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How to Understand a Thorn, Part 1

The Urban Alternative / Tony Evans, PhD
The Truth Network Radio
March 2, 2021 7:00 am

How to Understand a Thorn, Part 1

The Urban Alternative / Tony Evans, PhD

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March 2, 2021 7:00 am

When life gets "thorny," many times our only instinct is to try to get things back to normal or comfortable. But in this lesson, Dr. Tony Evans says that God has something bigger in mind as he shows us what the thorns in our life can do besides hurt.

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Many of us are trying to get rid of something God gave. Dr. Tony Evans says those painful problems we think of as burdens may really be blessings. One of the reasons God gives you a form is because he wants to show you some new things. Celebrating 40 years of faithfulness, 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 life gets thorny, many times our only instinct is to do whatever it takes to get things back to normal. But Dr. Evans explains today God just might have something bigger in mind.

Let's join him in the book of Exodus as he explains. A dense fog covering seven blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less than one glass of actual water. A fog covering seven blocks so you can't see even a hundred feet in front of you because it's that thick only has a glass or less of water that composes that much fog.

You see, there are 60 billion droplets that are spread out of particles settling over that seven block area, but it can blot out your ability to see things clearly. Many today are living in a spiritual fog. They allow a cup full of trouble, irritation, or as our text tells us today, thorns, to cloud out their vision and dampen their spirits. How do you live in the sunshine when all you see is fog? Now make no mistake about it, on a foggy day the sun is shining.

But the question is, how can such a little bit of water cause all of this confusion? In 2nd Corinthians chapter 12 verses 7 through 10 where Paul discusses the thorn. In verse 7 he introduces us to it, the reality of a thorn. He says, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations for this reason to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me.

That's not buffet me. To trouble me, to torment me, to irritate me, to exacerbate me, or to put it in everyday contemporary colloquial language, to get on my last nerve. The Greek word for thorn referred to a splinter or a needle of some kind that pricked you. We've all had a needle or a thorn or a splinter from wood to get in our finger or toe and irritate us.

It could be used of a hook that catches a fish, piercing its skin of which it can't shake itself from without tearing and making things worse. A thorn is anything that nags or irritates your life on a continuous basis. A thorn is anything that nags, irritates, exacerbates, or frustrates your life ongoingly. You can't shake it.

It hangs around. Paul says there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, something to irritate me. Now you can read commentaries galore and you have a lot of guesswork as to what Paul's thorn was. For example, Paul talks about how when he was trying to write the churches, he had trouble seeing. In fact, he had an amanuensis, a recorder who would write for him and so some will say, well, it was his eye problem. But still others will say, well, he was always being followed by this group called the Judaizers who were undermining his ministry and so they were an irritation to him.

Maybe it was that. Paul speaks of being lonely. He says everyone has forsaken me. Some say it was loneliness, but the Bible never says what his thorn is, and that's good. It's good that he doesn't tell us what his thorn is so you can put your thorn here.

Anything that irritates, nags, frustrates, exacerbates on a continuous level, in fact, he lays it open in verse 10, he says it can be insults, distresses, persecutions, or difficulties. Some of you are having to deal with emotional thorns, things that have to do with your feelings. You are lonely.

You perhaps have been single for an inordinate amount of time and you are simply tired of being alone and it pricks you, nags you, irritates you. Or perhaps it's depression that keeps popping up and you can't shake it. Maybe it's memories or regrets.

When you look back over your life, you wish you could have done things differently, but you can't because that's history now, but you've not been able to shake it. It's an emotional thorn. Others have relational thorns. People who get on your nerves. They're always popping up at the wrong time, which is anytime they show up. This could be the person living in an unhappy marriage.

They have no biblical grounds for divorce. They feel stuck spiritually, but they are unhappy and it becomes an irritation. It's a relational kind of thorn. Others have financial thorns. A long time trying to find a job or the right job and it's not coming through. Or perhaps you're stuck in an unhappy work situation. Or it looks like every time you try to get out of debt, just when you think you made it, something else breaks down. Something else shows up and you can't shake this financial situation. I guess one of the worst thorns there is are physical thorns.

Disabilities, chronic illnesses, headaches that won't go away, things that are wrong with your body that are not healed. It's a thorn. Please notice this phrase in verse 7, there was given me a thorn.

Now we could spend an hour on that. He says, my thorn was a gift. Well, take your gift back. He says, it was given me. And if you think that's bad, that God is giving away thorns.

See, now you don't hear about this too much today. You hear about how He's giving blessings, money, cars, houses. Well, let me tell you something else He's giving, thorns. There was given me a thorn in the flesh in my humanity, and look at the theology here, a messenger of Satan to buffered me. God gave me a thorn and let the devil deliver it.

Come on, work with that now. The thorn was handed to me, given to me, and you'll discover you're eating your passage by God. But the delivery service was a messenger of the devil. You ever looked at a, maybe you have a relational thorn, somebody in your life keeps getting on your nerves, you say you ain't nothing but the devil.

Well, you are partially right. But the gift came from God. Watch this now. God is sovereign, meaning He's in charge. Nothing happens, and I mean nothing. No matter how tiny or big, that either is not caused by God, He made it happen, or allowed by God, He okayed it happening. There is no third category like luck or chance or fate, words that ought not be part of any serious Christians vocabulary, because to have luck, chance, or fate is to deny sovereignty. You can't have an omniscient God who knows everything and something get by Him. You say, but the devil is messing with me.

If the devil is messing with you, God had to okay it. There's a great example of that in Scripture, and Dr. Evans will tell us about it when he comes back in a moment with more of this lesson from his current series, Freedom Through Forgiveness. It's a look at the connection between release and relief when we experience the mercy of God and pass it along to others. And we'd like to pass along a copy of this six-lesson collection to you as our thank-you gift when you support Tony's ministry with a contribution. Along with it will include his companion booklet, 30 Days to Victory Through Forgiveness. It explains how in a single month you can learn to let go of the pain that others have caused you or that you've caused yourself. Two resources, both designed to help you break the cycle of old hurts that keep causing new hurts.

Both yours with our thanks for your contribution. This offer is only available for a short time, so visit us right away at Tony Evans dot org, or call our 24-hour Resource Center at 1-800-800-3222 for details before time runs out. I'll have our contact information again for you a little later on after part two of today's lesson and this. The thing about serving an infinite God is that no matter how much you know about him there's always more to learn. So whether you're brand new to Scripture or an experienced ministry professional, there's something for you at the Tony Evans Training Center. You'll find online courses covering core concepts of the faith. Working at your own pace and schedule, you'll dig deep into the historical context of the book, uncover the key teachings, and learn how to apply them in real-world situations. There's lots of exclusive content from Dr. Evans to keep you interested and motivated, and an online forum where you can ask questions, get answers, and collaborate with other students. The more you learn, the more you'll want to learn. Give it a try.

The Tony Evans Training Center, a world of discovery anytime, anywhere. We all know Job, his life has fallen apart, but when you read Job chapter 1, God starts it off. God says to the devil in Job 1, have you considered my servant Job? The devil says, well the only reason he's serving you is because you're blessing him. Take away his blessings, he won't serve you. And then God tells the devil, go right ahead.

I'm going to give Job the thorn and you can deliver it. If the devil is messing with you, God okayed it first. The great question of theology is why would an all-powerful God allow a lesser creature that he created, the devil, to do what he has done? Good question, especially when you use the word allow. See, the answer is in the question. The devil is not the devil, the devil is God's devil.

He operates by permission. How do you know what you're facing is a thorn? Verse 8, concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. If it's nagging you, irritating you, and getting on your nerves, you prayed about it, and God hadn't done anything about it, that's a thorn. Anybody got a thorn?

Sticking you? Many of us are trying to get rid of something God gave you. You say, well, if God gave it, how can it be so bad? Because the devil delivered it.

It was given to me. I prayed about it. I said, God, get rid of this thorn.

It's sticking me. He says, I prayed three times. So I wasn't being carnal, I wasn't being sinful, I was talking to God.

You told me, preacher, to pray, I prayed. And I've still got this thorn. If you pray about something and you're a serious Christian and a serious prayer and it's a thorn because it's irritating you and God doesn't take it, that's because He's not finished with the gift, because it's a gift. A thorn is a gift. It was given to me. Why would God give me a gift like that?

Something that nags me in perpetuity, something that won't go away day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Why would a good God, and God is good all the time, and all the time God is good, why would a good God give me something to prick me like this? I don't deserve this.

I deserve better. Back to verse 7. There are two reasons God gives you a thorn. Number one, and because of the surpassing greatness of the Revelation.

The first thing, the first reason, this is very important now, that God gives you a thorn is He wants to show you some new things. Let's look at Paul's Revelation here in this chapter, verse 2. I know a man in Christ, Paul's talking about himself in the third person, who 14 years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man, whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows, was caught up in the paradise and heard inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak.

Now watch this. Paul is the only man in all of history who was taken to heaven got to see heaven and allowed to come back to earth to discuss it. He says he went to the third heaven. There are three heavens. There is the atmospheric heaven where the clouds are, the oxygen is. There is the stellar heaven, the stars, the planets, the solar system. And then there is the throne room of God, paradise, the place where every believer goes when they die. That's the third heaven. He says, I was taken to paradise.

I like what he says. He says, whether in the body or out of the body I don't know. In other words, it was a dimension I'm not familiar with. It was it was an experience that is unlike any experience I ever had. See, I can't fully explain heaven to you because it operates in another dimension.

It operates outside of space, outside of time. He says, I cannot fully explain my state. I'm not sure how to articulate it, but this one thing I do know, what I saw there, I cannot put words together to formulate.

He calls it inexpressible. One of the reasons God gives you a thorn is because he wants to show you some new things, things that go beyond what's normal for you, things that go beyond what's average for you. So many Christians are satisfied with the normal. So they spend all their time trying to get rid of their thorns, complaining about their thorns, fussing and cussing about their thorns, asking why all day long when God is trying to show you something you've never seen before. And the thorn is a necessary part of the revelation. When God gives you a thorn, He has something new, something unique. God is going to expand your anointing when He increases your thorn.

Did you just hear me? God's got something in store for you when He gives you a thorn. So the good news is, if you've got a thorn, it's a gift from God, but because it hurts you, delivered by the devil, because the God who gave the gift that was delivered by the devil has got something in store for you. Dr. Tony Evans, explaining why things that make us uncomfortable also make us grow in a message he calls, How to Understand a Thorn. It's just one part of our current series, a six-lesson collection called Freedom Through Forgiveness, which includes some bonus material we won't have time to present on the air this time around. As I mentioned earlier, you can get this six-lesson collection as our gift when you make a contribution to help keep Tony's teaching on this station, along with the companion booklet, 30 Days to Victory Through Forgiveness.

As you've heard, the Urban Alternative is celebrating 40 years of ministry this year, so your support is an investment in an organization with some deep roots. But those roots sink even deeper back into Dr. Evans' early life and ministry. Here's what he told me recently about an important person and event from his undergrad days at Carver Bible College that shaped who he would become. John McNeil was a great influencer in my life in college, and I would spend a lot of time talking with him.

His house was on campus, so I would go over and I would do work for him in his house, just little odds and ends kinds of things, but that gave me a lot of time to spend. His wife would always feed me ice cream for doing work, and there was a lot of affirmation that came from him as we were trying to deal with, because I'm now in Atlanta and the civil rights thing is, you know, hot and heavy coming out of Atlanta, and so there was a lot of tension in the air. So we were always wrestling theologically and practically with the whole issue of race and the Bible. It was while I was in Atlanta that I was denied to go to a white church there, simply because they did not want to have a black person in the church, and the church split over it.

So there were dual tracks I was always operating on. Even when I went to college, there was a dual track, because there was conservative theology, even though it was in a context of social change. So that was another crisis in my life that also helped prepare me for an emphasis on racial reconciliation even to today. Spreading the message of biblical reconciliation is just one of the outreaches you make possible when you support the Urban Alternative. So again, contact us today at 1-800-800-3222, and let us say thanks for your help by sending you this special two-resource package, Freedom Through Forgiveness and 30 Days to Victory Through Forgiveness.

Again, that's 1-800-800-3222, or make the arrangements online at When you do, take a moment to click on the link that says Jesus. There, you'll get a clear picture of who God is, how much He loves you, and how the light of His love can drive all the darkness out of your life. Tony will talk about how the Lord's death on the cross paid the price for everything you and I have ever done wrong and made it possible for us to have a real, personal relationship with God, starting now and continuing through eternity. The Bible says there's no other way to make this happen, so visit today to find out more. Again, that's So, tomorrow, more from Dr. Evans on what our God-given thorns can teach us and how to deal with the discomfort they cause along the way. I hope you'll be with us. The alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by The Urban Alternative and is celebrating 40 years of faithfulness thanks to the generous contributions of listeners like you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-19 21:39:36 / 2023-12-19 21:47:19 / 8

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