Visions from the Lord
1I have to brag. There is nothing to be gained by it, but I must brag about the visions and other things that the Lord has shown me. 2I know about one of Christ's followers who was taken up into the third heaven 14 years ago. I don't know if the man was still in his body when it happened, but God certainly knows.
3As I said, only God really knows if this man was in his body at the time. 4But he was taken up into paradise, where he heard things too wonderful to tell. 5I will brag about that man, but not about myself, except to say how weak I am.
6Yet even if I did brag, I would not be foolish. I would simply be speaking the truth. But I will try not to say too much. That way, none of you will think more highly of me than you should because of what you have seen me do and say. 7Of course, I am now referring to the wonderful things I saw. One of Satan's angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud.
8Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. 9But he replied, “My gift of undeserved grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. 10Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong.
11I have been making a fool of myself. But you forced me to do it, when you should have been speaking up for me. I may be nothing at all, but I am as good as those super apostles. 12When I was with you, I was patient and worked all the powerful miracles and signs and wonders of a true apostle. 13You missed out on only one blessing the other churches received. That is, you didn't have to support me. Forgive me for doing you wrong.
14I am planning to visit you for the third time. But I still won't make a burden of myself. What I really want is you, and not what you have. Children are not supposed to save up for their parents, but parents are supposed to take care of their children. 15So I will gladly give all I have and all I am. Will you love me less for loving you too much? 16You agree that I wasn't a burden to you. Maybe that's because I was trying to catch you off guard and trick you. 17Were you cheated by any of those I sent to you? 18I urged Titus to visit you, and I sent another follower with him. But Titus didn't cheat you, and we felt and behaved the same way he did.
19Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? Actually, we have been speaking to God as followers of Christ. But, my friends, we did it all for your good.
20I am afraid when I come, we won't be pleased with each other. I fear that some of you may be arguing or jealous or angry or selfish or gossiping or insulting each other. I even fear that you may be proud and acting like a mob. 21I am afraid God will make me ashamed when I visit you again. I will feel like crying because many of you have never given up your old sins. You are still doing things that are immoral, indecent, and shameful.
Have you ever been in a situation where the Lord has done something significant in you, through you or revealed something to you? What did you do? Did you keep it to yourself or did you tell others about it? My first reaction is to tell others what happened. I often lack wisdom at times like this. It is about pride. I want attention and I want people to see how spiritual I am. Pride does that. It causes us to desire that which belongs to the Lord.
God addresses that issue with Paul in verse 7. He gives him a “thorn” to keep his attention focused on his grace which is sufficient. Paul does not boast about anything other than his weakness so that grace would be all he needs to keep him in God’s strength. God’s power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness (v 9). Paul understands that without the Lord working in him, he is not able to do what he is called to do.
Understanding that we cannot do something without the Lord is vital to our calling. Even though I may have the ability to paint a picture, I have to keep in mind that it is the Lord’s gift to me and it is the Lord who gives me the ability to paint. If I get it into my head that I can do it on my own, the Lord will find a way to humble me. Paul reminds us that he can do all things through Christ who gives him the strength (Philippians 4:13). No matter what situation Paul found himself in, he understood his position in the Lord. It is all about God who gives us what we need to do what he has called us to do.
Written by Rob Longley and Annabel Robinson.
Lord you are my life, you are my strength. You are all that I need to live. I can do nothing without you. You give me what I need to do so that I can do what you are leading me to do. I praise you for the life I have in you. In your name I pray, Amen!