Strength and weakness

Let me say this once again – please don’t think I’m a fool. Or, if you do, at least bear with me as you would with a fool, because I’d like to do a little boasting. No, this doesn’t come from the Lord – it’s just me behaving like a fool. But so many people are boasting of their achievements just now, I think that I should join them. And you don’t mind listening to fools, do you? Because you’re so very wise yourselves! You even put up with someone who treats you like a slave, or exploits you, or deceives you, or insults you, or strikes you in the face. But we, I confess, were too weak to do that!

Whatever these people can boast about – here I am, speaking like a fool – I can boast about, too. Are they Hebrews? Well, so am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I must be mad to say this!) I’ve served him more. I’ve worked harder, been imprisoned more often, been flogged more severely, and confronted death again and again. Five times the Jews gave me forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked, and once I was adrift in the sea for a whole day and a night.

Constantly on the move, I’ve faced danger crossing rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my fellow Jews, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in country, danger at sea, and danger from false believers. I have worked long and hard, endured sleepless nights, suffered hunger and thirst, often without any food at all. I’ve been cold, lacking the  clothing to keep warm.

Besides all this, there’s the daily pressure of my responsibility for the churches. Who among them is weak, and I don’t feel weak? Who’s led astray, and I don’t burn with anger?

If I must boast, I’ll boast of the things which illustrate my weakness. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is to be praised for ever, knows I’m not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor who served King Aretas had the city sealed off up in order to arrest me. So, to escape, I was actually lowered in a basket from a window in the wall!



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