Dear friends

Boasting doesn’t do any good, but I have to continue. I need to mention visions and revelations from the Lord.

Fourteen years ago, someone I know was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was just a vision or it really happened, I don’t know – only God knows. But this man (either in a vision or in reality) was taken to paradise and heard things so wonderful that he’s not allowed to repeat them.

Yes, I’ll boast about that man, but I won’t boast about myself – except to mention my weaknesses. But if I wished to boast, I could – and I’d be telling the truth – but I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they see me do and hear me say.

To prevent me becoming puffed up by these extraordinary revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh – a messenger of Satan – to torment me. Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me. But he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” That’s why I’m happy to celebrate my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can rest upon me. So now, for Christ’s sake, I can actually take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I’ve behaved like a fool, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, because I’m not really inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I’m nothing at all. When I was with you, I consistently demonstrated the evidence of my apostolic calling, together with signs, wonders and miracles. How did I treat you differently to any of the other churches? Apart from sparing you a financial burden. Was that a mistake?

Well, now I’m coming to visit you for the third time. And I won’t be a burden, because I don’t want your possessions but you! Because children don’t provide for their parents, but  parents provide for their children. So I will gladly spend and be spent for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.

Because I wasn’t a burden to you, some people say I was crafty and caught by trickery. But did any of the men I sent take advantage of you? When I asked Titus to visit you and sent another brother with him, did Titus take advantage of you? Didn’t we follow the same path, guided by the same Spirit?

Do you think we’re defending ourselves here? No, we’re speaking to you in the sight of God as people in Christ. And everything we do, dear friends, is intended to make you stronger. Because I’m worried that when I come I won’t find as I’d like you to be, and then you won’t find me as you’d like me to be. I suspect that I’ll find quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. And if I do, I’m sorry to say, God will humble me in front of you. I’ll have to grieve over the people who haven’t given up their old sins – those who haven’t yet repented of their impurity, immorality and the debauchery which they engaged in.

Paul

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