Thorn in the Side

Posted on Sun 06/12/2022 by


When I’m dealing with the weakess of my flesh, half-measures are not good enough. ~  

“A-h-h-h-h-h-h!” was quickly followed by some colorful words not to be put in writing. The good news is I wasn’t the one doing the screaming. My team leader, however, had every reason to be screaming. Infantry training in the rolling hills of Camp Pendleton in sunny Southern California had its perils — rattlesnakes, scorpions, and cactuses. We were on a range doing “Fire and Maneuver,” and our four-man team was rushing to a new firing position when Billy stumbled and fell into a cactus. It gives me the willies just remembering the corpsman trying to pull the cactus quills out of his face.

I’m sure the Israelites knew something about cactuses and thorns after spending 40 years in the wilderness, so Moses’s exhortation to them should have given them pause. “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell” (Numbers 33:55, ESV). If you remember, God’s instructions were clear — every nation was to be destroyed when they took over the land. Living with the enemy was a recipe for disaster. Joshua repeated the warning before he died. “Know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you” (Joshua 23:13).

Israel’s history revealed the truth about those warnings. Israel never drove out many of its enemies. The Book of Judges is replete with stories of its subjugation by weaker nations when it drifted away from the worship of the one true God. Many Christians today are dealing with a similar situation — they came to saving faith in Christ, but they never drove out all the enemies. These enemies are the sins that so easily entangle us. “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin” (Proverbs 5:21-22).

How is that the same? you might be asking. Let me tell you. The Christian life is supposed to be one of victory. We are overcomers (I John 5:4-5). Our enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we do not gain victory over the weakness of the flesh, we will never be victorious against the other two. Scripture tells us that “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), but not every Christian is experiencing that freedom. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).

In Vietnam, I learned the value of superior firepower. My preferred concept would be to reduce the target to a smoking crater, throw in a couple of grenades, and then move forward. When I’m dealing with the weakness of my flesh, half-measures are not good enough. If it were possible for me to clean up my life, it would not have been necessary for Christ to die in my place. But because I could not fix myself, He died so that the Holy Spirit could come and set me free. My part is to admit my weakness and ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to enable me to resist the weakness of my flesh. When victory comes, there is no basis for boasting — it is God’s power that set me free.

James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). My pride is the one thing that will keep me from asking for victory in the area I am struggling. “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him” (I John 5:14-15).

God’s “will” is that I walk in victory before Him. Thorn in your side? Time for a Holy Spirit “fire mission”! What say ye, Man of Valor?

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