In the 12th chapter of 2 Corinthians, we read about the apostle Paul and his boasting. But this boasting may not be what you think.
Most of the time when we boast we speak of the positive things that are taking place in our lives. That is not the case with Paul here in 2 Corinthians. Let us take a look at what exactly he was boasting about.
During the first few verses of 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about a man he knew who had a glorious vision. Paul was OK boasting about this man, but he was not OK with boasting of his own visions.
There was one area of his life that he says he will boast about. It’s an area that most people never ever want to boast about. The area of his life that Paul chooses to boast about is his weakness!
His weakness! Is he crazy? Humans do not like to admit they have weaknesses, let alone go around bragging about them.
Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh,” he says, to keep him from being conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7). He goes on to say in verse 9 of chapter 12 that God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
So not only is Paul delighting in his weakness, he now says that this weakness will become his strength. How can this be true? Is Paul delusional? Is something deeper going on in Paul’s life?
Both of these ideas, boasting about weakness and power in weakness, seem to be oxymorons. They are also ideas that do not fit within our culture. People want power. We do whatever we can to cover up our weaknesses. We work hard at hiding them.
People want to brag about the good things going in their lives, whether it is how their children are doing in sports or at school, how their job is going, or how good their business is doing. I even like to brag about my church!
For many it is all about boasting in their strengths, not their weaknesses. I do want to say this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is certainly proper to boast about the positive things happening in your life, but I will add this that is the easy thing to do. The difficult way to live is the way Paul lived his life.
According to Alan Brehm, Paul was dealing with “super-apostles.” He was feeling very inferior to them. They were claiming to be better at just about everything Paul was doing.
For many of us, our natural reaction is that we try to keep up with those who say they are better than us. We want them to know we are just as good as they are. But that is not what Paul does here. Paul takes the opposite approach. Paul wanted to identify with Jesus.
Jesus showed us the ultimate way. Jesus suffered. Jesus was not about power.
Jesus came to flip the world upside down. He came to show us a different way. Jesus was the ultimate suffering servant. The religious leaders of the day were looking for a conquering king, but that was not how Jesus came. He came to serve. He came to die and suffer on a cross. Jesus didn’t come to boast in anything. Paul was simply following the way of the Master.
So what is it that allows Paul to live his life in such a way? It comes from verse 9 of 2 Corinthians chapter 12. It’s all about God’s grace! God’s grace is what allows Paul to boast or delight in his weaknesses. It’s God’s grace that allows him to have power in his weakness!
God’s grace is available because of the work of the cross. It’s because of the cross that Paul can celebrate his weaknesses.
It’s because of the cross that you and I can celebrate in our weaknesses. We can choose to follow Christ, and he will help us with these weaknesses. We will learn to lean on him instead of leaning on our own strengths.
To follow Christ means to surrender to him. When we follow Christ, we say we are going to put our trust in someone else, and that is scary to many. It is a huge risk to put our trust in someone else, especially someone we cannot see or touch.
When we put that trust in Christ, we really do come alive. We experience great freedom. We no longer have to live life on our own. We can say with confidence, “I am weak, but he makes me strong!”