Paul’s thorn in the flesh mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is certainly unlikely to be a sin problem in Paul’s life. However, every believer in Christ still struggles with sin. Just like the thorns of physical ailments and the thorns of relationships, we all have nagging sinful tendencies that we are constantly fighting against. Perhaps you struggle with pride, selfishness, laziness, anger, gossip, bad language, greed, or lust. Whatever your struggle it is important to understand that you are not alone. Even the best of Christians has at least one or multiple sinful tendencies that they struggle with on a regular basis.
We know that God’s desire for us is that we live holy lives. Yet, though God is not the one that tempts us with sin, He never said He would take away the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye be able to bear it.” There are couple of spiritual nuggets that we see in this verse. First of all, there is no unique temptation. Every temptation you encounter is something that someone else has also encountered. There is nothing new. There is no temptation that you face that has not already been faced before by a large number of humanity. Secondly, God will not allow you to be tempted more than you can handle. You may think the temptation is unbearable, yet God will not allow it to go too far. He will never allow you to be tempted more than you can bear. Finally, in this verse we learn that God always has a way for you to escape temptation. There is always a way out. Even though God may not remove that thorn of sin in your life, He will always provide a way for you to escape the temptation to sin.
As we consider the thorns of sin in our lives, there are five basic things we must do in order to guard ourselves from giving in to our sinful tendencies.
Identify your problem. You cannot fight the sin in your life if you do not recognize that you have a sin problem. The Bible is very clear that we all have a sin problem. Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In Psalm 51, David said that his sin was “always before me.” David was constantly aware of his sin problem. I don’t know about you, but I personally can identify with David. I have a sin problem in my life. There are some things that are not a problem for me, however, there are others that are a major problem for me. There is a thorn of sin in my life that I am constantly aware of. I know and understand my weakness. It is when we are in constant awareness of our sinful tendencies that we are able to properly combat against the sin. What is your thorn of sin? What sinful tendencies do you have? Is it pride? Is it gossip? Is it anger? Is it lust? Whatever it is, do not let your guard down. Know your weakness.
Confess your sin immediately. If sin is left unconfessed it will build and build and the guilt and consequence of sin grows. Therefore, it is imperative that at the very moment that sin enters, confession is made to the Lord. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We have a promise in God’s Word that forgiveness is always available. It may be as simple as a sinful thought. The very moment the thought crosses your mind you should confess it to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. Such confession is not for God’s benefit or even for your own salvation. As a believer in Christ, God sees the righteousness of Jesus, not your sin. However, sin brings guilt and shame and hinders your prayers. Therefore, for your own benefit, you should immediately confess your sin at the very moment even the hint of sin creeps into your life.
Feed on God’s Word. In the Survival Kit for New Christians, we learn that ‘the nature we feed is the nature that will succeed.’ As believers in Christ, we have two natures. There is the old man that is prone to sin, and we have the new man that desires to be pleasing to the Lord. The nature that we feed or pour into is the nature that will be most dominate in our life. Therefore, to fight against that thorn of sin we must feed on the things that are true and lovely. We must feed on God’s Word. You can never get enough of God’s Word. It is imperative for the daily survival of the Christian that there is a continual intake of the spiritual food received from the Word of God. This requires daily scheduled feeding times. You need to have a time set aside everyday when you get alone with God in the reading of His Word and in prayer. This also requires the weekly feeding from God’s Word as we sit under the preaching of the Word. Faithful church attendance should be a part of our regular spiritual diet. Without that daily personal feeding and that faithful and regular feeding we receive from being in church, we will not be able to overcome the temptations of our sinful tendencies and that thorn of sin will dig its way deeper into our very souls. Psalm 119:11 says, “I will hide God’s Word in my heart that I might not sin against God.” The careful and consistent study of God’s Word is the number one way in which sin can be thwarted in our lives.
Beware of your surroundings. We have all been told to choose our friends wisely. This is definitely a crucial practice. However, in addition to choosing our friends wisely we must also be aware of our surroundings and avoid putting ourselves in a position that may cause us to be tempted to sin. For example, if you struggle with the temptation to drink alcohol, you may want to avoid establishments where alcohol is readily available. If you struggle with the sin of gossip, you may want to avoid engaging in social media. If you struggle with lust, it would be a good idea to have safeguards on all your electronic devices and avoid going to places where you are more likely to see people dressed immodestly. Sin is everywhere. No matter where you go there will be temptation. Therefore, you must avoid putting yourself into a position where you will be more vulnerable to give in to that thorn of sin in your life.
Surround yourself with other believers. There is something to be said about accountability. Having strong Christian friends is a must when dealing with the thorn of sin. There is safety in numbers. The more you can be around like-minded believers the better off you will be. This is why faithful involvement in a Bible believing local church is so very important. It cannot be just every now and then or once every few weeks. Faithful weekly church attendance is a must when it comes to building quality relationships and engaging with other believers. Such relationships is key to dealing with the thorns of sin.
Whatever thorn of sin you struggle with it is important for you to understand that you are not alone. All believers have at least one thorn of sin. Take the steps necessary to lessen the affects of the thorn and avoid falling into sin.