Thorns and Thistles

A Sermon on Opposition in Christian Ministry

Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.


1. Satanic Attacks

2 Corinthians 11:23

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,

Ephesians 6:12

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Job 1:7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”

Isaiah 37:36 - Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!

2. The Fallen World System and Non-Believers

2 Cor 11:26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

1 Cor 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

“The guards were merciless. They kicked me and beat me with sticks. …Constantly there were people dying. Death was a part of our daily life. The bodies were usually burned and the guards scattered the ashes on the path. Every day, we walked down that path and I always thought, one day the other prisoners will be walking over me.”
“God helped me to survive. Even more: He gave me a desire to evangelize among the other prisoners! He showed me whom I should approach. God used me to lead five people to faith. We met together out of the view of the guards. Often that was in the toilet. There we held a short service. I taught them Bible verses and some songs, which we sang inaudibly.” - Medieval Museum, St Augustine, Florida.

3. Temperamental Weaknesses

2 Corinthians 11:29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

4. The Danger Within

26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

5. Poverty

27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

"Imagine, He owned everything. But when He came into this world He was borrowing everything. He had to borrow a place to be born and not much of a place at that. He had to borrow a place to lay His head, He didn't even have a home. Many nights He slept on the Mount of Olives. He had to borrow a boat to cross the little Sea of Galilee. He had to borrow a boat to preach from. He had to borrow an animal to ride into the city when He was being triumphantly welcomed as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He had to borrow a room for the Passover because He didn't even have a house in Jerusalem. He had to borrow a tomb to be buried in. - John Macarthur, 1988, the humiliation of Christ

Matt 6:31-33. 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

6. Personal Sins

29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Joshua 7:10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?

11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.

12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

7. Godly Discipline

2 Cor 12:7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Whom God will use greatly, he will hurt deeply. - AW Tozer

2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

229 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? e wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.


Photo by Fazly Shah on Unsplash

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