Out of all human relationships, there is only one that has remained somewhat intact despite the fall. Can you guess what relationship I’m referring to? Romantic love and marriage is tainted by selfish ambition and the desire for personal pleasure. The first murder was caused by sibling rivalry and jealousy. Friends are quick to betray. Cousins and uncles have stood on opposite sides of a battlefield and fought each other. So what human relationship is left?
Parents’ unconditional love for their children.
God’s ways never seem to make sense in our finite human understanding. The way of His kingdom is completely opposite of our world and culture. In His system, the humble are lifted up, the poor made rich, the last made first, and the weak made strong. Crazy, right?!
But it’s true.
Thorns are prickly, sharp, pointy objects that inflict pain on those who brush up against them. They look menacing and make you think twice about picking a berry or plucking a rose. Can you imagine getting one lodged deep into your foot or hand? It would be extremely painful!
Figuratively, Paul had a thorn in the flesh. It caused him constant pain, but he never complained. In fact, this is the only place in the entire Bible that we read about it. Outside of II Corinthians, Paul never mentions it. But why didn’t Paul tell others about it more often? Why did he only share this bit of information with the Corinthian church? Let’s find out!
Our culture is really into boasting and bragging about our accomplishments. Whether it be fancy résumés, lofty sounding credentials, status symbol luxury cars, or casual name dropping, we really like showing off our success and importance.
But this is no new thing.
Disguises are meant to hide and conceal one’s true identity. Over the centuries, spies have used them to get behind enemy lines and gather important intelligence and information that can help their side win a war. During the Holocaust, many Jews assumed disguises to pass undetected on their way to freedom and safety. While disguises can and have been used for good, the whole purpose of a disguise is to hide, conceal, and become someone you are not.
Throughout the New Testament, the church is referred to as the bride of Christ. A redeemed and ransomed bride who is waiting for her glorious Bridegroom to return. However, in that waiting, she must be careful not to get distracted or led stray from her faithful devotion by the lofting promises of the world and lies of the enemy. She must remain sincere, pure, and fully devoted to her heavenly Bridegroom.
“‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
~II Corinthians 10:17-18
Paul wraps up his defense of the ministry God has given him with a quote from Jeremiah 9 and a final truth that is so important for all those laboring for the kingdom to remember. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished, who you’ve met, where you’ve been, or how far-reaching your ministry is, all that matters is that you are approved by the Master.
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