Brothers and sisters, I became like you, so I beg you to become like me.
Paul had taken on Gentile cultural practices in order to minister to them effectively. Here he is asking those to whom he ministered to become like him spiritually. This entire little section seems to be about reminding the Galatians about the ties they have of friendship and love.
The larger question is: How much are we to mimic our leaders?
The answer is not one which is comfortable to most Americans. In fact, in this day and age, patterning your life after your human leaders is a very dangerous practice. Nonetheless, Paul clearly expects his sheep to follow him—to pattern their lives after what they see in him. Can you do that with your spiritual leader here on earth? If not, why not? If you cannot, should you be following him or her?
This is what a true godly leader does. They live their life as an example of how to live as a Christian in the world. I’m not saying that you should abandon your pastor if he falls into sin. If he is a godly man, he will quickly admit it, repent of it, and move on after receiving God‘s forgiveness.
I am also not talking about copying the style of dress, the haircut, the car, the house, and all the superficial things of the world. I am talking about living your spiritual life in the manner in which you have seen demonstrated before you.
You were very good to me before. Remember that it was because of an fleshly ailment that I came to you the first time, preaching the Gospel. Though a trial for you, my sickness did not cause you to scorn or despise me or make me leave. But you welcomed me as an angel from God, as if I were Jesus our Messiah himself! You were satisfied then, but where is that joy now? I can testify that you would have taken out your eyes and given them to me if that were possible.
This is the only indication we have in the epistles of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”. Evidently, it was a fairly severe condition. Paul is reminding them of their personal history with shared joys and the love they have for each other.
These are also the verses which leads to believe that Paul had some severe vision issues. We do not know what they were.
Do you have ailments that God has no intention of healing??
Probably not—but it is certainly possible. God seems to allow some thorns in the flesh to help us remember that the power is His not ours. How do you pray for situations like this? You ask Him to heal you. You have no idea whether He will or not.
It is seen as heresy today to admit that God might not have any plans to heal you physically in this life. We can always expect Jesus to heal us spiritually. He will always do that. But physical healing is given much more importance than it really has. Compared to eternity, what are a few years of sickness? We’ve all known men and women whose greatest testimony is how well they have been spiritually while their flesh was sick unto death or worse.
Bottom line: If God tells you he is not going to heal you—you can expect that He will use your illness or ailment for His glory. Look to Him, the author and finisher of your faith.