should not
              take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and                        had not gone with them to the work. 39Then the contention became so            
PAUL'S THORN, cont. p.3

              sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and                    sailed to Cyprus; 40but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended
              by the brethren to the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and                            Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
                    1. If the Bible mentions something once it's important
                    2. If it says it twice take notice
                    3. If something occurs 3X you can know for certain
                    4. Paul was  Intolerant of weakness in others
                    5. He was contentious for the Gospel, totally focused
                    6. He was not easy to work with
                    7. In DISC language he was "Choleric," Dynamic and Forceful

CONCLUSIONS FROM PAUL’S THORN:
1. God doesn’t make his kids ill, weak or sick to “prove them.” He doesn’t make Himself stronger through our discomfort or distress: that’s sadomasochism.
2. God does use aversive people in our loves to develop His Fruit in our character. See Galatians 5:22
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,
     faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
3. God’s grace and strength in us will “always cause us to triumph”
    (2 Cor. 2:14) by how we act and react to aversive people.
4. When you experience adversity from people obey Christ’s command to
     love, pray for, bless and forgive them. Matthew 5:44

Personal Reflections:
1. What are the thorns in my flesh that distract me from following Christ?
2. How am I doing with Christ’s commands to love, forgive, pray for and
   bless my enemies and detractors?
3. Will I learn from Paul’s example or repeat his fallacies?

B
PAUL'S THORN
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NKJV)
7 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.
9 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.
10 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 Corinthians 10:7-10 (NKJV)
7 Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's.
8 For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed--
9 lest I seem to terrify you by letters.
10 "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible."

C
Joni Erickson Tada Illustration
Larry King hosted Joni Erickson Tada, who I think more than any of us has experienced adversity in her life. Larry asked her where was God in the events of September 11. Here's her response:
"Where was God? That's a question I can identify with. Like I told my friend Steve at the time of my diving accident when I broke my neck, I felt that God had turned his back on me. I was only 17 years old and I imagined that God had become distracted by the prayers of people with cancer, diabetes or divorce. Where in the world was He? After 35 years living as a quadriplegic, I learned that God permits what he hates in order to accomplish those things that he loves. If evil men perpetuate evil crimes, God admits this under restraint and channels it in such a way as to promote his good and his gospel.

 

He dropped out of grade school and was home schooled. He ran a country store but went broke and it took 19 years to pay off all his bills, but he did pay them off. He had a law firm, but his partner ran off and left him with debts. He was married, but his marriage flopped. His wife came down with mental illness and paranoia. He had a son who was physically weak and died at a young age. He ran for political office four times, twice for the house and twice for the senate, and lost all four times. Ultimately, he held office but was despised by half the country. Satirists and newsmen derided him on an almost daily basis. Most audiences felt his speeches were hum-drum. His classic speech was met with indifference.
Who was he? Abraham Lincoln.

 

PERSONAL
My Thorn in the flesh was chronic pain that came into my life through two ruptured discs in L4 and L5. The excruciating pain was so severe I wanted to die. I thought my life was over. I had religion in my life, but I didn't have Jesus.

THE MAIN MAST OF A SAILING VESSEL
Billy Graham said that in olden times when a ship’s carpenter needed timber to make a mast for a sailing vessel he did not cut down a tree in the valley, but he went up on the mountainside where the trees had been pelted by wind, rain, snow, and sleet. He knew that those trees were strong from having withstood the fierce elements. Heartache and suffering are not our choices; but if we’ll allow him to, God will use the storms of life to strengthen us--so that we not only will be blessed ourselves, but so that we can also be a blessing to others.