Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Reflection on 2 Corinthians 11:16-33: When and How to Boast

When people are boasting, it tends to be something that paints them, or their families, in a good light. It might be boasting about where we’ve been on holiday, someone famous or influential we have met, about our new car, or latest gadget, or how well our children are doing at school. Or in Christian circles we might boast about how much the church has grown, the impact of our ministry, some experience of God we may have had – we sometimes do 
this in the guise of giving God the honour, but in fact it can sometimes be ourselves we are wanting to be praised. Therefore it is a strange thing for Paul to say if he is going to boast, he is going to be boast in the things that show his weakness.

Most of us would rather hide our weaknesses from others – this is particularly a problem amongst Church leaders. We want to be seen as being successful,making an impact, full of faith, and growing in the Lord. We like to be seen as being successful. But Paul says “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Cor 11:30)

How often do we talk about the times when we have fallen on our faces and have failed? 

Paul reaches back twenty years into the past to this rather remarkable incident that occurred shortly after his conversion, and he says, If I must boast, this is the kind of thing I am going to boast of. He boasts about the things that show his weakness. He talks about times when he was a complete failure at what he was trying to do. The reason he boasts in these things, is because it was through these incidents that Paul learnt important lessons. 

It’s good to know that things didn’t always go smoothly for Paul. That amidst all the success he had, there were times when everything seemed to fall apart. I find this encouraging! 

He also came to realise that despite his best efforts, his Hebrew qualifications and brilliant mind, that alone was not enough. He learnt a great truth, that his natural gifts are not what qualified him as a servant of Christ.

We tend to think our natural abilities, the ability to play an instrument, to preach and teach, etc are the things God desires the most and will use. But Paul came to realise that the only thing that matters is depending on Christ working in him. 

It’s Christ that makes our efforts meaningful and valuable both in God's sight and ultimately people's. That is the great secret that Paul learned.

Do we see the value of our failures as part of God's curriculum for training us in humble trust? Do we trust Him to redeem our failures?