Though Paul was able to declare, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8), Paul also had a thorn—a burdensome pain from which he prayed to God for relief three times (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was. He never called his beatings and imprisonments a thorn; he considered them willing sacrifices for God’s Kingdom. His thorn was something completely different—and ultimately, a great blessing from God.

God knew that His grace would neither manifest nor shine in a strong and self-sufficient person like it would in a man who suffered in weakness. And Paul recognized that his thorn kept him humble and focused on the Lord. His weaknesses resulted in a life so devoted to Christ that it served as a model for all Christians and made his teaching authentic to bear up under scrutiny.

Additionally, in the midst of the pain of the thorn in Paul’s life, his obedience to the Lord was unconditional. In Acts 20:22-27, Paul revealed that he was fully aware of the suffering that awaited him as he followed God’s call. Once he knew where God was calling him to go, that was the end of the matter; he went.

Paul said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus Christ has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). Compared to the task of making Jesus known, Paul’s personal ambitions meant nothing. His desires were not at the forefront; his comfort was not the priority. Why? Because his life was not his own (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 

God didn’t forget nor dismiss Paul’s thorn, and He won’t overlook ours. He uses life’s stresses—physical and emotional—to draw us closer to Him and prepare us for the good work He has given us to do.

Paul felt pain, sorrow, and need, yet when the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through him, he experienced joy, contentment, and peace. It certainly takes time and maturity to, like Paul, praise and thank God for our weaknesses. Yet, when we are willing to humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (see James 4:10).

Prayer: Lord, help me to view my weaknesses in the light of Your grace. May I submit to You in pain and pleasure remembering the victory that is already mine in Christ Jesus. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Learn more in Dr. Michael Youssef’s sermon The Secrets of Positive Living, Part 14: LISTEN NOW

Check out more from Dr. Michael Youssef, here!

About The Author

Dr. Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Even before he was born, it is clear that God had a vision for Michael Youssef. His mother was in poor health when she became pregnant with Michael, and because his life was in danger at the time of birth, the doctor recommended terminating the pregnancy. An abortion was scheduled. But God intervened and sent the family pastor to reassure them that God was involved in this pregnancy. He told them not to be afraid and that the child would be "born to serve the Lord." Michael's parents accepted the pastor's message as a message from God and obeyed. His mother gave birth, and lived to see him give his life to the Lord at the age of sixteen.

Believing that God had called him out of Egypt, Michael sought an exit visa in a time in which no university student was allowed to have a passport or leave the country. God intervened again, and miraculously he managed to acquire a visa. He immigrated to Australia, where he studied at Moore Theological College in Sydney, was ordained as a pastor, and met Elizabeth who became his wife.

The Youssefs came to America in 1977, and in 1978 Michael received a master's degree in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. Then he earned a doctorate in social anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Michael served nearly ten years in the Haggai Institute, traveling around the world more than 32 times, teaching courses in evangelism and leadership. He rose to the position of Managing Director at the age of 31 years. The family settled in Atlanta, and in 1984, Michael became a citizen of the United States, making his dream of many years come true.

He founded The Church of The Apostles in 1987 with fewer than 40 adults with the mission of "Equipping the Saints and Searching for the Lost". The church has since grown to be a congregation of over 3,000 people today. This church has driven the international ministry of Leading the Way. While it is heard by millions at home and abroad, behind every message preached through radio waves, is the heart of a pastor, willing to nurture and care for these people. Clearly God has uniquely equipped Dr. Youssef to speak to a global audience. The path he has taken has given him an understanding and firm grasp of the Scriptures that transcend cultures. He preaches, teaches and calls with a sincere, based on the authority of the inerrant, inspired Word of God. With his personal knowledge of the Holy Land, its history and culture, Dr. Michael Youssef transmits life to listeners all over the world.

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