We are all sinners who were expelled from heaven and cast down to this earth because of our sins. God has given us redemption, the forgiveness of sins, through the blood of Christ who is without blemish or defect, so that we may be born again and become God’s children and go back to our heavenly country.
What should we, men of God, ask Him first? What is God’s will for us, His children? It is life, eternal life. What God wants most is that His children acquire eternal life and live in joy in the kingdom of heaven.
“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Ti 6:11-12
God told us to take hold of eternal life. To acquire eternal life, we must go through a process-that is fighting the good fight of the faith, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
During our earthly life, each of us has our own pain that is unknown to others. It becomes a thorn in our flesh [side].
God may provide the prophets, who do His work, with favorable conditions. However He even gives them troubles and pain. Why? God wants His loving children not to be content with their earthly life, but to long for the kingdom of heaven and have the hope for eternal life; He intends His children to depend only on Him in their present painful lives and display the power of the Almighty. This is God’s providence.
“Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. … To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, … But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ … Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Co 12:6-10
In the Early Church, Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh; many times he pleaded with God to take it away from him. However, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” God made him take up his cross and follow Christ. Paul realized why God gave him a thorn in his flesh. Then he was delighted and gave thanks to God that he could manifest his love for God more convincingly in difficulties, persecutions, hardships and insults (2 Co 11:23-30).
When God plans for the work of preaching the gospel and allows us to carry out His plans, He also makes us suffer troubles and persecutions. God wants us, His children, to hope for heaven through the pains and troubles and learn to spread our wings to fly towards heaven. In other words, God trains us to have strong and firm faith so that we may become competent to serve as the royal priesthood in heaven.
Every forefather in faith was given a thorn in their side. God refined all our forefathers by giving them thorns so that they could fulfill His perfect will. God gave them painful circumstances, so that they might have the time to think of Him, seek Him, and completely depend on Him.
A mother eagle trains her young very hard. For they cannot become regal birds of prey if they are indulged in idleness in their warm nest. Likewise, God gave thorns to the forefathers of faith lest they should indulge in worldly things.
Adam had a thorn, Cain his son-the first murderer in human history (Ge 4:1-8). Eli the priest was given a thorn, his immoral and godless sons, by whom his whole house perished (1 Sa 2:12-25). King David had a rebellious son Absalom as a thorn, by whom he was pursued (2 Sa 15:1-23). Elijah was distressed by King Ahab and Jezebel; when he prayed that he might die, an angel brought water and bread to him to preserve his life, so that he could continue his ministry (1 Ki 19:1-18). Elisha, the disciple and successor of the prophet Elijah, had a thorn Gehazi, his greedy servant.
“Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. … When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha. … But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? … Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.” 2 Ki 5:20-27
Elisha was a prophet of God who performed many miracles. He knew about his servant’s greedy act. Through his words, “Was not my spirit with you …?” we can see that his deceitful servant Gehazi was a thorn to him.
Jesus had a thorn, Judas Iscariot, His betrayer. He knew who would hand Him over for execution, but He didn’t care about that. For over three years, He had walked closely with him.
And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” … Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Mt 26:21-24
Though Jesus spent over three years with Judas Iscariot, His betrayer, He devoted Himself to saving souls, preaching the words of the gospel wholeheartedly. If He had spent time minding Judas Iscariot, a thorn causing pain, how would the good news of salvation have been preached? Jesus didn’t come just to suffer in agony with the pain caused by a thorn. He said that He came to seek the lost from heaven.
If we lose the purpose of our “taking hold of the eternal life” and just consider the pain caused by a thorn which becomes an obstacle to the gospel, how can we let all peoples and nations know the way to eternal life? Following the example of Jesus, we should concentrate on saving souls, accepting God’s grace as sufficient to cope with our thorn in the flesh.
Mrs. Kaufman vividly describes her experiences on her journey in her book titled “Spring of Desert.” This book depicts the growth process of a silkworm moth emerging from its cocoon.
One day, she happened to see a moth struggling to come out of the cocoon. She felt sorry for it and snipped off the cocoon with a pair of scissors so that the moth could emerge easily. However, the moth that came out of the cocoon could not fly through the air, while all other moths were soaring through the sky. Then she came to realize that the hard struggle to emerge from the cocoon was required for the moth to be able to fly because the long effort served to pump necessary fluids into their wings and strengthen them for flight.
It is the same with our spiritual flight. Through suffering we become strong enough to spread our spiritual wings and soar toward heaven. Without suffering we become short-sighted and satisfied with our present life in this world, so that we cannot take hold of the eternal life and fail to reach heaven, our eternal home.
Our suffering in this present world makes us hunger for the everlasting kingdom where there is no pain or death.
Pine trees beside the seashore are deeply rooted to withstand strong winds. Pine trees on Mt. Namsan in Seoul, surviving and adapting to air pollution, produce more cones than ordinary ones. It’s because the pine trees adapt themselves to such severe conditions; they become prolific and keep their species alive.
Pain, suffering, poverty and loneliness may hamper the growth of life. However, such a bad condition becomes an opportunity to refine ourselves, so that we may have absolute faith, eagerly seeking God’s help and absolutely depending on Him. God told us to speak His words boldly, though briers and thorns are with us.
“And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.” Eze 2:6-7
Those who hinder the truth, setting briers and thorns against us, will be punished in hell. God tells us not to be afraid of them, though they are very rebellious ones. Though we have thorns now, our suffering will ultimately bear fruit. Mentioning the fruit, God comforts us:
“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case-things that accompany salvation.” Heb 6:7-9
“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, … Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Mt 13:3-8
We must not be like thorns and thistles which will be burned. As God’s children, we should bear good fruit by preaching His gracious words, being filled with the Holy Spirit. We should overcome all difficult circumstances and preach the gospel, so that we may firmly hold God’s precious gift of eternal life.
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Jn 6:27
How stupid we are if we give up eternal life for food that spoils, because of the thorns and briers of affliction! Our life will be worth nothing, won’t it? Let’s work for food that endures to eternal life and take hold of the eternal life, the most precious and worthiest gift, just as God said.
If God had not breathed into Adam the breath of life after forming his body from the dust of the ground, he would not have been beautiful, would he? The dust is not beautiful in itself. It was the breath of life in himself that made Adam beautiful.
To give us eternal life, to recreate us as beautiful beings, God Himself came to this sinful world. Those who do not eat the flesh of Jesus and drink His blood have no life in themselves. However, we, who eat His flesh and drink His blood, have life, so we can be beautiful. Our brothers and sisters are always so bright and beautiful, deserving to be praised by the world. It is because they have the life-giving breath of God.
God refines and trains us through persecution, suffering and trials to give us the inheritance of heaven.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs?heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Ro 8:16-18
God takes pity on us, who have valued worldly things and not spread our wings to soar heavenward, and says to each and every one of us, “You, man of God! Take hold of the eternal life!” Saying that, God earnestly requests: “You, man of God! Make every effort to enter the kingdom of heaven, where there is everlasting joy and glory, rather than to acquire worldly things. There you can get whatever you want. So, take hold of the eternal life. Do not be deprived of the eternal life.” God wants us His children to acquire eternal life, the most precious gift.
To attain the eternal glory of heaven as a man of God, each of us should understand and believe every word of God concerning things, visible and invisible, and apply it in our life. God has chosen us and let us know the profound mystery of eternal life. We have the right to call God “Father” and “Mother.” How greatly we are blessed!
God has prepared the kingdom of heaven where we will live forever, and eagerly waits for us to come back home. As men of God who understand His will, let us practice God’s love and give glory to God, and we will abundantly bear the precious fruit of the Holy Spirit. Until all the 144,000, the children of God, get eternal life, let us diligently preach the gospel and please God.