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The Power of a Thorn

The Urban Alternative / Tony Evans, PhD
The Truth Network Radio
January 21, 2022 7:00 am

The Power of a Thorn

The Urban Alternative / Tony Evans, PhD

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January 21, 2022 7:00 am

When something hurts, we want to make it stop. But Dr. Tony Evans says that sometimes, that's a mistake. He explains why things that seem to wear us down can really be building us up.


Do you know that the thing that's driving you crazy is being constructed to produce something that is of inestimable value? Dr. Tony Evans talks about the Apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh and why God sometimes refuses to remove our affliction. God allows us to have thorns because of His purpose for using us. This is The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, author, speaker, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and president of The Urban Alternative. When something hurts, we want to make it stop, but sometimes that's a mistake.

Let's join Dr. Evans as he explains why things that seem to wear us down can really be building us up. Most of the ladies have pearls. Those pearls that go around your neck or your wrist were born out of affliction. They were born out of affliction.

Yeah, they look nice now, but if you could have seen them when they were being constructed, they were constructed in affliction. You see, the oyster or the clam in which that pearl was formed had something foreign enter into its world, something unplanned, unanticipated, and uninvited that made its way inside of its shell, creating an irritation. It may have been a grain of sand or some foreign insect of some kind that abides in the sea, some particle.

Wasn't expected, wasn't anticipated, wasn't asked for, wasn't desired. It was just there. And it created an irritation, and the irritation would not go away. It would not remove itself. It lodged itself in this shell creature. Because the oyster and the clam was not able to remove the problem, it had to come up with a way to cope with it. Couldn't get rid of it, so it had to cope with it. And the way it coped with it was to secrete naykha.

Naykha is a substance, sort of white, creamy, milky substance that is lodged in the membrane of the shell creatures, and it began to coat the foreign object. It began to coat it. The purpose of the coating was to deal with the irritation. It secreted something to try to help it to live with what it couldn't get rid of. It wasn't able to get rid of it, so it had to find a way to live with it, because it wouldn't go away.

And so it would coat it and coat it and coat it and coat it over and over again, and you get to wear it around your neck. Because out of the irritation has come a pearl. The pearl didn't start as a pearl, the pearl started as an irritant.

Something uninvited, unexpected, unwelcomed, undesired that they couldn't get rid of. And all of a sudden, a pure mess is transformed into a magnificent miracle. We've been talking about comforting the afflicted. In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul speaks to this out of his own life experience.

We've seen a number of messages come out of 2 Corinthians, because 2 Corinthians is pregnant with the troubles and trials of the apostle Paul and how he seeks to use his own experiences as a way of ministering to those in the Corinthian church as well. He says in verse 7, Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelation, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh. A thorn. He says, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.

The Greek word for the word thorn means splinter or needle. It is an irritation that nags you. Thorn is an irritation that nags you. Some problems are just, they're big, but they come and go.

In other words, they hit you, they knock you down, and it's over. But there are other problems that nag you. There are irritants that don't go away. I remember when I had an ingrown toenail. That was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. An ingrown toenail. When my toenail had grown up and around and dug itself in my skin.

And I couldn't take a step. Another irritant is if you've had a toothache. That's an irritant that nags you. It just throbs. It's a thorn, a needle, something pricking you, jabbing you. And it won't stop.

You try to get rid of it, you try to solve it, you use all the human capacity you have. Paul says, I had a thorn in the flesh, in my humanity. Now, Paul never tells us what the thorn is. He doesn't, he never identifies the thorn. There are numbers of guesses.

We can guess what it could have been. Because Paul talks about his poor eyesight. He talks about the fact that he struggled to see.

And in some of his letters, he says, I have to write you with big letters. So some speculate that it was his sight that was his thorn. His eyes wouldn't get better, couldn't get better. Or some other thing that was medical in its nature that was not improving. It was a thorn, a nagging sight.

It didn't knock him out because he kept functioning. It just was irritating him as he moved. It was a thorn in the flesh. I can't say, no one can say for sure what the thorn was because Paul never says, but actually that's good news because that means you can put your thorn in this text. You can put your emotional thorns or relational thorns or financial thorns or physical thorns, those things or people or problems or difficulties that you can't shake. And you know it's a thorn because you can't get rid of it and God's not getting rid of it for you.

Because in verse 80 says concerning this, that is this thorn, I employed the Lord three times that it might leave me. I prayed about it. You ever said I prayed about it? He couldn't get rid of it and God wasn't getting rid of it. I asked God to do something about this and it didn't change.

It didn't get better. My thorn hung out with me. So thorns, nagging negative realities in our lives come even to the most spiritual person in the history of Christianity called the Apostle Paul. So if spiritual people shouldn't have issues, Paul shouldn't have a thorn, but he does. Now this becomes even more intriguing when we ask why does he have a thorn?

We've established reality. He has a thorn, a nagging irritant that he can't get rid of and God won't get rid of. But the issue is why does he have a thorn?

He gives two reasons for a thorn. The first reason begins in verse seven, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. The first reason for the thorn is his anointing. The first reason that Paul says I have a thorn was because of the revelations. His anointing, and by anointing, I'm referring to his divinely ordained purpose. He is the only person outside of Jesus Christ himself who got to go to the third heaven and come back and talk about it. God exposed the Apostle Paul to things nobody else had been ever exposed to and it blew his mind.

God exposed him to some things because God wanted him to do some things, speak some things, and teach some things that nobody else could do, speak, or teach like he could because nobody else had the experiences he had. In other words, because of the revelations, because of God's exposure to him and use for him, the thorn was part of this process. So that's the positive reason for the thorn, his usefulness. God allows us to have thorns because of his purpose for using us.

He gives the negative second reason for the thorn. He says the second reason for the thorn in verse seven is to keep me from exalting myself. Now we've learned something about the Apostle Paul here and that is he has a propensity toward pride. So he had to be kept humble because on his own he wouldn't be humble. I mean, after all, Paul could say, I was in heaven yesterday, where were you?

I mean, he could name drop. The second reason God gives thorns is to address an actual or potential sin in our lives. To address an actual or potential sin in our lives. Because the more you're blessed and the more useful you become, the more prideful you're likely to be.

It was to deflate him. This particular sin, pride, one has said that it's the disease that makes everyone else sick except the one who has it. If there is something nagging you that you can't get rid of and God won't get rid of, ask the spiritual question before you look for an illegitimate exit. More from Dr. Evans on how to answer that spiritual question when he continues our message in just a moment. But first, I'd like to tell you about Tony's latest book that goes hand in hand with today's message. It's called Hope for the Hurting, and in it he offers firsthand spiritual principles that can help you face pain and hurt well, allowing you to experience more fully the love and happiness that can be found on the other side of it all.

You learn how to get through the pain without succumbing to its crushing weight. We'd like to send you one of the first copies of this book as our gift in return for your donation toward keeping this ministry coming your way each day. And for a limited time, along with Tony's Hope for the Hurting book, we'll also include all 20 messages, 10 on CD and 10 as digital downloads from the Coming to the Comforter audio compilation we've been listening to today. Request this special package of resources right away at, where you can also get the companion Hope for the Hurting Bible Study DVD and study guide. Just go to for all the details, or let one of our resource team members help you by phone day or night at 1-800-800-3222.

That's 1-800-800-3222. Well, Dr. Evans, we'll come back with part two of today's message right after this. I'm standing here in Alaska, one of the most glorious places in God's great creation. And I want to invite you to join me and our Urban Alternative family for the Alaskan Cruise. We're going to have a magnificent time in God's Word and in God's creation. We're going to enjoy great fellowship, great fun, great food, and I'm looking forward to meeting and greeting you on our TUA Alaskan Cruise. Register to be there.

Can't wait to be with you. To find out more about this unforgettable Alaskan Cruise, visit today. That's It gets even deeper than that because look at verse seven. He says, A messenger of Satan to torment me. He says, the source of the torment was the devil. But wait a minute. But he says the thorn was given.

Now we are faced with a conundrum. You've got the most spiritual man in the New Testament. He's living for God. He's been youth of God. God entrusted him with being able to take him to the third heaven to see things no man has seen before.

The man is a man of prayer. He says, I've gone to God three times for deliverance. Why would God let the devil do this to me? But your thorn, if it's a thorn based on this, that is tormenting you, translation driving you nuts, driving you out of your mind, it's driving you crazy. Your thorn is being precipitated by the devil while simultaneously being allowed by God.

In other words, if it's a thorn, God is letting the devil mess with you on purpose. God did not answer his request. His request is in verse 8. His request is, I want him to leave me.

That's what he's asking for. Get rid of this. It's driving me crazy. I can't take it. I'm under torment.

Why won't you do something? We've all been there. We've all been there. God says, Paul, in light of the revelations and in light of the sin I want to address, I, at least right now, I am not going to answer your prayer to get rid of the thorn, but what I am going to show you is the sufficiency of grace. Thorns, when accompanied by grace, are designed to work not against us but for us, so that your problem, watch this now, literally becomes an asset.

Do you know that the thing that's driving you crazy is being constructed to produce something that is of inestimable value? But if you only see the thorn, you're just going to be trying to get rid of it. He says, when you mix grace with the thorn, you experience power, because verse 9 says, for power is perfected in weakness. So if this thorn is wiping you out, once you get this grace thing kicking in, power kicks in. If you are consulting sincerely the Lord about the needle in your life, listen carefully. He has a word for you, and that word will always include the provision of grace.

That is, something He supplies that you would never use if you weren't weak, something that He has to offer that you would never take advantage of if you weren't struggling. He got to hear God's voice. And when did He get to hear God's voice?

When He is being nagged to death. So Paul, how are you going to respond to this? What's your response to this thorn? The middle of verse 9, most gladly therefore, most gladly therefore. I think James has counted all joy. Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Oh no, you didn't. Therefore, verse 10, I am well content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties. For Christ's sake, for when I'm weak, I am strong. He says, I'm weak because this thing is beating me down.

This headache, whatever is causing it, is beating me down. I'm broke down. I'm tore up from the floor up.

Paul doesn't say, let me cast out the devil, because the devil is the messenger. He said, what I'm going to do is just the opposite to what you would expect to do and what would be normal to do. I'm going to brag about my weakness. I don't think that's what we do. We complain about our weakness.

And I understand, I understand, because you got this sand stuck in you that won't go away. He said, uh-uh, I'm a brag about my weakness. Now, he doesn't sugarcoat it. He doesn't act like it's not a weakness. He doesn't play mind games.

He's going to call it a weakness. This is not going well. This is driving me crazy.

This is nagging me. I don't know how much longer I can deal with this. Here's a weakness. This is not an area of strength, Paul says, but I'm a brag about it. And the reason I'm going to brag about it is because when I'm weak, I am strong. Because when I'm weak, God infuses something.

So until God changes my situation, verse 10, I will be content. I'm going to embrace my weakness. I'm going to hug my weakness. I'm going to grab my weakness.

It's still a weakness. It's still something I don't want, but if I'm going to get power through it, if I'm going to hear God talk to me because of it, then I'm going to rest in spite of the circumstances. Dr. Tony Evans, talking about what God can do when we become humble enough to give up our need to be strong. If you'd like to get a full-length copy of this message, including material we didn't have time to present on the air, it's included as a part of that comprehensive 20-part series I mentioned earlier, Coming to the Comforter. Remember, for a limited time, along with the Coming to the Comforter series, we'll also send you Tony's newest book, Hope for the Hurting. This powerful resource package is yours with our thanks when you make a contribution in support of the ministry of the Urban Alternative. Get the details at, where you can also sign up for Tony's free weekly email devotional.

Be sure to look into getting the companion Hope for the Hurting Bible Study DVD and study guide as well. Again, that's Or let one of our friendly resource team members assist with your request at 1-800-800-3222.

That's 1-800-800-3222. When our day-to-day troubles turn into a trap with seemingly no way out, we don't just have a problem, we're in bondage. Next time, Dr. Evans will explain how we can break free from that oppression. I hope you'll join us. And until then, we encourage you to be looking for opportunities to show kindness to others. It'll bring a smile to your face and glory to God. The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by the Urban Alternative and is made possible by the generous contributions of listeners like you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-20 12:01:27 / 2023-06-20 12:09:01 / 8

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