2 Corinthians 11:16-33
16 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. 17 In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19 You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20 In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. 21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
Paul lists the suffering, the punishments, the opposition, rather than the successes. Paul hasn’t fought off the opposition with his bare hands; he has endured it, even escaping from a king by way of a basket out a window! Paul is not a mighty hero, he’s accepted that God works through his weakness, and instead of beating himself up over his weaknesses he chooses to trust God’s greatness.
Paul partnered with God to see the gospel spread across the known world and to see churches established. He also saw those churches face division and false teaching. God used Paul to accomplish His will, but it didn’t look like a string of unending successes. Paul didn’t go looking for trouble, he didn’t go looking for hardship, but he also didn’t despair when he encountered it. He trusted that God was victorious and that God would use him to see His kingdom come and will be done.
If Paul faced opposition, if Paul went through hardship that may have felt like defeat… do I think that my story will be any different? God will bring about His kingdom on the earth, and as I surrender to Him He will use me… but whether or not I can see victory in a moment, when I am weak… am I prepared to trust God’s ultimate victory, and trust that He knows what He’s doing with my life?
God, help me, to see beyond this moment, to see beyond my weakness. Thank you God that at the end of the day you have the final word. Amen.
Written by Beth Waugh