Paul expounds on spiritual boasting.
Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. 5 On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. 6 For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.
Can you imagine if you had an experience like the man described in this passage? I’m sure afterwards you would need to tell somebody, wouldn’t you? Yet while everyone has the opportunity to experience amazing things like this, they are for the edification of our own relationship with God and a deeply personal level. Paul discusses spiritual gifts in his previous letter to the Corinthians and we learn of some of the gifts he has been given like speaking in tongues. But he explains there that spiritual gifts are worthless if your heart isn’t governed by the love of Christ. Paul doesn’t boast or show off his ability to speak in tongues; he boasts about the things he cannot do which God does through him. He makes sure that God’s works in and through him are recognized as such and he doesn’t get the credit.
How do we find the balance? How do we make sure God is getting the glory for what He is doing through us yet that people know the difference between what we are doing and He is doing? We only boast in our weaknesses. It’s intriguing that Paul says boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable. His point, I believe, is that while he doesn’t see much use in telling these personal stories, the Corinthians need to realize that the false teachers and prophets they have been entertaining are leading them astray. He doesn’t want them to think he is saying these things to elevate himself. He wants to ensure that these people who come in with marvelous stories or even spiritual gifts don’t seem so marvelous because Paul possesses the same things; they just aren’t an integral part of his ministry because his goal is to bring people closer to God, not to become their god.
Our temptation in the flesh is to talk about our accomplishments. It’s a natural thing; if you work hard at doing something and achieve your goal, wouldn’t you want to tell others about it? This is where we have the opportunity to honor and increase our relationship with God. You see, if we seek out His will for our lives, we will discover the goals and purposes for which He has created us. When we do this, we will see that the goals that God has for us are things we cannot accomplish on our own. In this way, we have the opportunity to set goals to strive for which only God can do through us and therefore when we accomplish them, God gets the glory. Paul mentions this in Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. The goal is attainable but only with God’s help. This leaves us with two challenges:
How have you been selling yourself short by only striving for worldly goals instead of Godly goals?
For what that God has done or is doing through you that you are using for your own glory?