“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
(II Corinthians 11:30)
Thoughts… II Corinthians is a unique letter in that Paul spends much of his time defending his apostolic ministry to the church at Corinth. Apparently, other so-called “apostles” had wormed their way into the church and were not only leading the believers away from their pure and sincere devotion to Christ (11:3), they were gaining credibility for their own authority by putting down Paul’s credibility and authority. And, judging from the undertones in this letter, it had been working.
Paul, being a spiritual father to these Corinthian believers, had to take drastic action to remind them of his “street cred” — how he had earned his stripes as an apostle. While the false apostles were bragging about their superior spirituality and awe-inspiring ministry gifts, Paul began to list his own ministry accomplishments — things that most ministers would never brag about:
- I’ve been in prison more times
- I’ve been beaten more times
- I’ve faced death on several occasions
- I’ve received 39 lashes five times
- I’ve been pummeled with rods three times
- I’ve been stoned once
- I’ve been shipwrecked three times
- I’ve spent a day and a night drifting at sea
- I’ve faced life-threatening floods
- I’ve faced robbers
- I’ve endured sleepless nights
- I’ve gone without food and water
- I’ve experienced hypothermic conditions
- And if all that weren’t enough, I’ve had to worry about you being deceived by these “super apostles”.
Quite a résumé, isn’t it! There is probably not a church in America today that would hire Paul to be their pastor. Boasting about spending more time in jail than the other pastoral candidates probably wouldn’t win many points with a pulpit committee.
Yet Paul finds his sufferings for the cause of Christ to be the basis for boasting. And I think he has pretty firm ground to stand on before the Lord. One day when we stand before Christ, he will say, “Show me your scars” rather than, “show me your stars.” It will be the sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears more than the attainment of money, fame and power that will carry credibility with the Lord.
Perhaps that’s how we ought to evaluate spiritual authority and ministry success—by how much suffering for Christ has been endured.
Let me suggest that beginning today, you start evaluating your Christian experience from that perspective. Assess your own walk with God in terms of what it is costing rather than what you are gaining. Evaluate the ministries you are enamored with by how God has strengthened them in their weaknesses rather than how much they have accomplished through their own charisma, charm, wealth and power.
I am not suggesting that we should go out of our way to suffer. What I am saying is that every once in a while, the life of faith probably ought to get us into some of the same kind of hot water Paul often found himself in.
So if there is any cause for boasting, let it be our scars, not our stars!
Prayer… Lord, what I love so dearly about you are the scars on your nail-pierced hands and feet, the stripes on your back and the wounds on your brow that your bore on the cross for me. Without your scars, you would not be my Savior. So why would I not evaluate my own life that way…by my scars and not my stars? Why do I look at the glamour and the glitz of a ministry to determine its value rather than the sacrifice that it has endured? Help me to change my perspective. Help me to see things as you see them. Help me to celebrate what you celebrate. Help me to embrace what you embrace. If I boast, Lord, may I boast in the things that show how your strength is revealed in my weakness!
One More Thing… “They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?” —Martin Luther