Acts 18:1–17; 2 Corinthians 11:22–28
Paul pressed ahead through a mind-boggling series of intense hardships. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I have more claim to this title than they. I have worked harder than any of them. I have served more prison sentences! I have been beaten times without number. I have faced death again and again. I have been beaten the regulation thirty-nine stripes by the Jews five times. I have been beaten with rods three times. I have been stoned once. I have been shipwrecked three times. I have been twenty-four hours in the open sea.
In my travels I have been in constant danger from rivers and floods, from bandits, from my own countrymen, and from pagans. I have faced danger in city streets, danger in the desert, danger on the high seas, danger among false Christians. I have known exhaustion, pain, long vigils, hunger and thirst, doing without meals, cold, and lack of clothing.
Apart from all external trials I have the daily burden of responsibility for all the churches.
On top of all that, the Lord gave him a thorn in the flesh. The Lord answered his desperate prayers to remove the thorn—whatever it may have been—in a most unexpected manner. The Lord simply answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Surprised? “You mean, I don’t have to be super strong and endure each trial relying on my own resources?” It’s not like that at all. In fact, the only way you qualify to receive His strength is when you admit your weakness, when you admit you’re not capable and strong, when, like Paul, you’re willing to boast in nothing but your weakness and God’s power.