Today’s selected reading continues in the second epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the saints which were found in the city of Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-four through thirty-three of the eleventh chapter. With this particular set of verses the apostle Paul concludes the eleventh chapter of this second epistle unto the Corinthians. This final portion of scripture builds upon a series of questions the apostle Paul asks concerning a specific set of individuals he referenced earlier. If you read this particular chapter you will notice the apostle asking concerning this set of individuals if they were Hebrews. The apostle then goes on to ask if they were Israelites. Next, the apostle Paul asks if they of of the seed of Abraham. It’s the fourth and final question which strikes at the very heart of everything the apostle Paul writes in the concluding verses of this chapter. The fourth and final question deals not with lineage or national heritage but rather a potion and place of stewardship before the Lord within the kingdom of God. This fourth and final question deals exclusively and primarily with the concept of ministry and being a minister of Christ and a minister for Christ. There is a marked and noticeable transition from the first three questions the apostle Paul asked to the fourth and final question he asked. The fourth and final question is one that is actually quite bold, for the apostle Paul no longer concerns himself with heritage, national origin and lineage, but rather whether or not those specific individuals were ministers of Christ. This is a concept that was expressed to a certain degree in the fifth chapter of this particular epistle for immediately after the apostle Paul makes the emphatic declaration that any man who is in Christ is a new Christ he goes on to speak of himself and those who walk with and follow Christ as being ambassadors for Christ Abe ministers of reconciliation.
What we find and what we read in this particular passage of scripture is quite unique for the apostle Paul asks a series of questions which all lead up to a powerful description of the reality of being a minister of Christ in that generation. The apostle Paul asks if those whom he is speaking of are ministers of God and ministers of Christ and it immediately sets up what is not only a shocking, but also surprising description concerning what it truly looks like to stand and serve as a minister of Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this series of questions which the apostle Paul asked, for each of these questions could very well have been the cause of bragging rights and a cause for boasting—not only within the life of the apostle Paul, but also in the lives of all those who were of the seed of Abraham and the people of Israel. These questions deal specifically and exclusively with the reality and concept of boasting before a living and holy God, for with each question the apostle Paul responds concerning himself. In all reality, I am convinced that this series of questions was designed to directly combat the reality and concept of boasting within the heart and life a saint of God and follower of Jesus Christ. There were certain arrogant bosses that were made—not only during the days and time of Jesus, but also during the days of Paul and the other apostles. There were certain individuals who spent a considerable time boasting around a variety things that caused them to believe the misguided notion that they were something when in all reality their boast had never, could never, and would never define us. I would take a moment right here to make the emphatic declaration that if you have to brag and/or boast about something and someone you are not, there is a serious danger and dilemma that is present with your heart and soul.
I am utterly and completely convinced that this series of four questions the apostle Paul asked in this particular passage of Scripture are questions which are meant to strike at the very heart of those to whom he is writing. This series of questions the apostle Paul asked within this passage of Scripture are intended on striking at the very heart of any concept of arrogant boasting that was taking place within the hearts and lives of those during this generation. The questions the apostle Paul asked could very well have been the source of a boasting that was both pervasive and prevalent during that generation. There were those during that generation who found themselves arrogantly boasting of the fact and reality that not only were they Hebrews, but they were also Israelites, and of the seed of Abraham. In fact, in the ninth chapter of the New Testament epistle which the apostle wrote unto the Roman congregation we find a considerable amount of information that would cause Jews during that generation to engage themselves in an arrogant boasting before the Lord. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation beginning with the first verse of the ninth chapter: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israe: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:1-13).
It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the ninth chapter of this epistle unto the Romans, for it is with these words the apostle Paul sets the stage in our minds for the purpose, the reason, the cause and the very nature of the boasting that was so prevalent among the Jews during those days. What’s more, is that if we journey back to days in which Jesus, and even John the Baptist walked upon the face of the earth, we will find this boasting being a predominant and prevalent theme among the Jews. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the account of John the Baptist’s emergence on to the scene as the forerunner for the Messiah in the earth. Consider if you will what Levi, also known as Matthew, records concerning the emergence of John the Baptist on to the scene: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girlie about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: AND THINK NOT TO SAY WITHIN YOURSELVES, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and He will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the Gardner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:1-12).
This reality of boasting in being of the seed of Abraham was prevalent and pervasive when John the Baptist stepped on to and emerged on the scene after four hundred years of silence, and it was one that continued to be prevalent during the time when Jesus the Christ walked upon the earth. There is perhaps no truer picture of this reality than that which we find in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John. This chapter which begins with the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery being brought to Jesus—at the Temple nonetheless—in order that she might be stoned would progress and eventually reach the point where Jesus would confront this arrogant boasting that was so pervasive and prevalent within the hearts of many during His day. This was particularly and especially true of the Pharisees and Sadducees during that day, although in this particular passage of Scripture we don’t find Jesus confronting the Pharisees and Sadducees, but those who were present. This eighth chapter found within the gospel of John is perhaps one of the most potent and powerful chapters containing the words which Christ spoke, for not only could His words bring a tremendous amount of hope, encouragement, peace, rest, trust and confidence, but His words could also cut to the quick and bring about a powerful sense of conviction. Consider the fact that this chapter began and opened up with men who were willing to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery, yet when Jesus instructed those which were without sin to cast the first stone, each one dropped their stone to the ground and walked out one by one—beginning from the oldest and concluding with the youngest. As you move forward in this chapter you will find Jesus making some pretty radical claims and statements in the hearing of the Pharisees and those who were present during that day. Where the rubber really meets the road and where things really start to hit the fan is found in the thirty-first verse and beyond. It is at this particular point in this passage of Scripture where we find Jesus confronting this arrogant boasting of being of the seed of Abraham and being Hebrews. Consider if you will the account as John records it beginning with the thirty-first verse of the eighth chapter:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered Him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto Him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the dees of your father. Then said they to Him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but He sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is not truth in him. Whe he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto Him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honor my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” (John 8:31-51).
What marks the words which Jesus spoke in this particular passage of Scripture is that He didn’t merely confront the arrogant boasting certain of the Jews made during that generation, but He also debunked that boasting as being misguided and false. In the thirty-seventh verse of this particular chapter we find Jesus declaring unto those to whom He was speaking how He knew they were Abraham’s seed, yet they sought to kill Him, because His word had no place in them. Although they were Abraham’s seed, they continually and repeatedly sought to kill Jesus—not only because His word did not and could not abide in them, but also because they could not handle His word(s) within their hearts and minds. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which John wrote in the opening chapter of this New Testament gospel when he wrote concerning Jesus that He came to His own and His own received Him not. If you continue reading this particular chapter you will find Jesus going on to declare that if they were indeed Abraham’s children, they would do the works which Abraham did during his days upon the earth. Instead of doing the works of Abraham within and upon the earth, however, they sought to kill Him, a man who told them the truth, which He heard of God. Jesus truly drops the mic and drops a bombshell on His audience on this day, for although they be children of Abraham and Abraham’s seed, God was not their Father. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous reality that it was possible to be of the seed of Abraham, and yet not have God as your Father. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that you could boast of being of the seed of Abraham, and yet not only do you not do the works of Abraham, but you also seek to kill Christ. BOASTING OF HERITAGE YET SEEKING TO KILL CHRIST! BOASTING, YET SEEKING TO KILL CHRIST! BOASTING, YET DOING THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL! It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to what we read in this passage of Scripture, for the Jews boasted of their being the seed of Abraham, and yet they did not the works of Abraham. The Jews boasted of themselves that God was their Father, and yet Jesus declared that if God were their Father they would love Him. Not only did those who boasted they were Abraham’s children not do the works of Abraham, but those who boasted that God was their Father did not love Christ who proceeded forth from the Father. What’s more, is that in addition to all of this they sought to kill Christ because His word was not in them, nor did it abide within their hearts and minds.
Please make not of this chapter and the words that are contained within it, for there wasn’t simply one single boast that was made by the Jews, but there were actually two boasts. The first boast and claim the Jews made during that day and generation was that they were Abraham’s children and were Abraham’s seed. The second boast and claim they made was that God was their Father, and they were His children. We dare not miss or lose sight of this reality, for to do so would be to miss the truth, the weight and the magnitude of what Christ was declaring unto the Jews that day. Not only did Jesus refute their claim and boast that Abraham was their father, but He also refuted their claim and boast that God was their Father. Consider how in this passage of Scripture the Jews not only made one boast that Abraham was their father, but they also took it a step further and boasted that God was their Father as well. What truly marks this chapter as unique and incredibly challenging is that it was sparked by Jesus’ promise and declaration that if they continued in His word, they would be His disciples indeed. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that they would know the truth, and the truth would make them free. It was to this promise and declaration that if they knew the truth, the truth would make them free they responded by declaring that they be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man. The Jews during that day could not understand that just because they were Abraham’s seed meant that they were never in bondage. Perhaps because they were so far removed from the history of their ancestors who spent four-hundred plus years living as slaves in the land of Egypt that they believed themselves to have never been slaves. Perhaps because they were more than four-hundred years beyond their ancestors living as captives in a strange and foreign land in Babylon that they believed the misguided notion that they had never and could never be in bondage. Not only did they make the declaration that they were never in bondage, but they also asked Jesus how He could make such a statement, “Ye shall be made free.” What we must recognize and understand is that which Jesus spoke about in this chapter—that which Jesus was truly speaking about and getting at—was not a physical and natural bondage such as was displayed in the account of their ancestors in the land of Egypt, nor their ancestors as captives in Babylon. The bondage Jesus spoke about was bondage to sin, for He would go on to declare that “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” Right there—with those words—Jesus emphatically declared the true source of bondage within their hearts and lives, which was not a bondage to man, but a bondage to sin. These words were immediately followed by a powerful declaration that if the Son therefore would make them free, they would be free indeed.
Oh please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of what we find and read in this passage of Scripture, for it strikes at the very heart of all boasting within our hearts and lives. Here Jesus speaks of freedom, and liberty, and knowing the truth, and being set free by the Son, and the only thing we can think to do is make arrogant boasts and shallow claims concerning who we are outside of and apart from Christ. This is perhaps what is most deadly and dangerous concerning the boasts the children of Israel made, for their boasts and their claims were made outside of, apart from, and without Christ. Oh, it is a dangerous thing when we make arrogant boasts and emphatic claims of who we are outside of and apart from Christ. The Jews during the days of John the Baptist and Jesus made deliberate and intentional claims concerning who they were, and the truth of the matter is that what they were saying wasn’t inherently or necessarily wrong. The Jews were correct in the fact that they were of the seed of Abraham and that Abraham was indeed their progenitor and father. The problem, the tragedy, the danger, however, was that the arrogant boasts and claims they were making were outside of and apart from Christ. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women are making arrogant claims and misguided boasts concerning who they are, and yet their claims and boasts are completely and totally outside of who they are in Christ. Oh, how many men and women boast of their identity outside of and apart from who they are in Christ, as if they indeed had something to brag and boast about? How many men and women believe the lie and delusion that they are someone and something when the truth of the matter is that they are nothing without and apart from Christ. Heaven forbid and God help us if we think and believe that we are someone and something outside of and apart from Jesus who is the Christ and Messiah. We play a dangerous game when we not only seek to find our identity outside of and apart from the person of Christ, but also proceed to make arrogant boasts around that identity—perhaps an identity of our own making and choosing. The Jews were correct in their boast and claim that they were Abraham’s seed and Abraham’s children, yet they relied on that natural lineage and that natural heritage for their identity and security. Please don’t miss or lose sight of this reality, for it is very real and very possible that we can make arrogant boasts and claims which might very well be true, yet they boast of an Idenity and reality that is outside of and apart from Christ.
It is at this juncture when I feel it is absolutely necessary to turn and direct our attention to the third chapter of the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the Philippian congregation. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of this chapter you will find the apostle Paul setting forth and laying out all those realities which he himself could boast of. IF you begin reading with and from the first verse of the third chapter you will find the following words which were written by the apostle: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I mighty also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinkers that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:1-6). With these words the apostle Paul not only touches on confidence which might be placed in the flesh, but he goes on to speak of various means whereby he might have confidence in the flesh. The apostle Paul begins by describing how he was circumcised the eighth day, how he was of the stock of Israel, how he was of the tribe of Benjamin, and how he was an Hebrew of the Hebrews. The apostle Paul would go on to speak about touching the law, zeal, and righteousness which is in the law. Concerning and touching the law, the apostle Paul declared how he was a Pharisee. Concerning zeal, the apostle Paul declared that he persecuted the church. Concerning the righteousness which is in the law, the apostle Paul declared that he was blameless. It is this last claim which is most intriguing, for there is a righteousness that is found in the law, yet it is a righteousness that is found outside of, without, and apart from Christ. The apostle Paul could very well have boasted of a righteousness that was found in the law since he was a Pharisee, for undoubtedly he adhered to the law as strictly and as fervently as one could. The problem, however, was that these claims which the apostle Paul could have made were claims that were made based on a life outside of and apart from Jesus.
Oh beloved, it is possible that we can indeed and can in fact make claims concerning a reality that is completely separate from, completely outside of, completely apart from, and completely without Jesus who is the Christ. In fact, when we come to the seventh verse of this chapter we notice a marked and powerful transition in the words and language of the apostle Paul, for although he spoke of claims and boasts he could have made—boasts and claims which weren’t necessarily false or inaccurate—he viewed such claims and such realities as being absolutely worthless and of no value. The apostle Paul did have a life and reality outside of, apart from and before Christ, yet the minute Christ entered into his life, his entire reality and identity was completely and radically altered and transformed. Beginning with the seventh verse of the third chapter consider the following words: “But what things were gain to me, those counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made comfortable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an encampment. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)” (Philippians 3:7-19).
BUT WHAT THINGS WERE GAIN TO ME, THOSE I COUNTED LOSS FOR CHRIST! I COUNT ALL THINGS BUT LOSS FOR THE EXCELLENCY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST JESUS MY LORD! I HAVE SUFFERED THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS! Perhaps the single greatest question that must be asked when reading this passage of Scripture is whether or not we are willing to come to the end of ourselves and suffer the loss of all things in order that we might win Christ. Are we willing to not only lose all things, but also embrace the loss of all things and consider all that we have lost as dung for the sake of winning Christ? Are we willing to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, which may very well come through the law, but a righteousness which is through the faith of Christ—a righteousness which is of God by faith. Are we willing to allow ourselves to be brought into the place where we are willing to count all things as loss in order that we might win and gain Christ? What’s so incredibly interesting about the words which the apostle Paul wrote was not only that he declared that he counts all things as loss—those things which once were gain for him—but he also suffered the loss of all things. Please note and understand that there is a marked and noticeable difference between our counting as loss all things, and our suffering the loss of all things. Counting all things as loss is in fact a state of mind which we allow ourselves to embrace and be engaged in, whereas suffering the loss of all things is an even or series of events which takes place within our lives. In all reality, I am convinced that we need both realities manifested within our lives—the reality of counting all things as loss, as well as the even of suffering the loss of all things. The question I must ask is how you respond when you experience the loss of that thing which you perceived as once being of gain to you. What do you do when you suffer and experience the loss of that one thing, or perhaps those multiple things which once were gain to you? How do you handle loss within your life—especially the loss of that thing which was once gain to you and for you? How we answer this question can and will dramatically shape and alter our lives and must be dealt with and addressed within our hearts and lives. For the apostle Paul he was willing to suffer the loss of all things in order that he might win Christ—and not only win Christ, but also have a righteousness that was outside of apart from the law, and one that was of God in Christ Jesus. Ultimately, the apostle would go on to declare that there was one thing he did within as a servant and follower of Jesus Christ, and that was not counting himself to have apprehended, but forgetting those things which were behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. For the apostle Paul there was one objective and one mission, and that was to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in the second epistle which was delivered unto him—“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
When we come to the end of the eleventh chapter of the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth we find him asking the question whether or not those to whom he was speaking were ministers, and then responding to that rhetorical question by declaring that he was more. Immediately following this we find the apostle Paul describing what standing and serving as a minister of Christ for the sake of the gospel meant for him, and the reality it presented him within his life. Beginning with the twenty-third verse of this chapter we find the apostle Paul writing the following words: “in labour more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). It is absolutely amazing that when the apostle Paul made boast of his being a minister of Christ, he did not make the type of boast we would naturally expect. When we read the words which the apostle Paul spoke we would expect him to boast of his being a minister of Christ according to the measure of success he had in planting churches, and preaching the gospel, and healing the sick, and raising the dead, and discipling the saints, and traveling all over the known world at that time. The truth of the matter, however, is that the apostle Paul made no such claim or boast concerning his being a minister of the gospel, for that which truly set him apart as a minister of Christ in the earth was not his successes, but his struggles and his sufferings. I am convinced there are countless men and women who are boasting of their successes and their strengths as ministers of Christ in the earth today, and yet the true boast we have as ministers of Christ is not in our strengths and successes, but rather in our struggles and suffering. There are very few among us who are willing to boast of our struggles and our sufferings—and not only glory in such. I feel it absolutely necessary and imperative to leave you with the following words which the apostle Paul wrote in the very next chapter in this epistle: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chief east of apostles, though I be nothing” (2 Corinthians 12:7-11).