Relating Through Thorns
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 2:7-9)
Above we see one of the most important segment of scriptures in the Bible, and it is also one of the biggest downers. Basically, Paul is explaining to THE congregation of complainers that he had temptation, too. However, rather than trying to come off as a super righteous and ideal for them to aspire to be, Paul opened up and let them know that he was a man that was constantly tempted. Notice the realness Paul portrays:
That's reality. Paul's not trying to be pious or above anyone here. He hates that he is tempted and wants to be far removed from it. Paul doesn't say this to get a pity party thrown for him, but to relate to his audience. Corinth was a church that faced a lot of temptation, some from attacks of the enemy and some that they brought upon themselves. They complained to Paul constantly and so here he breaks it down for them. He's a person who is tempted just like them. Just as they don't like being tempted, Paul hates temptation, too. However, he understands that he must endure it. This is where he differs from the Corinthians, and it is where many Christians start to differ as well.
Embracing The Thorns
Temptation is a violent and brutal tactic of the devil. However, God can take that tactic and turn it against him. The devil will do whatever he can to attack us until his time is up, but God knows how to take those attacks and use them for our benefits. Let's revisit that section of scriptures to see how Paul's temptation benefited him:
Humility instead of pride: Paul opens and closes verse 7 with the phrase "lest I be exalted above measure." This is a fancy way of saying, "So my head doesn't get too big for my shoulders." Paul saw that his temptation humbled him. It made him feel the gravity of his humanity and the will of the flesh. Without God, he couldn't even overcome himself, much less the enemy or the problems in the church.
Grace is enough: Paul wanted deliverance, but instead he got grace. Paul is well known for his dissertations on grace, and we see here that is understanding came not from books but firsthand experience. Grace, one of God's greatest gifts, was all that Paul needed to overcome his temptation and soldier on for God.
God's strength illuminated: Paul again learned through his temptation that he was weak, but God was strong. This humbling revelation gave him an understanding of the power that was behind him. As he struggled and worked to serve God amid the temptations that befell him daily, Paul was constantly reminded of the strength of God that saw him through those difficult times. This gave him a greater understanding of God and an opportunity to praise and lift him up as a result. This comes through in the following verse:
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10).
It's clear that Paul saw the benefits of facing temptation rather than running from it. He knew he couldn't beat on his own, but he also knew that God was on his side. If he would set aside his ways and take on God's leading, the path to overcome would present itself. When temptation showed its vile face, Paul knew that God's grace would present itself fresh and new to preserve him. Finally, when he felt at his weakest and that he might be overcome by temptation, Paul knew that God's power and would step in and swipe away all of the attacks that come with temptation.
Change Your Perspective
Temptation isn't going anywhere. As long as their is sin in the world and the devil roams for his season, temptation will be a part of this life. We can complain about how that is unfair or we can accept that through temptation there is opportunity.
What we face in life is not nearly as important as how we face it. God wants to develop us into strong and effective partners in His Kingdom. However, our pride and self-sufficiency can get in the way of that. The devil will try to bring us down with temptation and get us to fester as we try to figure it out ourselves. However, if we will humble ourselves, seek and accept God's grace and allow his strength to empower us, we'll see the temptations and trials of life in a whole new light. We'll take on every challenge with renewed vigor, knowing that God will see us through and reveal Himself to us in a new and exciting way.
Temptation As A Witness?
Later on, Paul would write to another church and relate his temptation in a different way:
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. (Galatians 4:13-14).
Paul shows us that enduring temptation actually gives us an avenue to be a witness to those around us. If we will get honest with people and share with them what we are facing and how it has affected us, we'll open up the avenues of witnessing like never before. We'll present ourselves as someone they can relate to and not as a perfect spotless lamb. There's only One who can be in that role. It's our job to bring people to Him. Through our honest testimony of what we face and how He has helped us to overcome, we make it more possible for them to come into relation with the One who can help them overcome.
When We'll Finally Get Lead Out
So when will temptation end? Not in this life. We'll endure the attacks of the devil as long as we live on this Earth. However, just because we endure temptation daily doesn't mean we can't get something out of it. Through the trials of temptation, we can come to rely on God and not our own ways. We'll discover his grace in new and exciting ways every time we take the focus off our troubles and put the focus on our deliverer. We'll be empowered through his strength to overcome every attack of the enemy and that will inspire us to take on greater challenges ahead. Even more, we'll find that enduring temptation gives us a witness that can pull others out of the fires of their own temptation and sin. That's living a GLO lifestyle. Allowing God to lead us through the fires and collecting as many souls along the way to Getting Lead Out. Because there is coming a day when there will be no more temptation. And what a day that will be!
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.