Thorn-Proof Determination

macro-thorn“…I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  1 Cor. 12:6-10 NLT

I think often of the Apostle Paul and the “thorn” (2 Cor 12) that remains a mystery to us all to this day. Perhaps it was meant to be an unnamed source of contention, so that we could identify it with our own thorns.  Interesting, isn’t it, that Paul didn’t refer to an entire thicket of entanglement…just one lone irritating thorn;  like a splinter that is stubbornly embedded, or an itch in the middle of your back that you can’t quite reach.  You’ve dealt with all the rest and there’s this one that you haven’t been able to conquer yet.  Am I getting warm here?  Does this sound like any area of your life where you’ve not yet succeeded in getting permanent victory from struggle?

I could be wrong, but I like to think that instead of a chronic or recurring physical illness, Paul’s thorn was–and ours is– a personal ‪#‎struggle‬ on the battle front of the mind.  All of us have our areas which need work; and if you don’t, I sure do. I won’t bore you with the details, but there are areas of my life that require more spot-checks and maintenance than others. There are areas which, if I don’t renew my mind daily to the Word, will cause me to start reverting back to previous wrong mindsets. What’s your thorn? Is it disappointment in yourself or others…unforgiveness…a nagging temptation to do something that you know is wrong…a terrible feeling of inferiority that sabotages your best attempts for success…an old wound from someone who should have loved you but didn’t, and it robs you of peace?  The enemy has convinced many of us that sickness and disease is our thorn, and that God wants us to stay sick to teach us some kind of lesson.  What a load of garbage!  No, I don’t think the “thorn” represents sickness at all–but I do think, however, that the thorn in our mind can interfere with us receiving the physical, spiritual, and mental healing God has already provided, if we allow it to dwarf our faith with a cloud of unbelief. Where you see sickness manifest, however, there’s quite possibly also the presence of the thorn. Whatever your thorn might be, it operates as a distraction, an annoyance, an attempt to divert your focus from the truth. And yes, the thorn can fling you headlong into ‪#‎depression‬ when it digs in long and hard enough. The thorn whispers and taunts, “God doesn’t care about you. If He did, why would you be having this problem? You’re just a reject, a castoff. I don’t know why He even puts up with you!”

Your answer from ‪#‎God‬ is the same as the answer He gave Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you.” God didn’t tell Paul He would never remove the thorn; but He did tell Paul that His grace would cover those times when the thorn seemed to get the best of him. Who’s to say that God didn’t remove the thorn before Paul died? We only know from his writing that Paul apparently quit asking after the third time. Maybe at some point, Paul was so confident in God’s ability to keep him that the thorn no longer mattered.  The most important take-away of this passage is, God never lifted the grace that covered Paul’s weaknesses; He never left him to the wolves. If that thorn were endangering Paul’s soul or the heavy calling on his life, I believe God would’ve wiped it out the moment Paul were in imminent danger. Paul concluded that as long as he continually had to lean on the Lord and not his own strength, it kept him reliant on God; and it prevented Paul from believing himself to be somehow superior to the people with whom he shared the Gospel. Most of all, we see that Paul grew at peace in the fact that God loved him, thorn or no thorn. The thorn was not Paul’s identity; and you must not let the thorn become YOUR identity, either! God LOVES you!

Take this walk with ‪#‎Jesus‬ a day at a time. You may be high-fiving one day and needing pulled out of the ditch the next day. Maturity in the Word does help minimize the severity or number of times when you’re “the ditch person,” so be encouraged that you’re going to be having increasing good days as you gain strength and momentum. When you are in need of a helping hand, however, for heaven’s sake don’t isolate yourself out of shame. Your brothers and sisters have dealt with their own thorns that are just as embarrassing and tormenting as the one you’ve encountered. Let them help you. Let God help you. Keep a list of the Scriptures that pertain to your struggle somewhere that you can access at all times, and don’t just read them–speak the Word OUT LOUD over your circumstances. The demonic forces assigned against you can’t hear you reading silently, but they sure hate when you read and speak the Word into the atmosphere, where they have to hear it and tremble!

I suspect that if you’re reading this post, you’re having a low day. My friend, God has not left you, and He isn’t orchestrating some cosmic ‘pick-on-YOU’ party for his amusement. Our Father doesn’t work like that; Satan, however, is very much amused by your struggles and failures. God wants you to WIN. Stop beating yourself up today over the fact that you’re there, again, in that big hole where you’ve wound up numerous times before. God isn’t beating you up. No, if you’ll look closely, He is assembling angel armies around you to stand guard while you dust yourself back off. He is sending prayer warriors to intercede on your behalf. And He has already provided a finished work in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The same grace that saved you is the same grace that will cover you while you get back on your feet. It isn’t our excuse for courting a sinful lifestyle or for giving less than our best; it’s the mortar that holds our pieces together and makes up for what we cannot, even on our best days, give. Let His grace cover you now. Feel God’s love and forgiveness and yes–even understanding–scrubbing away all those hateful things the enemy is trying to write about you in your mind. Let it go. Receive God’s help. And whether the process is instantaneous or takes a little while to complete, it’s ok…God’s got your back.  If you’re depressed as you read this, remind yourself, “This is a temporary state and I’m already in healing and recovery mode. I can trust God while I wait to “get over the hump” and back to my normal self again.”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m hurting today. The enemy has launched another attack on a vulnerable spot, and I’m in need of Your mercy. You told Paul that Your grace was all he needed when “the thorn” pressed in and caused him pain. You didn’t love Paul any more than You love me. You’re not comparing the many amazing things Paul did and wrote against the small life I live. You’re willing to give me JUST AS MUCH grace as You gave Paul because the thorn in my life is important to You too. You’re just as much in favor of my being victorious. I release this wounded-ness to You today, and I surrender the fight to handle it my way. Whether it’s an addiction, an attitude, or a hurdle I can’t seem to get beyond no matter how hard I try, I am encouraging myself in You today and reminding myself of Your promise NEVER to leave or forsake me. It’s not Your will that I be destitute, sick, defeated, walking in lack, depressed, feeling inferior or walking under any kind of cloud. I submit myself to You, as Your Word has instructed, and then I resist the devil…and he MUST flee from me. I don’t care if he tries to come back again and again, I will fight him until You say, “Enough!” I plead the blood of Jesus now over my life, and I draw the bloodline around myself. I receive Your grace and I wrap myself in it, like a big protective bubble. The shield of faith deflects every piercing weapon the enemy tries to injure me with. Even those bruises and scratches and wounds I’ve already encountered are being healed by the Balm of Gilead! Thank You, Father, because Your Word is enabling me to see myself as YOU see me. I’m NOT a reject! I’m that earthen vessel in which You choose to house Your precious treasures. You are using this imperfect me–yes! And You are getting glory for the miracles You perform through me in spite of the fact that I’m not yet where I WILL BE when You’ve finished with me!  I will walk holy before You and trust You to carry me across the terrain that’s too rugged for my own feet to navigate.”

I say, “Devil, you cannot have me. I belong to God. You can’t even have me in my mind. I believe God’s Word and He is even helping me with any areas of unbelief…so be gone, in Jesus’ name! In Jesus’ name, I break your assignment against me today, all of you evil spirits who are trying to take me down. You WILL NOT wreck my day and you WILL NOT get my soul. God already knows my weaknesses and His grace is holding me together in spite of them. You don’t win in the court of Heaven today because I’m already forgiven. You have no authority over me. You are under my feet. I’m not listening to your lies. If you want to bring accusation, talk to the hand—the nail-scarred hand!”

Resisting the Spirit of Despair — A Prayer of Deliverance

push back“We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NET)

My prayer today is for those whose trials of life seem like more than you can endure. I understand fully what it is like to be stressed easily. I’m a quiet-natured person who tends to hold in my feelings to the boiling point. On the outside I am cool as a cucumber but inwardly, my cares and worries and stress can be chewing holes in my soul. Then, at the least convenient time possible, I’ve been known to show my vulnerability. Our mouths eventually betray us if we are focused on the negative or if our mentality is one of despair!

Our only defense is God’s Word, and our only righteous boldness is through the Holy Spirit. But that isn’t bad…that’s good in a FOOLPROOF way! When our defense is coming from God and not our own at-times weak abilities, we don’t have to wonder whether we are going to survive. God, our strength and the One Who goes before us in battle, will meet the enemy first and He will wave the victory banner right in Satan’s face. Take a deep breath, and pray with me. We are about to enter into a state of rest–spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally too.

Father, we come to You today asking You to throw up a shield that guards our speech from the ears of the enemy. We are hearing the taunts and suggestions and mockings of the devil, who would try to drown out Your voice…but Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and another they will not follow.” He didn’t say we would never hear other voices, but He did say that we would recognize and follow HIS. We magnify You today and tune our ears to listen for Your guidance.  We are determined that our speech will not betray us and give the enemy a foothold.  May only You hear our distress call and not the devourer…we know You stand ready to rescue Your children!

Help us to become glass-half-full people instead of glass-half-empty! Help us to crave Your Word and to dig in to its strength when we are hit headlong with bad circumstances. We realize that it takes no effort whatsoever to become obsessed with bitter, jaded, selfish, negative thoughts…but we are followers of Christ. Therefore, we have the MIND of Christ, and for that reason, we have a choice. We plead the blood of Jesus over our mind, will, and emotions.

When the devil shows us the bad, help us instead to focus on ways in which we are blessed. When he tells us that our circumstances are permanent and that we are trapped with no way to ever be happy again, remind us that to everything there is a season. We can even come to understand, as Paul, that what we are wrestling now are “light and momentary afflictions” in light of eternity. When we are physically feeling too weary and whipped to put up a fight, send Your ministering spirits to aid and strengthen us. We can trust You. Help us not to be angry and resentful for the season we find ourselves in at this time…and if anger and resentment must be felt, may we turn those emotions into prayer bombs launched against darkness. The origin of trouble is in the spirit realm; help us to stop warring against people, when these battles must be fought on a different battleground.

Father, help us to gird up our minds and to stop courting those things which invite depression and despair. Give us a distaste for movies, music, even news channels or foods that tamper with our state of well-being. Make us aware of what pushes our anxiety buttons, and give us the good sense to walk away from drama every time it tries to let itself into our lives. Curb our appetite for over-stimulation, and teach us to live in simplicity once again. May we value quiet time with You. May we learn to politely say NO to the world’s endless list of favors. Help us to learn from Solomon’s experience when he summed all that chasing after worthless things up to just that–worthless, meaningless pursuits. Help us to stick with fearing You and keeping Your commandments. Help us to stick to loving You first, wholeheartedly, then loving others as ourselves. There is no sorrow attached to the blessings You give us. Your blessings make us rich in ways money can and cannot buy.

Today we cast our burdens upon You, because You care for us. Remind us of that. When we are tempted to dig our burdens back out of the heap and take them home, rebuke us! Thank you for fresh mercy for today, for grace to cover our shame, and for Your Word which is the winning argument to every accusation of our enemy. Thank You for Your joy…the joy of our salvation, the joy which is our strength. Thank You for Your joy even on days we don’t particularly feel happy and satisfied! Thank You for a spirit of laughter to overtake us and wash away the heaviness in our hearts. Medicate us with laughter and lightheartedness as we stretch toward Your light and away from the darkness of our circumstances. Prepare that table for us in the presence of our enemies…so that the enemy is scratching his head saying, “Right in the middle of my worst attack, they’re having a joyous feast???”

We submit to You and in doing so, we make our lives a very inhospitable place for the enemy to camp out. Instead of running toward us, he runs away. The heat of having to hear us quote the Word is more than the spirits of wickedness want to expose themselves to. It reminds them of their own despair in the very near future!

Father, we lift our hands to heaven and receive Your strength. We are that tree in Psalm 1, deeply rooted by the river of water, bearing fruit, covered in leaves, strong, healthy, thriving, fixed, and stable. We do not stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful! We toss out sarcasm and carnality and instead we delight in You and what Your Word says. Our circumstances will NOT dictate our level of thankfulness and peace. When the circumstances are resistant or slow to change, You will work on our hearts instead…so that we can say that we are content no matter what state we’re in.  When we can say that, nothing can move us out of our center of peace! In Jesus’ name, amen.