Splinters from the Cross
Splinters from the Cross
By Paul R. Blake
(Several years ago, I was asked for the meaning of 2Corinthians 12:9 which states: “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I was happy to respond, as it is a Bible principle dear to my heart. I replied as follows) You asked a good question. Keeping the passage in its context (2Cor. 12:1-10), Paul had just been given a wonderful revelation that had the potential to make him overly proud by thinking that God had singled him out as special. Such pride would hinder his effectiveness as a servant of the Lord. So, a limitation (not known exactly what it was) was given to him to remind him to be humble. Paul obviously chafed under the thorn and asked the Lord to remove it; perhaps he believed he would be more effective for the Lord without it. However, Jesus was clearly of a different opinion.
Paul himself had written that he understood his role for the Lord when he said, “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2Cor. 4:6-7). He was talking about the Gospel (treasure) entrusted to him and his fellow evangelists (jars of clay). When you put a treasure in a clay jar, the glory of the treasure stands out even more by virtue of the plain commonness of the simple pottery container. The clay jar does not distract attention away from the treasure; instead, it enhances the treasure by itself receding into the background unnoticed. The focus of the observer is drawn to the treasure and not the container.
So it is with the Gospel given into the hands of ordinary (and sometimes flawed) men. The power of the Gospel is clearly seen by the hearer who is not distracted by the appearance, talents, or splendor of the speaker. In fact, when the wonder of the Gospel comes from an ordinary man, the hearer is more likely to think, “This man is an average Joe like me. This message is greater than the man; it must be from God.”
It is possible that Jesus is repeating this lesson to Paul by having him keep that limitation (thorn). When people hear Paul preaching the wonderful Gospel in spite of the limitation (thorn, disability, etc.), they will know that it is of God and not from this flawed, weak man. In addition, it adds to the glory of the Gospel for hearers to see that it has power in spite of the condition of the vessel that brings it. In short, for Paul to preach while bearing with the thorn made him a more effective servant of Christ. Jesus was stronger in the hearts and minds of the hearers because Paul, Jesus' messenger, was weak.
It's like the story of how the marathon began. A messenger sent from one Greek leader to another at a critical moment for the nation ran over 26 miles to carry his message. When he arrived dirty, sweaty, exhausted, he delivered his message and then died. The leader who received the message would not focus on the dirt and sweat and say his message can't be worth much; rather, he would be impressed with the importance of the message that a man would go through so much to deliver it. So it was with Paul. The message must be important for a man so hindered by the thorn to deliver it in spite of the limitations he bore.
Let's make an application of this. Suppose someone who has known of you and your trials over the years listens to you speak with them of the Gospel and your hope of heaven, and they are aware of how much energy and will you must expend to do so. They are going to think, “This message must be important for you to make the effort to teach me. I must learn what it is about this Gospel that enables one to do this.” Do you see how strong the Lord appears to others when magnified by one who has a thorn in the flesh?
In reality, we all have thorns to one degree or another (some have a whole thorn bush). But we all work to overcome our thorns, we pray to have the Lord remove them, and when He says to bear with the thorn for now, we find a way to work His will with the thorn still in our flesh. It is one of the paradoxes of the Bible that seems so counter intuitive to us, but how glorious is a Savior who can take flawed clay vessels and use them to magnify the treasure of the Gospel. When I am weak, then He is strong.
It shouldn't surprise us that this is the case. After all, Jesus had to descend into His weakest and most vulnerable condition in order to be an effective offering for our sins and to wrest the power over death away from Satan. He had to be rejected, beaten, die on the cross, and enter the realm of death in order to do so. As the cross glorifies Jesus, so our thorns bring glory. We might even call our thorns “splinters from the cross.” (1Peter 4:12-14)
A Moments Wisdom
--A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
--It pays to be honest, but often you must wait a long time to collect.
--Honesty is a question of what is right and wrong; it is not a matter of policy.
--A misty morning does not always signify a cloudy day.
--Lighthouses don’t ring bells and fire cannons to call attention to themselves; they simply shine on.
--A sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to our steps as we walk the tightrope of life.
--Some professed Christians want to live like goats and die like sheep.
--Televangelists: The WWF pro-wrestlers of religion.
--If psychics really have the ability to “see,” why do they ask you for your name?
--There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.
--Bidden or not bidden, God is present
--In youth we learn; in age we understand.
--Anxiety springs from the desire that things should happen as we wish rather than as God wills.
--I believe that one reason why churches at this present time have so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the churches.
--The only place where success comes before work is a dictionary.
--The greatest composer does not sit down to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working.
Test Your Bible Knowledge of Martyrs
1. I was the first martyr for Christ __________
2. I was the first apostle to be martyred for Christ __________
3. I was beheaded and never got to see the Kingdom of Christ __________
4. Jesus called me “My faithful martyr” __________
10/25/20 AM - “Without Love, I am Nothing”; PM - God and Providence, Conclusion
11/1/20 AM - A Nation Without the Bible; PM - Singing Service (Congregational choice)
11/8/20 AM - Miracles of Calvary; PM - Melchizedek: King and Priest of Salem (Requested)
11/15/20 AM - Why Did I Obey the Gospel?; PM - Tertius of Iconium: Apostle Paul’s Secretary
11/22/20 AM - Four Great Salvation Questions; PM - Stumbling in Only One Point of Law (Requested)
11/29/20 AM - “Jesus Loves Me!”; PM - Not Just a Children’s Bible Story