Today’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 12
In today’s chapter we see a set of red letters, which come alive in a place that we don’t expect. Do you know what I mean when I say red letters? For those of us who grew up in the church when KJV was just about our only option of Bible translation, we know that all of Jesus’ words were in red letters to distinguish them from all other letters. We knew those red letters were all in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the very beginning of Acts. Those were the books of the Bible that covered when Jesus was on the earth. But red letters in 2 Corinthians 12?
Paul needed an answer to his prayer, and he got red letters:
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, emphasis added)
Paul said he was given a thorn in the flesh. No one knows exactly what the thorn was. Many have speculated everything from a physical handicap of eye sight to epilepsy. But as men fight over what the thorn was, it’s easy to miss the big point of Paul’s prayer. He asked God three times to take away the thorn. And out of nowhere come red letters!
Jesus responds to Paul’s prayer to remove his thorn. His response, though, is not what Paul expected. To me it was a yes-or-no question. Jesus answered better. Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
To divorce these words from their context is an unpardonable atrocity. It is one of the most touching pieces of Pauline autobiography in the New Testament. It was from the ascended, throne-sitting, righthand of God—Jesus. And it was given to a pain-racked, baffled, questioning, no-answer-to-prayer apostle. These words turned him around in an instant.
Read the beginning of what Paul said: thorn in the flesh; messenger of Satan to keep me from exalting myself; entreated the Lord three times for it to leave; nothing happened.
Then Jesus spoke—the red letters. “And He has said to me . . .” The “He” was Jesus.
And right after the red letters, the change came to Paul.
He went from “I got a thorn in the flesh, and God won’t answer my prayer about it” to “Not only can I handle the thorn, but because Jesus spoke to me, I can handle a lot more.” And Paul added to the thorn list more issues:
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (verses 9-10)
One word from Jesus and Paul was able to take on five more challenges.
Jesus may not say what you want, but He always says what you need. Paul was looking for a thorn answer and received a grace supply.
Jesus did not say, “I will remove the thorn.” But He did say, “I will give you a great grace, which is better than a thorn being removed.”
Did you get that? Sufficient grace with a thorn is better than no grace without a thorn.