2 Corinthians 10-11, Psalm 75
When Paul writes about his great sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, it would be easy to read this list as if Paul were touting his personal resilience. Though Paul notes his endurance in hardship, at the same time it would be beside the point to call such strength his. Paul’s entire discussion is aimed at discrediting the mindset that celebrates physical strength and individual greatness. The reason Paul tells us about all of his troubles isn’t to show that Paul is great, but rather that Paul’s life, from one perspective, is disastrous. Moreover, Paul acknowledges that he is limited in terms of personal gifting (2 Corinthians 11:5). Paul’s point in sharing all of this information isn’t that we would marvel at his toughness, but that we would see the supernatural strengthening he is experiencing and therefore trust him as a messenger from Christ. In fact, Paul could not make this any clearer than when he states, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30) Why would he boast in weakness? Precisely because Paul’s weakness reveals Christ’s unique strength given to Paul for the honor of God. Paul is not like Sampson, chosen from birth to be a great warrior, but rather someone chosen by God as an unworthy and weak vessel that God might reveal His gracious power. After the cross of Jesus, the Christian should expect that this is the way God prefers to work. Our Lord doesn’t need superstars, but those willing to be weak, from the point of view that celebrates false strength, that God might show the world supernatural power. Just as Paul has already stated, we are to bear in our bodies the death of Jesus so that the life of Christ might also be revealed. Paul is unwavering in this core connection between the Gospel about Jesus and the transformation it accomplished in our own lives. May we then join Christ in weakness, that His strength may be displayed in us.