Have you ever had a trial, mountain, or disability in your life that left you with a sinking feeling in your stomach and thoughts in your mind like, “I must be the exception Paul talked about?”
You know, the thorn that didn’t go away after he asked God to remove it. Ever feel like that’s you? I have.
Many of us attribute the majority of suffering in our lives to the consequences of living in a fallen world, which is said to be inevitable. (Obviously, we don’t live forever, women have painful labors, and men sweat providing for their families.) The rest is attributed to the testing of God in our lives or the trial of faith.
With two probable explanations of suffering, we then wonder how to pray. We can’t pray away the inevitable consequences of sin, and we certainly wouldn’t want to pray against God’s testing of our faith, so that doesn’t really leave any room for specific prayer, does it? We forfeit our faith as fear creates robotic, no risk “Thy will be done prayers.” That should cover all our bases, right? Congratulations, we have just explained away the possibility of knowing the will of God. Thankfully, this is not the end of the story. 🙂
This mind game is a treacherous tug of war because without the discernment of the Holy Spirit, the probability of handing our allegiance over to the master of sickness and death without our knowledge is extremely high. We can all agree that is never a good thing! Why? Because we aimlessly wade through murky situations with little grip on our Father’s heart, first of all, and without that confidence, how can we really be sure of anything, and how will His kingdom ever be manifested our lives?
Here’s the baby I sometimes wish to throw out with the bathwater: I agree that virtually all pain is a result of sin because it did not exist before sin separated us from the Father. I get it. That should take care of the “Does God want us to suffer,” question. His original design obviously created us to be happy and fulfilled.
Here’s some more baby found in that murky water: pain is only an indicator of a wound. Pain is not the wound itself.
Many people make excuses for the lack of physical healing wonders (that are sure follow believers) because of Paul’s incident with the elusive “thorn,” which of its nature no one has any solid evidence. However, it is clear in Paul’s letters and in the gospels that Paul and all Jesus’ followers consistently healed the sick as a means of introducing strangers into adoption. Paul’s thorn being pinpointed as an excuse to look the other way when sickness stares us in the face is ludicrous.
I hesitate even using the word “exception,” but I don’t know how else to visualize the story of Paul’s thorn in relation to the rest of scripture and the character of Christ. I hope no offense is taken if you are experiencing a trial of faith and/or a physical illness. I am in no way suggesting that you are to blame for what you are going through. There is absolutely no condemnation. I myself am still contending for many physical breakthroughs. I am also not implying blame for those who have lost loved ones in tragedies or illness. I also lost a parent when I was ten, so I am very familiar with physical loss and grief. I am not suggesting that God was absent when that car hit my dad. I am only sharing what God and I are experiencing together in the present and what we hope for in the future. Please know that God’s heart is very near to the brokenhearted.
Note: To my knowledge, trials of faith in Scripture was most often associated with opposition or persecution as a result of furthering the kingdom. I have yet to find any concrete examples that physical illness is meant to be viewed as a thorn to be endured. Instead it was always overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the power of His resurrection.
Check out what James says about trials and temptation:
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” (God is trying to trip me up) For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Again, the nature of the Father is evident.
God never objects to removing a thorn unless supernatural provision to overcome weakness accompanies it.
Paul’s thorn would not have been an “exception” had he lacked the anointing to have his weakness overcome by the supernatural provision of Jesus. God made an escape for him.
Modern example: I believe that God’s nature, as a rule, is to heal and restore. However, when I look at someone like Nick Vujicic, who limbless, ministers to thousands of people that he would otherwise not reach with arms and legs, I can only agree, “Wow, God’s favor is on that man.”
When I see teen girls with tears streaming down their faces after hearing the words, “You are beautiful, and you are not a mistake, ” from a limbless man who has overcome mind blowing impossibilities, yet radiates the heart and beauty of God, I stand in awe. My hat is off to that man, who is co laboring with God with excellence. I recognize that He is is proclaiming the glory of God in ways made possible through his “disability,” and I believe Heaven salutes such love. Nick may well be a modern day example of an anointed “exception” of wholeness.
How bizarre would it be to base God’s design on an anointed exception when I know that God clearly contends for the physical, emotional, and spiritual healing of people? Does that make sense?
The spiritual is always more important, as is evident in Nick’s life, but signs and wonders inevitably follow or precede the spiritual miracle. If God’s heavenly purposes are being more wholly fulfilled through a physical disability, it is no longer a disability. I think it would be incredible to see God create limbs for Nick, but I know there is currently an anointing on Nick because wholeness is coming out of his “anointed disability.”
Those who abide in Him are never an exception to the glory and inheritance of the Lord. If you truly do have a thorn, the anointing to do greater things will accompany it. If it is bringing deeper despair and leading you away from God, I highly doubt you are one of the “chosen thorn bearers.” That theology is not biblical, yet modern Christianity leaves thousands of people settling for sickness, settling for heartbreak, settling for confusion in the name of “the thorn,” and it disturbs me.
This thorn in the flesh was mentioned once by Paul, and to create a theology of “thorn enduring” out of one instance opposed to hundreds of sermons, examples, and lifestyles of physical restoration is appalling.
I cast no judgment on those with disabilities, whether they are living in the fullness of Christ or not. I simply wish to say no to a culture that operates the church as an orphanage instead of from the position of adoption.
I think it was the wisdom of God to leave the specifics of the thorn unrecorded. Imagine what ridiculous theologies could be made out of one basic experience. If Paul would have been partially blind, humans would bear blindness without question. If Paul had a back issue, humans would decide that back pain is glorified martyrdom. If Paul had a weakness for liquor, alcoholics would decide that their addiction is exempt from the supernatural power to overcome. Humans tend to be rather comfortable gleaning behavioral tips from historical accounts rather actually creating their own history with God.
Another modern day example: God separated Himself into two distinct images: male and female. His design is for man and woman to be joined together in oneness in order to give a complete picture of the male and female attributes of God.
What of the people he has called to single hood? We would never say that singleness is the standard simply because there are some incredibly anointed single people operating in supernatural provision because we know that marriage is God’s visual design of His relationship with His church. Yes, I believe people can be anointed for single hood. 🙂
We need to recognize the difference between anointed exception and orphan culture.
I think a lot of the confusion related to wrongly associating physical ailments to the work of God has to do with little distinction made between two realities: consequence and penalty. Let’s look at some definitions.
Consequence: a result or effect of an action or condition.
Penalty: a punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule, or contract.
Some examples of consequence: loss of physical virginity, sweat with labor, female monthly cycle, weeds, mortality…
Some examples of penalty: Separation from God, which results in shame, fear, presence of darkness/ exposure to the destructive tactics of Satan…
The ultimate penalty for sin is death. How many know that boat already done sailed? Does Jesus allow Satan to crush Him with the penalty He already paid for? No, because He crushed Satan’s head. If we are seated in heaven with Christ, does it not make sense that we get inheritance benefits of lifted penalties? It does to me!
The problem lies in receiving the destructive devices of Satan as consequences when in fact they are penalties we no longer have to bear as believers.
For example, if an individual has sex before he/she is married, consequences may include the physical loss of virginity. Penalty, is separation from God. Under the blood and in heavenly seating, that penalty is gone, man!
It would be silly to continue allowing people access to your body simply because you are no longer a physical virgin. In a sense, this is how we often treat physical healing. We already screwed up God’s design, and are dealing with the consequences. (“I have a period, and I have to go to work.”) Soon we are agreeing with heart failure, cancer, broken relationships, and other chaos, all the while attributing them to the consequences of the curse or the refining hand of God.
God sure doesn’t waste any pain we lay at the cross, but unknowingly accepting penalties as a normal reality for the believer is not part of the easy yoke we are promised.
If heavenly inheritance gives purity and restores virginity, then likewise, health is restored to the sick as a gift of inheritance to those who believe, no matter if it was a specific sin or general sin nature that brought about the calamity.
This is the only way healing is possible: heaven’s will invading my earthly realm. From a human standpoint: impossible. From a kingdom standpoint: all heaven waits to release the inheritance benefit of righteousness and adoption free of penalty. (Puts new meaning to, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” That simple verse explains how Jesus healed the sick in earthly realms. It was already done in heaven. Right there is our commission folks! Agree with heaven!)
Another example: If God punishes a sinful nation with famine, they are experiencing a penalty. Yet if they repent and are restored, God will remove the penalty of famine, and all they will be left with is the consequences of leftover dried crops. The lifted penalty, (famine) however, means that in the future they will be able to replant and rebuild what the penalty stole from them, and the sting of consequence will be dulled by the present abundance of hearty crops.
It would be silly to wallow in the field of dried stalks, believing that the physical consequences of past penalty controlled the outcome of future fruit.
I believe God wants this generation to stop attributing famine to consequences instead of letting God remove the penalty of the curse off of believers. If you are a believer, the famine (penalty) doesn’t exist anymore because you are seated in heaven with God. Clean up the dried corn husks, and start preparing the fields for the rain of God pouring out on fertile ground and the ready waiting seeds.
I’m not saying God does not allow our faith to be tested through physical trials, but I am saying that God never lets us be tried without making an escape.
That’s all for now. Peace to all.