1 January 2020


By John Ollis

The Apostle Paul’s ministry and teaching had such an impact on the 1st century Church and continues to until this very day. We know that basically half the New Testament was written by him, and many scholars can see Paul’s influence and teaching on the author of the book of Hebrews. What a pedigree Paul had we read in Phil. 3:5 NKJV Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews,concerning the law, a Pharisee.
What a dynamic conversion experience he had, when on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians, his life was changed forever. Then a solo Bible School experience where the Holy Spirit poured revelation into him, and made alive the Old Testament scriptures which he had studied in depth as a Pharisee. Then happily returned to Tarsus and we assume to tentmaking until Barnabas came and invited him to share in the ministry in the growing church in Antioch, and from there his calling  to his church planting and teaching ministry across Asia.
As a result of becoming a Christian and God calling him to be an Apostle, his ministry caused much pain and stress, he declares in 2 Cor. 11:24-28 NKJV From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings  often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
I won der how many of us could handle all that he went through.
And as result of all the revelation and truth that God poured into him, he received what he calls a thorn in the flesh, we read in 2 Cor. 12:7 NKJV And lest I should be  exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
I can’t be bothered nor am I interested in what that thorn was, other than Paul calling it a messenger of Satan. God permitted this experience to help keep Paul humble because of all the revelations he had received, and all the success that had come from his ministry.  We read in 2 Cor. 12::8-9 NKJV he asked the Lord three times to take this “thorn” away,  but God’s response was My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We don’t know what the thorn was, but it must have been difficult to constantly experience the pain and pressure day in and day out, but Paul experienced the grace of God to bear it  and rejoice in the goodness of God.
Again, I wonder whether we could have handled the thorn. Let us keep in mind this thorn was over and above the fact that like every human being Paul had a sinful nature, which he writes about especially in Rom. chapters 6-8.
King David tells us in his confession Psalm 51:5 NKJV Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
Every human being is a sinner by nature as well as a sinner by action, that is why Jer. 17:9 NKJV reminds us  .The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Paul knew from his Old Testament studies that God was going to enter into a New Covenant with His people and give them a “new heart” we read in Ez. 36:26-27 NKJV I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
We know that even with a new heart we are still capable of committing sin, that is why Paul tells us we can never relax for a moment but must learn to put on the whole armour of God Eph. 6:10-18 NKJV so that we will not be tripped up by the tricks of the devil, so Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV that we must be “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
So what a life Paul had, as a result of becoming a Christian, not only contending with his sinful nature, but also a “thorn in his flesh” plus, plus, plus,  but he could say in Rom 8:37 NKJV 8:37-39 NKJV Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, as we enter this new year, and new decade, let us be reminded that as Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV as His divine power has given to us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
I posted in FB yesterday “We do not know what 2020 will bring, but we know who holds the future, and God only wants to give us things for our eternal good.
I have a quiet excitement in  my spirit, that 2020 is going to be a fantastic year of blessing and fruitfulness and the favour of God, may we learn from Paul’s experience that we to can fulfil the purposes of God in our generation amen.