I read this chapter over and over, trying to think of some clever punch line, a real-life analogy or witty illustration to fully bring home the point of the penultimate chapter in II Corinthians. But apparently all my cleverness was temporarily out of order. And perhaps God wanted me to just meditate on what He is saying through Paul to us and what I needed to change in response.
Scene 1: Paul gives an account of a man (It’s really Paul using a somewhat facetious reference like when we say “I have this friend who… (enter ridiculous embarrassing moment, questionable rash, etc.)”) who basically went to heaven and was able to experience awesome sights, sounds, and feelings. But so he doesn’t get too cocky about having such an opportunity, a “thorn in the flesh” is bestowed upon him. No one really knows what this thorn was: some think it was nearsightedness, some think it was a particularly troublesome person in ministry with Paul, others think it was some ambiguous physical ailment or spiritual temptation. Regardless of its nature, this thorn was really hard to live with for Paul.
But though he begged God to remove this problem from his life, the thorn remained. It remained blanketed in one of the most beautiful promises from Christ in the Bible: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Instead of arguing, Paul lays it all down – his discomfort, his feelings of injustice, his desire to live life free from the encumbrance of thorns, his pride – and thanks God, praises Him for his weaknesses. Then he goes and tells others about them, even boasts about his weaknesses, in order that God might receive more glory! Maybe his thorn was mental instability? I don’t think so.
Scene 2: Paul lets the Corinthians know that he is coming to visit them soon. He tells them that when he comes, he wants to minister to them. He doesn’t wish for them to be burdened by preparing and providing for him. Rather he wants them to with open arms accept the gift of ministry he is bringing to them. Paul again lays all of himself before them and says: “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” He basically tells them that he is a resource to be poured out in love for the sake of God’s glory and their good. Paul himself is offering his life as an extension of Christ’s in order that God’s people might see Him more clearly.
Do we offer all of ourselves to God and His people? Are we willing to lay down our goals, strengths, and resources in order to allow God to be glorified in our weakness? When our brothers and sisters in Christ are in need of spiritual encouragement or even practical help, are we willing to spend and be spent in order that Christ is glorified and His people’s needs are met? Who or what has all of you?