TEXT: 2 Corinthians 12:1-7
This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
5 That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. 6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
I’ve been in several golf tournaments where they ask for my handicap which is golf is “a measure of his current ability over an entire round of golf, signified by a number. The lower the number, the better the golfer is.” I think the limit for a man is 36 so that would be my handicap. I think this means that if I shoot 108 it is the same as par for a person who has no handicap. I’m not sure but it is my assumption that Profession Golfers do not have handicaps but all the rest of us do. Life is some what different from golf, in life, we all have a handicap. Paul had one, he called it a “Thorn in the flesh” but he never tells us exactly what it was. Tonight, there are three things I want to say about this subject.
FIRST: We all have a handicap. No one is perfect. One way or the other, all of us are lacking in some area; there is something we would like to have that we don’t. I believe Paul’s handicap was something physical. We are all familiar with the Helen Keller story. Helen was born blind and deaf, a double handicap yet she accomplished more than most who have sight and hearing. Moses had a handicap, he says it was a speech impediment. Many people including myself, believe that the Apostle Paul was dwarft, a very tiny man. It explains a lot about his life. Little people are over achievers and many times they have a chip on their shoulder. I don’t think there are any exceptions to the rule, we all have at least one handicap; we all have weaknesses that we had rather not have. Chuck Swindoll wrote a tiny book entitled FRESH WIND where he goes from one bible character to another highlighting their handicap. One chapter is on Jephthah one of Israel’s Judges. Jephthah was a bastard, his father was Gilead and his mother was a prostitute. His father took him in for a time but allowed the siblings to run him off. Jephthah was not inferior physically but he left because of the ridicule and scorn. He was the last person in the world that his village thought would become the leader of Israel, yet he did and was a good one. He is mentioned in the hall of faith, Hebrews 11. He had a lot to overcome as do most of us. No one is perfect, we are all lacking in some area.
SECOND: We are not proud of our weakness. Paul mentions that he has one but he does not tell us what it was. He wrote one third of the N.T. so he could have told us exactly what it was had he wanted to but he choose not to. We don’t normally or at least consciously go around broadcasting our weakness. We all know that the enemy will attack our weakness so there are things that we keep to ourselves. When the Israelites were traveling from the wilderness into Canaan, they went through Moab. Balak the king of Moab tried to get Balaam to curse the Israelites which he refused to do but before he left, he shared with Balak a secret, the weakness of the Israelite men were women and the Moabite women were easy on the eyes plus they were worshipper so Molech so I will let you read between the lines. They seduced the men of Israel and it created great problems. Whether it is boxing or football, the opponent is going to try to exploit our weakness so I don’t know how wise it is to publicize your weakness. Paul was probably exercising wisdom that keep that between himself and God. We all have weaknesses but we are not proud of them.
THIRD: The third thing that is true of Paul is that he learned to live with his weakness, even to use it for the glory of God. Paul said in verses 8-10…Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I like how the AV states verse 9, Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I was having lunch with a young man today and he brought up this passage. He is facing a problem that he has no solution for and it has humbled him. Whatever Paul’s infirmity was, it was humiliating. We know that the Corinthians said of him… “His letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. [2 Cor. 10:10] Eugene Peterson paraphrase goes like this, “His letters are brawny and potent, but in person he’s a weakling and mumbles when he talks.” Paul did not get a lot of affirmation from Corinth but he never let it slow him down. Whatever his infirmity, he learned to live with it and even glory in it.
FOURTH: He not only lived with it, he overcame it. Paul was like the violinist who was doing a concert when one of the strings on his violin broke, it made an adjustment and kept on playing. He could have given up and even blamed the violin or its maker but he played with the strings that he had and that is what you and I must do. We don’t give up because we are not perfect and we don’t give in when conditions are not perfect. A young man was selling books in the summer to support himself in school and he happened to be handicapped. He could walk but he had to drag one leg due to a birth defect. He got around, just not as fast as others. He rang a lady’s door bell and she was ugly to him. He thanked her for her time and turned to walk away, after just a couple of steps she saw that one leg was not the same size as the other and she called out to him, “Come back son, I did not realize that you were cripple, I will be glad to buy a book.” He told her that they were no longer for sell and said, “I am selling books not sympathy.” She said, “Doesn’t being cripple color your life?” He said, “Yes mam but thank God, I get to choose the color.” This is how the story ended and I want to know if he sold her a book. Chuck Swindoll says, “You may have only one string to play but play it well. Life is 10% circumstances and 90% how we respond to them which is attitude. You are in charge of your attitude.