[Column] Thorn is a means of humility

Thorn is a means of humility

Written By Rev.Dr. Joshua Hong

Senior Pastor of Full Gospel Church of Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.


Apostle Paul had a thorn, which gave him pain. There are many speculations as to what it was. Some say it was stammer, headache, or even epilepsy. While many conjectures persist, I personally believe it was a serious eye problem. When I go to heaven and meet Apostle Paul, the first thing I’ll ask him is what the thorn was. From the way he described as a thorn, it must have been a great source of pain. In spite of his heartfelt prayers, why did it remain in him? The Second Corinthians 12:7 clearly illustrates that the thorn was given lest he boasts.

Paul had many great qualities. He had many things to boast about. Born from a prestigious family, He was the Hebrew of Hebrews. He was a citizen of the Roman Empire. In addition, he received his education under the tutelage of Gamaliel. He was a gifted writer. He experienced numerous miracles and visions by the power of God. Had he not even gone to (the Third) Heaven? God allowed the thorn using Satan lest Paul grows prideful. God permitted this so that Paul may not consider himself spiritually superior or exceptional.

Here we understand that God allows even weaknesses and thorns. Ecclesiastes 7:14 writes, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other.” The weakness we cannot overcome with our strength is what God allowed for our goodness sake. The messenger of Satan gave Paul the thorn. Satan exercises his power within the boundary of God’s sanction. In the Gospels, the demons are helpless before Jesus Christ. When Paul decides to visit Thessalonica, Satan places hindrance (Thessalonians 2:17-18). Even that, however, was permitted to fulfill God’s purposes. Because of Satan’s hindrance, he continued his trip and brought Gospel to Berea, Aden, and even Corinth. The bodily thorn permitted by God through Satan’s messenger helped him maintain his “balance” by remaining spiritually humble.

We easily become arrogant over insignificant matters. We boast because we have a bit of money, because we went to good schools, and because we are knowledgeable. We are prideful because we have academic degrees and we have experiences. We feel superior to others because we are slim, pretty, and better dressed than others. Some people have higher egos because they are muscular built. The essence of pride is a lack of dependence on God and a condescending attitude towards others. This pride ultimately led to the fall of humanity. The essence of humility is the acknowledgement of our need for God and serving others. Do we depend on God when we are healthy and everything is well? No. Instead, when we feel weak and in need, we depend on Him. Therefore, the problems and thorns we are facing can serve as a cautionary tale against stumble into arrogance.

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