devotional post # 2218
2 Corinthians 12:19-21
2Co 12:19 You are thinking all this time that we are defending ourselves before you. We are speaking before God in Christ, and all the things that we are saying, friends, are meant to build you up.
2Co 12:20 I am afraid that I may come and somehow find you not as I want you to be, and that I may be found by you to be not what you want. I am afraid there will be quarreling, jealousy, angry feelings, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.
2Co 12:21 I am afraid that when I come my God may again humble me before you and that I may have to grieve over many who formerly lived in sin and have not repented of their impurity, sexual immorality, and promiscuity that they once practiced.
speaking before God
Given the way Paul had been treated by these Corinthians, why doesn’t he just tear up the letter and let the church die the death of the disobedient? He is afraid that even a visit will not achieve positive results — that he will find the church steeped in conflict and fallen back to their old depravities. So, why does he still speak words that are being written down for the church in Corinth? He has to. The passion with which he speaks is a passion empowered by the Holy Spirit — producing words that can build up the church. These words still reflect that passion, and they are still empowered to build up the 21st century church.
Paul understood that he was not just speaking before the Corinthians, trying to fix their problems. He was speaking words inspired by the Holy Spirit. He was speaking before God.
Holy Spirit, give us your words — from your word — to speak into our situation.
devotional post # 2217
2 Corinthians 12:16-18
2Co 12:16 But be that as it may, I have not burdened you. I “was crafty, and tricked you.”
2Co 12:17 Did I exploit you using any of those whom I sent to you?
2Co 12:18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus exploit you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not follow the same footsteps?
following divine advice
Paul continues to answer the accusation that his team has acted inappropriately toward the Corinthians. He had said that he had decided not to ask the Corinthians to bankroll his evangelistic efforts when he was present among them. Now he tells them that when he sent Titus and “the brother” to further establish the work there, they followed the same protocol. So, in neither the original mission work, or the follow-up work could Paul and his team be legitimately accused of exploiting the Corinthians.
It seems to me that the reason the Holy Spirit led Paul to make this exception — not asking the Corinthians for their support at all — was that He knew about this future accusation. He was protecting Paul and his team from any legitimacy to the accusation.
It would do us all well if we prayed more, listened to the advice of the Holy Spirit, and followed that advice, even if we have to make exceptions in policy.
LORD, forgive us for failing to seek your advice. Guide us as we make decisions, and give us the wisdom to follow your advice.
devotional post # 2216
2 Corinthians 12:14-15
2Co 12:14 I want you to notice that I am getting ready to come to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden, because I am not seeking your things but you. Because children are not supposed to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.
2Co 12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, should I be loved less?
not feeling the love
Paul had been criticized by some “super-missionaries” that appear to have taken control of the Corinthian churches. He had been responding to that loss of trust by pointing out that his ministry to the Corinthians has been exactly the same as his ministry elsewhere — except that he had not asked them for money. He was planning a third trip, and he planned to be supported from other sources again. He considered the Corinthian churches as his children, and so he did not want to burden them. He only asked for their gratitude.
Sometimes you invest yourself in a people, and do not feel the gratitude you expect in return. It is those times when you can identify with our gracious God who loved us while we were still in rebellion.
LORD, give us the courage to love, even when that love is not returned.
devotional post # 2215
2 Corinthians 12:11-13
2Co 12:11 I have been stupid. You forced me, because I ought to have been recommended by you. Because I was not at all inferior to these super-missionaries, even though I am nothing.
2Co 12:12 The signs proving me to be a missionary were performed among you with every instance of perseverance, with signs and wonders and powerful works.
2Co 12:13 Because in what way were you less favorably treated than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!
missions report card
Paul is looking at his missions report card. He cannot understand how he is now getting such low marks by the very people he and his team had won to Christ, and discipled in Christ. The team had proven themselves genuine by their undergoing numerous difficulties, yet persevering through them to minister to the Corinthians. There had been signs, wonders, and displays of God’s power.
The only difference that he can see is that Paul had determined not to ask the Corinthians for their financial support. He did not want to burden them financially until they were better established. But now that they are well established as churches, they seem reluctant to support the very team who brought them the gospel.
Numerous mission fields get stuck in a never-ending cycle of dependence because the people of God are taught that someone else is responsible for funding their work. It breeds hypocrisy and jealousy and corruption.
LORD, forgive us for failing to teach the whole gospel to those we reach. Show us how to build churches and organizations who are good stewards of the resources you provide them.
devotional post # 2214
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
2Co 12:7 and due to the extreme nature of the revelations. So to keep me from becoming conceited, a splinter was given me in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
2Co 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it might go away from me.
2Co 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is completed in weakness.” Therefore I will brag all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may pitch itself over me.
2Co 12:10 Consequently, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ. Because whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
splinters and his sufficiency
Paul had listed numerous instances of his weakness and difficulties. He also highlighted one particular weakness/sickness/handicap (astheneia). He called it a splinter in the flesh. It so disabled Paul that he prayed three times for its removal, but God would not remove it. It was more important to display the power of Christ by enduring the splinter, than by having it removed. In fact, Paul wound up bragging about his handicap. Christ’s power pitched over his life like a tent, and showed that God was sufficient in spite of the splinters.
LORD, we trust you to show your power in us, in spite of our weakness and handicaps.
devotional post # 2213
2 Corinthians 12:1-6
2Co 12:1 Bragging is necessary right now. There is no profit it, but I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.
2Co 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third sky– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.
2Co 12:3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–
2Co 12:4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which a man is not allowed to speak.
2Co 12:5 I will brag about this experience, but I will not brag on my own behalf, except about my weaknesses–
2Co 12:6 though if I wanted to brag, I would not be acting stupid, because I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.
the third sky
We know that Paul is actually referring to himself because he says later that he was given a thorn in the flesh because of the revelations he saw. God opened the door a crack so that he could see the future. Paradise is the future hope of the saints. The third sky is the future sky. The first sky was the creation sky, and the second was the sky after the flood. So, Paul had been given a glimpse of the future by Jesus himself. Part of that glimpse was what Paul would have to suffer to serve Jesus. But the other part — knowing about future paradise — would be enough to sustain him through those tough times.
LORD, help us to exalt Christ, not ourselves.
devotional post # 2212
2 Corinthians 11:29-33
2Co 11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is deceived into sinning, and I do not get emotionally disturbed?
2Co 11:30 If I must brag, I will brag of the things that show my weakness.
2Co 11:31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus knows, he who is blessed for the ages — that I am not lying.
2Co 11:32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to arrest me,
2Co 11:33 but I was let down in a rope basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
the basket incident revisited
Paul revisits the story of his escape from Damascas (see Acts 9:25). His point was that he was too weak to withstand the soldiers of the governor, so the believers in Damascus had to engineer his escape. He bragged about that, because it showed his vulnerability. Since Paul knew that he had limits himself, it made him especially disturbed emotionally when these false missionaries are deceiving the believers in Corinth.
We all need each other, and we need to protect one another from deception and the dangers of sin.
LORD, show us how to protect one another.
devotional post # 2211
2 Corinthians 11:26-28
2Co 11:26 often away on trips, facing dangers from rivers, dangers of robbers, dangers from my own race, danger from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the desert, dangers at sea, dangers from false brothers;
2Co 11:27 in hard work and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
2Co 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is that daily urgency pressing on me because I am concerned for all the churches.
driven to danger
Paul describes his life as being in constantly in danger because he is concerned for all the churches his team is responsible for. That is shepherding. A good shepherd puts the safety of the sheep ahead of his or her own. His was not a reckless endangerment. It was being driven to danger to protect the people of God.
LORD, give us more missionaries with a heart to establish your church where it is needed most — in spite of the dangers involved.
devotional post # 2210
2 Corinthians 11:22-25
2Co 11:22 Are they Hebrews? Me too. Are they Israelites? Me too. Are they descendants of Abraham? Me too.
2Co 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? — I am talking like a madman–I am a better one, with far greater accomplishments, far more incarcerations, with uncountable beatings, and often near death.
2Co 11:24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
2Co 11:25 Three times I was beaten with sticks. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; I spent a night and a day adrift at sea;
Paul responds to his critics by telling them to do the math. He realizes that he is talking like a madman, but if they want to argue that they are better servants (diakonos) in God’s ministry, they should be able to show the proof. The proof — Paul argues — is not just your pedigree, or your accomplishments. Paul checks all those boxes. But then he goes on to talk about all the things he has suffered because of his commitment to Christ. Paul does not blame the devil for those tough times. He wears them as a badge of honor. They are proof of his commitment both to Christ and to the people he serves in Christ’s name.
LORD, forgive us for complaining of the tough times we face when serving you. Show us how to do the math, and be thankful for the chance to witness to your worthiness.
devotional post # 2209
2 Corinthians 11:19-21
2Co 11:19 Because you gladly put up with stupid people, although you are supposed to be wise.
2Co 11:20 Because you put up with it if someone enslaves you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or lifts up himself, or punches you in the face.
2Co 11:21 To my embarrassment, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to brag about– I am speaking like one of those stupid people — I also dare to brag about that.
the strong and the stupid
Some false missionaries had taken over the Corinthians churches, brandishing their “wisdom” and “strength” by devouring the sheep and refusing to care for them. Paul was trying to get through to the church members, who thought that enduring that abuse was a sign of godly wisdom. But Paul knew that abuse of one’s authority is neither strength nor wisdom. It is disobedience to God’s command to shepherd gently, and it is a sign of stupidity.
LORD, give us the wisdom to lead gently, and the wisdom to reject those who do not lead gently.