It’s hard sometimes not to insert “I” or “me” into conversations. Of course, you hear people doing it all the time—sharing their accomplishments, name-dropping—sometimes to empathize, sometimes to “one up,” sometimes simply to impress. Instead of acknowledging our obvious weaknesses in these conversations, we play up our strengths. I think one of the most impressive human feats is when someone of great accomplishment or means can lay those assets aside to acknowledge their weaknesses and use those resources for the common good. Or better yet, for the glory of Christ.
- Before you read the passage today, can you think of ways that you have tried to grab attention in an unhealthy way?
READ THE WORD: 2 CORINTHIANS 12:1-10 (ESV)
12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- There is a distinction between boasting and “speaking the truth” (vs. 6). How does Paul’s “boast” in verses 1-4 differ from the boasting of others?
- When is it okay to boast (vs. 5b)?
- How did “becoming conceited” (vs. 7) get in the way of seeing “the power of Christ” (vs. 9b) in Paul’s life?
- Paul referred to the “thorn” in his life as “a messenger from Satan.” How much power did Satan have in this situation? (See also Job 2:3-6.)
- Why didn’t Paul tell us what his personal thorn was? In what way do you need to set aside your comfort in order for Christ’s purposes to be fulfilled (vs. 10a)?
RESPOND TO GOD
We have elevated comfort and the pursuit of happiness to a human right. But Paul’s message often contradicts that. When we focus on our own efforts, we actually end up limiting our work and ministry for Christ—our limited humanity versus God’s supernatural power. This doesn’t mean we don’t work diligently in our service to the Lord. It means that we allow those “weak” works to take a back seat to the Lord’s greater works—for him to do greater things. Why? “For the sake of Christ,” his purposes, and his renown among all people. In the end, isn’t he really the one worth bringing attention to anyway?
- Pray that you would see God’s power as bigger than your “thorn.”
- Pray that God would give you opportunities to direct attention to him today.