Paul’s Vision and His Thorn
12 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul’s Concern for the Corinthians
11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,”[a] even though I am nothing. 12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?
19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. 20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
Let me share a devotional I read. Food for thought today
Paul was a mighty man of prayer, so it was natural for him to make a plea three times. The answer comes, and it is very clear. Whether it was in a vision or some inner conviction of his mind, I do not know, but the answer was clear:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. If this verse expresses a principle that is true of life, and God knows it is true that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, what do you think He is busy accomplishing with us? Making us weak, isn’t He? And what makes us feel weak? It is being under attack, feeling inadequate to handle the pressures and the problems that we have. If you feel weak, then, it is not only the devil that makes you feel that way, but it is God, too. God makes us feel this weakness to keep us from adopting attitudes that could render us useless in the work of spreading His kingdom. Paul knew that the worst thing he could do was become arrogant about his revelation. It was evidently more important to keep Paul humble than it was to make him comfortable, so God allowed the
thorn to go on.
The most dangerous threat to any servant of Christ is spiritual pride. I confess to you that is the thing I fear most in my own ministry. So many nice things are said to me, so many people stroke my pride, and there are so many boosts to my ego that I fear I will begin to believe that some of these compliments represent remarkable abilities that I possess. I was at a conference in California once, and I was speaking with the director of the conference about another brother in the Lord about sending one of his organization’s top speakers for a series of special meetings. This man drew himself up and said,
I am the top speaker of our group. I’m number 1. It was not surprising to me, after learning that, to see this man’s ministry begin to crumble and fall apart; soon he was removed from his leadership position by his own organization. I have seen a lot of people fall because they grew arrogant and boastful about what God was doing through them.
This underscores the spiritual battle we are involved in. When is the devil being beaten? Not when we feel great and confident, when it looks like wonderful things are happening, when the ministry is going well. No, the devil is being defeated when we are feeling attacked and under the gun, when we feel weak and helpless and do not know what to do, when we are not sure how to respond, when in our perplexities and sense of weakness we come before the Lord and plead with Him for strength to go on one more day and for grace to help us stand. That is when we are winning and when the kingdom of God is being spread more abundantly than ever before.
Today, thank God for our weaknesses, because we know it is His strength that will help us through whatever life may challenge us with.
Have a great weekend everyone!