Thorn in the Flesh
by Charles Spurgeon
Some real Christians have a constitutional tendency towards inordinate self-esteem; they never err through timidity, but they are very easily led into self-confidence. Every man loves the commendation of his fellow men; no man living is indifferent to it —
“The proud to gain it toils on toils endure;
The modest shun it but to make it sure.”
It is vain for us to boast of not caring about it; we do care about it, and our duty is to keep that propensity in check! He who thinks he is humble is probably the proudest man in the place; but there are some men in whom self-consciousness is so uppermost, and so evidently powerful, that you can see it in almost everything they do; it is their struggle, if they are Christians, to keep it down, but it will come up in the form of being very easily annoyed because they are overlooked in some good work, or in being easily irritated because they fancy that somebody is opposing them when that somebody never thought of them! The too great prominence of the ego is the fault of many, and the danger of all! Not a few have to battle with this all their lives, and I should not wonder if they should be the persons who all their lives will also endure a thorn in the flesh. But there are others to whom the temptation comes in a more refined fashion; they have more knowledge than those among whom they dwell; I mean more Scriptural knowledge, more real spiritual knowledge, and a deeper inward experience, and when they hear the prattle of young beginners, or listen to the fearful blunders of many would-be great saints, they cannot help smiling to themselves, and almost as naturally, they cannot help saying, “Thank God I know better than that.” The temptation to be exalted above measure, in such a case, is near at hand. They have probably also enjoyed some success in sacred work while they have seen others idle, indifferent, and consequently unsuccessful. Now, if God gives any man success in winning souls, I am certain that he will be lifted up to his own hell unless a corresponding source of humiliation is opened at the same time! We must rejoice in spiritual success — it would be ungrateful not to do so, but we must be on our guard against boastfulness of spirit. My dear Friend, if the Lord shall make you the spiritual parent of a score of souls, will you feel no exultation within your spirit as you shall see these arrows in the hands of a mighty man; these spiritual children of your youth? Will you feel no elevation of joy? Shall the father’s heart never leap at the sight of his offspring? We must and will rejoice, none shall hinder us of this sacred gladness! But mark well, that here will be our danger! Among the flowers of gratitude will grow the hemlock of pride! While our thoughts of thankfulness, like angels, adore the Lord, the Satan of self-exaltation will come in among them!
But mark well, that here will be our danger! Among the flowers of gratitude will grow the hemlock of pride!