I repeat: let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting, I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who insists that business leadership models apply to the church, or tells you to copy that new church that’s all the buzz, or insists that the loudest voice or the biggest donor wins, or replaces discernment with the safest course. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
What anyone else dares to boast about – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast about. Do they have the right degree? So do I. Have they published a book? So have I. Do they have a “proven track record”? So do I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been ignored more frequently, been second-guessed more severely, and been exposed to unimaginable smells again and again. Five times I received from a church board the veiled threat to bring my numbers up, or else. Three times I was belittled by a senior pastor, once I was sick for a week because of the mystery meat at camp, three times I was shot at close range with a paintball gun by a junior higher who thought it was funny, I spent nights and days in a van that smelled of armpits, farts, skittles and vomit, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from teenagers who didn’t take their meds, in danger from school principals, in danger from my own churchgoers, in danger from the bank that holds my mortgage; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger on the mission field; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known back pain and nausea and have often gone without anything but fast food; I have been cold and sunburned. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the teenagers. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of this surpassingly great ministry calling, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is make perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.