“To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
God sometimes uses trials to humble believers.
Professional athletics, as a whole, makes up one of the least humble sectors in modern American society. Players with multi-million dollar salaries and extravagant benefits have replaced those who played because they loved their sport and had great community loyalty.
One such noble model from the past was Lou Gehrig, the Hall of Fame first baseman with the New York Yankees, whose career ended in 1939 after he was stricken with a rare and always fatal neuromuscular disease. Throughout his ordeal, Gehrig conducted himself with dignity and humility, all of which culminated on July 4, 1939, before a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium, with millions more listening on the radio. He concluded his special remarks on “Lou Gehrig Day” with this amazing statement: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” He died approximately two years later.
Shouldn’t those who seek to serve and glorify God react in similar fashion if confronted by the same kind of trial? They will if they remember that He sometimes sends trials to humble His children and remind them they are not to be overconfident in their own spiritual strength (Rom. 12:3).
Today’s verse tells us God allowed Paul to be plagued by some sort of chronic, painful problem, “a messenger of Satan.” This likely refers to a man who led the opposition to Paul at the church in Corinth. When we are greatly blessed spiritually—Paul saw the risen Christ several times and was even taken up into the third heaven—the Lord sometimes allows “a thorn in the flesh” to afflict us, that we might remain humble. Whenever we are besieged by such trials and come to the point where all strength seems gone, God’s Word reminds us, as it did Paul, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I [Paul] will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Lord to remind you throughout the day of your humble dependence on Him, whether or not you are going through a trial.
For Further Study
Read James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:5-7. What do these passages say is the key to genuine humility?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.