• Richard Parrish

Visions And Thorns



Ask any leader if they are familiar with thorns. If they tell you no, don’t trust them. Thorns are always present!


As a child, walking barefoot through the grass, it amazed me how quickly I could be reminded that, as pleasant and attractive as green grass appears, you can’t avoid thorns. One poke on an exposed foot will hinder progress!


Isn’t it amazing that something so little can create much annoyance and pain? One tiny cut and the mind is redirected from where we’re going to attend to the suffering caused by a small thorn.


It happens to everyone!


Leaders are inclined to see a vision of “what can be,” a cause greater than their self. Visionaries are motivated to move toward what is seen by faith but is not actually realized, yet.


Numerous types of thorns grow in grass, plants, and trees. In leadership, thorns often look a lot like weakness, insults, hardships, resistance, persecution, or even failures. We may tend to see these “thorns” as deficiencies that delay vision becoming a reality.


However, in servant leadership thorns serve a benefit.


The Apostle Paul is familiar with suffering (see 2 Corinthians 11:16-33). As dramatic as his conversion experience (Acts 9), as strong as his faith, as firm as his commitment… even Paul cannot avoid thorns. Here’s how Paul puts it:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” [1]

Three times Paul pleads with the Lord to remove his “thorn.” God’s reply to Paul speaks volumes:

“’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [2]

Possibly, like me, you’re aware of how tender your feet are because of the thorns you’ve been stepping on. It might be good for each of us to pause and be grateful for the “thorns” that guard us against becoming conceited and encourage us to receive God’s grace and power that works in our weakness.


Praying for you this week!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 12:7.


[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 12:9–10.