The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that he doesn’t want anyone to give him credit for anything “beyond what they see in my life or hear in my message.” What do people see in our lives? Is your life a reflection of what other people think about you?
1 Samuel, chapter 13; 1 Chronicles, chapters 2-3; 2 Corinthians, chapter 12
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.
As part of my reading schedule, 2 Corinthians chapter 12 appears twice a year on my calendar of readings. Over the six years I have been using this method, I have reflected on this passage several times. When this appears on the schedule, I immediately think, “Well, there are no more things to see here! But then I read the piece, and I was surprised to see that God has brought something else to light that I hadn’t noticed before.
The phrase that caught my attention today is found in verse 6: I do not want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see and hear in my life or what they can hear in my message. There is no doubt that this is a powerful thought! We live in a world where credit and recognition are highly prized. I want to invite you to take a closer look at me! ” Pay attention to me! See what I’ve done!” From childhood, we long for people to notice us. Unfortunately, much of that longing is selfish; we want to be noticed because we want to be applauded or rewarded.
Paul recognizes the danger of such longing, so he talks about how God can be glorified in us. First, we don’t talk about what we have done; we talk about what God has done for us. I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they see in my life or hear in my message. But that’s not the end because people can see our lives and still applaud us rather than God. We must be on guard against Satan’s attempts to turn our attention back to ourselves rather than God.
The second danger is complacency. We would think that Paul would not be complacent and prideful after all he had been through. But he recognized that danger lurked in his life: I was given a thorn in my flesh to keep me from becoming proud. Although he refers to this “thorn” – whatever it was – as a messenger from Satan, he says it was given to him. That means that he considered that thorn to be a gift from God. We probably don’t like to hear that; it’s much easier to think that any difficulty we face is an attack by the enemy.
There was no thought in Paul’s mind about that. He believes that this particular challenge – this thorn in my flesh – was given to him to protect him against pride’s spiritual cancer. Then, after asking God three times to take it away from him, he decided to rely on God’s sustaining grace and all that it could do for him. It is now with great pleasure that I can boast about my weaknesses to let Christ’s power work through me as a result.
There is a good chance that most of us do not think that way. Today, many believers continue to hold on to the hope that following Jesus means everything in our lives will be wonderful from now on. Frankly, the only way I can imagine people thinking that is if they haven’t read the New Testament! Jesus told us we would suffer and be persecuted. Most disciples were martyred for their faith. The New Testament writers remind us that struggles will be part of our journey:
There is a need for us to acknowledge our weaknesses and even embrace them – because we will be able to allow God to show off His work in us when we do this!
It is hard for us to acknowledge our weaknesses as a result of being a Christian. I know that we’re quite adept at putting on a good show, trying our utmost to hold everything together with the strength that we possess. Ultimately, it leads to disaster if it’s done that way! We need to acknowledge our weaknesses because our strength is manifested in our weaknesses. I pray that you may help us recognize how you are at work within each of us so that we may embrace your plan and purpose every day.
Thank you for reminding us that struggles are not always a sign of displeasure. Sometimes, you allow struggles as an opportunity to grow. Teach us to discern the difference between the struggles we’ve caused through our failures and disobedience and those you’ve allowed making us stronger. Help us always stay focused on you so that people glorify you because of “what they can see in my life or hear in my message.” Amen.
Written by: OchriO