Coping With Thorns

Neal Pollard

Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He is the author of audacity, and he showed it first in Eden. He is at work today through temptation and suffering to try and dismantle our faith. He is a presence in our personal lives (1 Pet. 5:8). If there’s hurt, he’s happy. If there’s sin, he’s satisfied. He can’t force anyone to sin (Js. 1:13-15). He can’t make us fall away (John 10:28-29). But, he’s at work. Paul writes about something that has long mystified the Bible student, in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. In that passage, we have:

  • The reality of the thorn (7)
  • The reproach of the thorn (7)
  • The reason for the thorn (7)
  • The result of the thorn (7)
  • The response to the thorn (8-10).

Paul reveals Satan’s involvement in that thorn. This troubles me. I have never asked for a thorn in the flesh and I have no reason to think Paul asked for his, but he got one anyway. What do you do when you have a thorn in the flesh? Consider at least three things Paul teaches us in this powerful passage.

No one is immune from thorns. Who’s talking in this text? The great apostle Paul, a man God gave revelations, who’s preaching across the world, converting so many, and achieving name recognition for the best of reasons. If you ever thought anybody would be sheltered for doing right, it would be him. But Paul says there was given to him a thorn in the flesh. That makes me uncomfortable. I need spiritual lessons about God and myself, as Paul and even Job, who Satan was allowed to buffet, did. If a great Old Testament patriarch and great New Testament preacher had thorns to deal with, I know I am not immune.

Sometimes, God lets the thorn stay. We may have to accept that our given affliction may never come to an end as long as we’re on this earth. A recurring or chronic illness, constant adversary, or irreversible limitation may not be removed. I wish I knew why God told Paul “no” and why he sometimes tells us “no” when we ask for our thorns to be removed. But, even if we keep the thorn, God’s grace is sufficient and He can use that very thing to accomplish good through us for the Kingdom. God uses thorns to supply us with humility and grace. If our thorn comes and stays rather than comes and goes, God will use it for our good and to accomplish good if we will properly view it.

Thorns are growth opportunities. If we remain faithful to God through our thorns, we will spiritually grow. Satan is rebuffed and defeated, as he was with Paul and Job. But, for every Paul and Job, how many have let affliction and adversity destroy their faith? We know God’s power eclipses Satan’s. But don’t underestimate this enemy (2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14; 12:7). One of Paul’s final points in the letter is about God’s great power (13:4). Paul was weakened by affliction, but he could endure because of faith. God is more powerful than Satan and Paul’s thorn is but one proof of it. Lyte wrote,

As woods, when shaken by the breeze, take deeper, firmer root,
As winter’s frosts but make the trees abound in summer fruit;
So every Heaven-sent pang and throe that Christian firmness tries,
But nerves us for our work below, and forms us for the skies.

Is it a trial or a blessing in disguise? Doesn’t it depend on how we view it and what we do with it? Satan wants to use afflictions to destroy us, but God is greater. He can transform our tragedies into triumphs. Trust Him through the thorns. The roses will appear!

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The Shocking Truth Of The Alligator That Bit The Electric Eel

 

Neal Pollard

All puns aside, the event really happened in the Amazon back in 2010 and was captured on You Tube.  An unidentified Brazilian fisherman documents the rare, extraordinary event.  The electric eel can generate up to 600 volts of electricity.  A hungry caiman with a fatal appetite found this out too late to let go and live.  The best reports indicate that both creatures, intended predator and potential prey, lost their lives in the interaction (www.telegraph.co.uk).

While the fisherman had caught the eel and had gone to get a knife to cut the line, the caiman saw the eel thrashing and could not resist trying to make a meal of it.  Animals are instinctive creatures and thus such intellectual and emotional responses as lust, malice and forethought, or hostility did not drive its decision to dine.  Nevertheless, it was still a fatal food choice!

Think about the instances where we can get into even more serious, spiritual trouble than the aforementioned reptile.

  • The allure for a married person to have an affair or an unmarried person to have an illicit sexual encounter or relationship.
  • The decision to get drunk or high.
  • Provoked by the words or actions of another, unloading on the provoker with sinful anger expressed by ungodly words and/or actions.
  • Exacting revenge on someone, thinking it will be “sweet” and not “bitter.”
  • Sending that angry email without deliberating, praying, or consulting a trusted friend first.

Really, any impulsive reactionary word or act can create ramifications we cannot predict or anticipate.  So many, in a momentary heat of passion, have created longterm headaches and heartaches.  Before we give in to temptation, we need to give due thought to the consequences all the while appreciating that we cannot foresee them all or the extent of them.  Eve was the first to fail to do this (Gen. 3:6), but she was far from the last.  May we pray for and pursue the wisdom to mull before we munch!

 

These Snakes Can Find Their Way Back

 

Neal Pollard

Even those not inherently squeamish about snakes are uneasy about a phenomenon occurring in Florida.  Former pet owners of Burmese Pythons probably started releasing them in south Florida back in the late 1990s.  On February 4, personnel found an 18-foot specimen in the Everglades.  That they are huge predators was already a known fact.  Yet, researchers from Davidson College and members of the U.S. Geological Survey organization trapped six of these snakes and moved them 13 to 20 miles away. In less than a year, all six had navigated to within three miles of their original location.  This means these huge creatures are capable of “homing,” whether by sight, smell, or by way of the earth’s magnetic field (Elizabeth Weise, USA Today, 3/19/14).

As unsettling for some of us as that idea might seem, there is a predator far more deadly than that whose cunning and wiles are even greater.  Satan, called “that serpent of old,” is said to have “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), and is depicted by Peter as being predatory (1 Pet. 5:8). While he is not able to make us do evil—that’s something we do ourselves (Js. 1:13-15), he is subtle and beguiling and desires our destruction.

The implication of the article and those researchers is that moving the snake is not the answer.  They make their way back.  The answer is to destroy the snake.  As we fight temptations in our lives, we must be aggressively proactive!  We must take radical, decisive steps to keep the snake from coming back.  From faithful Bible study and prayer to exerting will-power and self-control, we can prevent the old serpent from invading our lives!  James urges us on, telling us that by resisting the devil we can put him to flight (Js. 4:7-8).