“Whatever anyone else dares to boast of..—I also boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one..—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received… forty lashes less one… I was beaten with rods… stoned… shipwrecked;.. adrift at sea;.. in danger from rivers,.. from robbers,.. from my own people,.. from Gentiles,.. in the city,.. in the wilderness,.. at sea,.. from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And,.. daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
“I must go on boasting… to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven… into paradise… and he heard things that cannot be told… On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses… So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 11:21-28; 12:1-5,7-10
Paul was one privileged man, born and raised in a privileged Jewish family and training. His culture and education fashioned him into the man God appointed as a powerhouse in building and expanding His early church. But he had some rough edges, inborn tendencies of boasting and ego the Lord would tame as He sanctified him in His service.
Good qualities can run errant and prideful, or be honed for spiritual effectiveness. What God does in divine precision and love may cause us to chafe, but He knows what He needs to do. He applies perfect pressure in perfect measure to bring perfect results. As we mature in Him, He transforms self-driving into glad submission, and irritation into contentment. He may use difficult circumstances externally to do His inward work, which begets an eternal work that builds His kingdom and brings Him glory.
What God-given tendencies are my strongest? What unique or very specific gifts has God endowed me with that He intends to use in His body and world? What rough edges protrude and scratch that need softening or bridling to become less hostile and more effective? Are they yielded to Him, or am I trying to manage, manipulate, and move in my own will and strength? Do I tenaciously steer them my way, or most gladly spend them and be spent in the doing for Christ’s sake? (2 Corinthians 12:15)
Father, use Your righteous authority to refine and build me to be more like Thee, to exercise my natural tendencies in supernatural ways for Your purposes and honor. (2 Corinthians 13:10)