Paul is still scrolling through his resume and comparing his experiences with those of the false teachers. Today’s comparison is interesting and intriguing.
Paul’s first words in our reading set a very important tone for his readers. “I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it” (verse 1a). His boasting isn’t for himself or for his own glory. It is merely to illuminate the differences between his journey and that of those who are taking advantage of this body of believers. He is not seeking some kind of kudos from this group, only their open eyes.
When “boasting” about the vision Paul doesn’t even say it was his vision. I thought that was interesting and at first wondered if maybe he was referencing another person’s vision. But when he refers to the “thorn in the flesh” he claims it as his own and its purpose was “to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations” (verse 7).
We are never told what that revelation contained. We are given a term that we don’t find elsewhere though. That term is “the third Heaven.” My bible helps tells me that this would have been a familiar term with the Jews and was a way of differentiating “the first heaven”, where the birds fly, “the second heaven”, where the sun and the moon reside, and “the third Heaven”, where God resides. I had never heard it put that way but it certainly makes sense to me.
The thing that Paul does stress in this “boasting” is the “thorn in the flesh” that he was given. He doesn’t explicitly name what it is or what it entailed but he thanks God for it. Not in the beginning though. He asked God to remove it three times. In the “faith movement” some would say he lacked faith because it wasn’t removed. They would also say to “claim victory over it and never admit to its limitations.” But I highly doubt that Paul had a faith problem. The miracles attributed to his ministry should put that claim to shame!
What Paul had though was something that impacted his physical life on a continual basis. Some want to say it was a visual ailment left over from when he was blinded. I don’t think so because that happened before his revelation and the thorn was given after it. So the time line doesn’t fit. I honestly don’t think it matters to us what that weakness was. What is important is how he dealt with his weakness.
He was glad for his weakness! No, it wasn’t so he could get sympathy. It was so others could see that he was as limited as they were yet God still used him. It is so easy to see some “super saint” and think that of course God uses them, just look at their lives. They have it all together. But Paul showed the weak man who endured insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities and STILL was used by God. He even exhibited anxiety over the churches he planted.
My husband has a weakness that has plagued him for 20 years now. He asked me many times why God hasn’t healed him. All I can give him is what God gave to Paul. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9). This is what I pray for my own life too. “I am content with weakens, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (verse 10). Not that I desire any of these things in my life (Lord knows I’ve had enough of them already) but that in what I do endure HE will get the glory for carrying me through it.
Father God, thank You for Your strength that carries me through ALL my struggles. Without You I would be on the side of the road in a heap. Thank You for Your blessings too. Paul didn’t discount his vision but was awed by it. It was so great that he didn’t want to even attempt to own it as his own. It belonged to You.
Thank You for the revelations that You have shared with us. John’s vision and parts of Daniel’s visions are do deep I’m lost in them. I love reading about the ones that You shared with others like Joseph and how You also shared the full manifestation of them too. They build my faith in Your ability to make all things clear at the right time.
Sorry I got side tracked there on the visions part. The main thing I want to say though Father is that I treasure the life You have given me, warts and all. Thank You for bringing me to this place of gratitude. I didn’t always feel this way. In fact there was a time I wanted to end my life because of the pain I was going through. THANK YOU for holding me tightly in Your arms during that time. That too has made me into who I am. In that weakness I can boast of Your power. I Love You!