Many years ago, I was visiting Germany during the fall. The man who was hosting me took me for an afternoon ride in his car to show me the breathtaking countryside.The weather was beautiful, the air was crisp, and many trees were loaded with fruit nearly ready for harvest.As we were driving along, we passed by an apple orchard. I was amazed at the enormous amount of fruit each tree carried. But to my bewilderment, many of those trees had collapsed, limbs and branches were broken off, and the fruit was rotting on the ground.My host stopped the car, and we both just looked at the tragedy. There must have been hundreds of apples on each of those tree branches; but now, because they were broken off, none of the fruit would ever reach harvest time.“This is really bad,” I said. “What happened?” He answered simply, “The owner didn’t take care of these branches.”Then he drove on and showed me another orchard. These trees were as huge as the first ones, and their branches bore even more apples. But strangely, none of the trees had collapsed, and not even a single branch had broken off.What made the difference? The owner had carefully put wooden props under each branch to help carry and support the tremendous weight of the fruit.
What Helps Us Bear the Weight?
This memory is forever etched in my mind, and God used it to teach me an important truth.
John 15 teaches us that Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. God prunes us countless times. Throughout this process, our character has become more Christlike, and we have gained a deeper understanding of the Lord and His Word. We are no longer the kind of person we were 5 or 10 years ago.
God is then able to entrust us with greater responsibilities and more fruit. When this happens, God in His care puts a support under our branch to prevent it from breaking off. But God’s support for our branch is not joy, peace, acclamation or the applause of men we might hope to receive. Instead, it is pain, trials and difficulties—something God chooses in His wisdom to keep us from getting proud and not being able to support the weight of the fruit.
But God didn’t grant his request. Instead, He told Paul that His strength was made perfect in Paul’s weakness. The thorn in the flesh kept him from pride and arrogance in his insight and accomplishments. God was saying, “The revelations I gave you are so high and you bear so much fruit that your branch needs My strength to support it; otherwise, it will break off.”
The moment Paul understood that this thorn was not his enemy but rather his support, he said “yes” to it and was grateful that God was watching out for him.
The “Thorn in the Flesh” Is For Our Good
As an expression of His love for us, God seeks to support us in all that He’s called us to do. He ensures that our inner life keeps pace with the task He has assigned to us, for unless He “supports” us, we would become proud and arrogant. Ultimately, He prevents us from becoming spiritual casualties. As a good gardener, He watches out for us!
Say “yes” to the support He lovingly sends your way.
Dr. KP Yohannan, founder and director of Gospel for Asia, has written more than 200 books, including Revolution in World Missions, an international bestseller with more than 4 million copies in print. He and his wife, Gisela, have two grown children, Daniel and Sarah, who both serve the Lord with their families.
Gospel for Asia has been serving the “least of these” in Asia since its beginning in 1979, often in places where no one else is serving. GFA supports national workers who are serving as the hands and feet of Christ by ministering to people’s needs so they can understand the love of God for them for the first time. GFA is engaged in dozens of projects, such as caring for poor children, slum dwellers and widows and orphans; providing clean water by funding wells; supporting medical missions; and meeting the needs of those in leprosy colonies. Through GFA’s Bridge of Hope Program, tens of thousands of children are being rescued from the generational curses of poverty and hopelessness.
Click here, to read more articles on Patheos by Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan.
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