Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 59
What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 12-13.
What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 12: 6-10, “For even if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I would be telling the truth, but I refrain from this so that no one may regard me beyond what he sees in me or what he hears from me, even because of the extraordinary character of the revelations. Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me – so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Random Thoughts About What I Read:
More than one commentator has made a list of all the negative things Paul has said about himself in 2 Corinthians.
In 11:6 he admits he’s just not that good at public speaking (which would’ve been a big deal in Corinth as philosophers were known by their ability to be an orator and if they were any good, they’d gather large followings and make big cash).
In 11:21 he was seen as a weak leader for a variety of reasons, appearance and natural leadership skills among those.
In 11:23, well, um, he’d had a prison record.
In 11:28-29, he went through periods of self-doubt and internal struggles.
In 12: 8-9, he struggled through a prayer life that didn’t seem to be getting any answers.
In 12:10, he’d been insulted by all sorts of people, he’d been in all sorts of trouble, and he’d been through real persecution for his work.
In 12:20, he’d been worried about disappointing people, he’d been afraid of being rejected by them, and he was afraid of what the future held for him.
In 12:21, he was worried that he’d be humiliated in public…especially if he cried in public. He’d also worried that his people wouldn’t listen to what he was saying and carry on with their rebellious ways.
I have to admit, I get those pangs of jealousy when looking at some of the gifted church leaders and/or authors in my Tribe. They’re having their podcasts downloaded at amazing rates (and I’m one of them doing the downloading) and they’re part of those churches that get magazines to write about how influential they are in their communities and they get interviewed by all sorts of media and…
…like anybody else, man, I kinda want to have their giftedness and talents.
They’re good public speakers.
They’re natural born leaders, with good looks and strong personalities and ability to think well.
They’ve been to all the right seminaries and Bible colleges. They’ve lined up with the “who’s who” and networked well and get invited to speak at all the right conferences.
They ooze confidence and the ability to project that to others.
They all have stories about amazing answers to prayer and always manage to come out on top.
They get constant praise from people within and outside their congregations.
People are drawn to them and they stay loyal to them.
Every roll of the dice comes up 7 for them.
They get professional accolades for their work.
They have 10-year vision and plan for that and it always seems to work precisely that way for them.
Their churches seem to be on-board with their teaching and they see lots of immediate results.
See, I am a pastor in the Dallas-area. This means that it’s a hotbed of ministry talent. You know, like how high-school football in Texas is a hotbed for players who will excel at the next level? Yeah. It’s that way in Dallas. So many great churches, all pastored by great people with great gifts and talents.
It reminds me a lot when I watched Bo Jackson play sports when I was in college. For those of you who don’t know who he is, well, he was the best athlete in America in the mid-80’s. He was a football running back that was bigger and faster than most people on the field and he won the Heisman Trophy. In track and field events, he was Olympic caliber in sprints and any event that involved running, throwing or jumping. In baseball, he wound up being the number one draft pick in all the major leagues.
He went to the same university I did and when my friends and I (avid baseball fans and we’d all played baseball almost all our lives) would watch him play, we’d say things like, “Man, I’d like to step into his body for just one day to see what it’s like to be able to hit a ball that far or run that fast or throw a ball that hard.” The comparisons were inevitable, because we’d all played and knew where we came up short in the deal.
Same for when I look at the other pastors. They seem to be strong everywhere I’m not. This is why Paul is somebody I can easily relate to. The funny thing is, when Paul was moving up the chain of the Jewish hierarchy my guess is that he’d have never said these things about himself. He likely viewed himself as the ambitious and vicious guy who had the education and the stripes to get to the top.
Now that he’s serving Christ, well, he even got a “thorn in the flesh” to remind him of his weakness. Anyone who tells you they know what that was, well, I’m not so convinced a definitive answer is out there.
And, yes. I know I’m not the most skillful speaker. I know I don’t have natural leadership gifts. I didn’t make all these great choices for my background to make an impressive interview (sure, I have some educational stripes that might get me to the interview, but there’s plenty of skeletons that come out of my closet pretty quickly). I’m continually second-guessing myself. I pray about a lot of things that don’t seem to have any answers (one I won’t tell you about has been going on about 5 years now). My faults are highly visible and my personality is such that people feel free to tell it to me like they see it, sometimes in front of my wife and kids. I’ve had a lot of disappointments. I fear being rejected. I don’t relish difficult situations as a chance to shine. I often think it’s just a matter of time before people get tired of my service to them. I’m always doubtful of my own effectiveness in ministry because I simply don’t see immediate results.
But, the funny thing is…
…I’m okay with all of that. I’ve become pretty comfortable in my own skin over the years. It’s okay to have all those, because my guess is that the other folks I see in ministry who have all the a-list kinds of things…
…well, God knows they can humbly handle all those blessings and that they’ll honor Him through all the good stuff and high times.
Well, it’s probably best God hasn’t given me those things. I’d probably let it go to my head anyway.
So, today, I’m thankful for the reality that for some odd reason, God chose me. I’m a bit overweight, of average intelligence and average gifting. I have all the doubts and insecurities most of the folks on the planet have. I have the same fears. Other guys can, and will, hit the home runs.
I’m happy just to be on the team and have the role of a utility player.
(Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 1-5)