2 Corinthians chapter 12 is essentially split into two parts. The first focusing on Paul and the second focusing on the Corinthian church. I find it quite interesting that in a letter written to the Corinthians there would be a whole section with a focus on Paul. At first glance that could almost appear to point to Paul as self centered or conceited. “Yes, this church has problems that need to be addressed but can we just take a moment to stop and talk about me?”
However, when we really look at this portion of scripture we actually see the exact OPPOSITE is true! Paul is addresses himself, not to bring attention TO HIM but, rather, to bring attention to the Lord. How is that possible?
Well we can begin answering that question by looking there at verse one where Paul declares “I must go on boasting - or we could say “I must go on talking about myself” - Though there is nothing to be gained by it…”. From there we have to ask the question WHY? Why does Paul have to continue talking about himself even though doing so gains nothing?
Because even though Paul has already taken TWO trips to be with the Corinthians and is currently preparing to visit them for a third time, they still doubt Paul and his authority. Why? Because they are beginning to compare him to the other prophets and teachers they are hearing about. They are mumbling amongst themselves and asking “so and so had a vision but Paul hasn’t. Maybe he isn’t as close to Jesus as these “Super Apostles”. So here is Paul, having to talk about himself yet again just so he can have the open door to continue talking about what really matters- JESUS!!
Verse 2 clearly lays out for us that the focus of this "All About Me" presentation will be focusing on visions and revelations of the Lord - not if they exist but if Paul has received such divine moments from the Lord. After all, they had never heard him speak of such things and if it hasn’t been heralded in the streets then surely it hasn’t happened! It’s like the new testament version of “If you don’t post it on social media did it really happen?”
In reply to their questioning Paul reluctantly relays to them a time in which the Lord did in fact speak to him through a vision but, for fear of bringing glory and honor to himself, does so in the most humble way possible.
First, Paul describes this experience in the third person instead of the first person. He didn’t say “I myself had this experience” but rather “I know a man in Christ” who had this experience. Why would he do this? Paul is doing anything and everything he can think of take the focus off of himself and keep it on what the LORD did. Reminding the hearers that “he is a man IN CHRIST” or, in other words, “Don’t ever forget that HE is still God and I am still not!”
Second, we learn that this spiritual event took place fourteen years ago!! That’s right! It’s been a full fourteen years since Paul received this vision from the Lord and we are just now hearing about it for the first time. And he is only now mentioning it reluctantly.
Third, though Paul felt it important to mention this experience, he did not dwell on it. It’s important to take notice that very little is actually told about what this vision was! In fact there isn’t a single mention of what was seen and only a vague mention as to what was heard - “...and he heard things that cannot be told.” This lack of information was intentional as Pauls goal was not to land a book deal or a speaking tour for how amazing of an apostle he was. He wasn’t trying to “sell” himself to the Corinthian christians. Instead, he wanted the Corinthians to see the glory of God expressed in weakness and humility. Owning the fact that we are all flawed, broken, and fallen individuals but GOD…God is perfect! God is gracious! God is more than enough!
I just love how Paul wraps up this reminder to keep the message of Christ pure and undefiled in verse 10 with “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.”
I don’t know about you but I find some much encouragement and comfort in knowing that Jesus says to me as He did to Paul in verse 9 - “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.” Or, in other words, “My child, stop striving! My grace is more than enough for you and all that I have called you to in this life! Instead of wearing yourself out seeking a level of perfection that you in and of yourself cannot attain, come rest in me! Come let me do the heavy lifting. I’ve got this. And I’ve got you!”
So today, I encourage you to take some time to slow down, take a breath, ask the Lord to show you what loads you are carrying you weren’t meant to bear, and then release the worry, anxiety, and control to Him - knowing that you are placing it all in more than capable hands. Because even on our best days, His way is still always better!