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. 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–and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 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. So to keep me from being too elated by 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 being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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. 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.”
Summary – Paul continues his exhortations via personal example. The “man” Paul says he “knows” is probably himself, a view held by Cyril of Jerusalem, John Calvin, and Charles Hodge among others. He speaks of himself in such a distant sort of way to show his humility: his focus in the whole passage is strength in spite of weakness, and God’s use of hardship to restrain pride. Even Paul apparently wasn’t immune to this pride, since God needed to keep him in check using a “thorn in the flesh” (vs 7) to keep him from being too delighted in his own self-worth. God gives His answer to man’s need for self-gratification in verses 9 and following, where He teaches us that it the proper end of our delight in the worth of a being is God Himself, for He gives sufficient grace; His power is perfect in the weaknesses of His people because in their brokenness, His grace takes effect. It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.
Insight – Take a spoon and look at your reflection in the bowl of the spoon. Now flip it around and look at your reflection in the back. Notice that you look upside-down in the front? Throughout our epistle lessons in the past few weeks, we have been jumping through 2 Corinthians. The theme that has occurred again and again is that our normal view of events in our life is backwards. We have skewed vision. Our problem is that we look at life in the reflection of a spoon too often. We think that the uncomfortable things that happen to us are bad. We think that looking foolish in the eyes of the world is bad. We think that dying is bad. But we need to flip the spoon around and look in the opposite side. We need to see things as God sees them. We do not lose heart, and we are of good courage because God has promised to remake our bodies after we die; He has promised that the foolishness of the Gospel is life to those who believe it; and He has promised that even when we have “bad” things happen to us, He has a purpose, and His grace will be enough for us to get through it. We need to practice looking at life in the back of the spoon each and every day.
Child Catechism – What is the only thing you need to get through hard times? I need God’s grace.
Discussion – What other things in your life seem bad? What might God want you to learn through these things?
Prayer – Holy Father, we realize that our thinking is often not in line with yours. We think the opposite of you many times. Keep us from pride, and help us to see others as more important than ourselves. As you have promised that your grace is sufficient for us, enact that grace in us by your Holy Spirit so that we would believe and trust that you have our best interests in mind. Through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.