“If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” 2 Corinthians 11:30
A third today of reflecting on boasting! As the Lord has led, I have yet to tire in seeing this subject through the various avenues by which He has given me perspective on it. On Saturday we looked at the warning God gives to His people about where their boasting should lie. Yesterday we looked at how boasting in the Lord should be part of the sabbath. And today, we are going to be looking at how boasting is focused on our suffering and God's ability to work through our sufferings.
I have to go back to my reference on Saturday about the boasting that goes on amongst various social media outlets, ie Facebook and the like. There are many who are mighty good at boasting in all that is going well in their lives and how “perfect” a life they lead, but I reckon that there are few, if any, people on Facebook that would post the following accounts as things in which to boast about as Paul did in his letter to the Corinthians:
“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” 2 Corinthians 11:24-30
This sort of boasting sure doesn't seem too appealing or anything which a “sane” person would consider material for boasting, but that is why the verses I used yesterday about Paul saying he was talking like a fool to the Corinthians come into play (2 Corinthians 11:16-21). To the world, boasting in our failures, our perils, our sufferings, and our weakest points are not grounds for sanity. But, in essence anything boasted upon that is not brought forth from our weakness is a boasting of our own qualities and not those of God. True boasting in the Lord is declaring what He can do all the more when we are taken out of the equation and He is given complete reign in our matters. And as Paul states below, even Satan himself and his ministers of darkness can make themselves look righteous according to their “works”.
“But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:12-15
Last night my boys and I watched Left Behind: Tribulation Force and I was taken aback as I watched the man who was playing the antichrist. His smooth words, his peaceful talk, and his desire for unity and oneness amongst the people – yes to an undiscerning soul he would seem like the perfect savior and a man hanging on a cross would seem foolish indeed. But works of this sort are not forged by God in the furnace of affliction and therefore are only as deep as the paint covering a facade masking the deep and ugly darken soul from which these actions came.
But Jesus played the role of a fool in this world so that He could not boast in Himself, but rather only in the Father who He chose to serve onto death. For certain, the cross would have not been considered boasting material in Jesus' day. To glorify someone for dying the death of a common criminal on the cross would have seemed as strange then as if we were to glorify someone today for dying in the electric chair. But Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians had already taught them about Christianity's boasting being foolishness to the world.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Do not be fooled by what is worthy boasting and what is not. If the Lord has brought you through a time of suffering or if you are in the midst of suffering for Him and the things He has willed into your life, then you have material for boasting. If you find your life has no things of the sort to boast in then it would be time to evaluate your walk with the Lord and how you may have failed to follow Him and suffer for Him. Suffering may seem like the least desired route for a person to choose to take, but from suffering comes things in which we can boast that on our own we would never have been able to. This morning I want to leave you with a quote from an unknown author I happened to read during my devotional time. It is a very worthy sentiment considering the topic we discussed today and one which I hope leaves you pondering what you have to boast in in the Lord.
“There is a divine mystery in suffering, one that has a strange and supernatural power and has never been completely understood by human reason. No one has ever developed a deep level of spirituality or holiness without experiencing a great deal of suffering...It is in this experience of complete suffering that the Holy Spirit works many miraculous things deep within our soul. In this condition, our entire being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every power and ability of the mind, will, and heart are at last submissive; a quietness of eternity settles into the entire soul; and finally, the mouth becomes quiet, having only a few words to say, and stops crying out the words Christ quoted on the cross: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”...Oh, the blessing of absolute submission to Christ! What a blessing to lose our strength, wisdom, plans, and desires and to be where every ounce of our being becomes like a peaceful Sea of Galilee under the omnipotent feet of Jesus!” unknown