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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Right Kind of Boasting

{This is something of the chapel devotion I gave today at a homeschool co-op to kids from 9 to 17}
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The Right Kind of Boasting

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 12.9-10)

What does it mean to boast? ... Right. To brag about our accomplishments, to say things that sound like, “I’m better than you at this or that...I’m cool, I scored most of the points at the game…I got the better grade than...I am more successful than…”

So, is boasting ever really good? And it’s especially not good if it’s meant to elevate ourselves and put someone else down.

Notice that here in 2 Corinthians Paul does a lot of boasting, and here’s why. There were several guys showing up on the church’s door step who were bragging about being better than Paul, more powerful, having greater ability, able to fill churches to the max. He describes their bragging standards this way, “they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another” (10.12). They were so full of themselves that Paul even calls them “super-apostles” (11.5).  So Paul takes them on in their own game and brags. But listen to his bragging:
  • But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us (10.13).
  • If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (11.30).
  • I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it (12.1).
  • Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (12.9).

Paul boasts, for sure, but he boasts of…..weakness! And there’s the shocker for us. Boasting in weakness is completely contrary to our normal pattern, our sports culture, advertising, and social mindset.

What is this weakness Paul is boasting about? In chapters 11 through 12 it covers two aspects:
1st- This weakness is in his lack of power, prowess and prosperity.
2nd-This weakness is in his abundance of his hurt for Christ and being hunted down for Christ.

Paul is weak in that he lacks the things that others brag about, and he is weak in that he has an abundance of things others avoid.

The question to ask, then, is why does he boast of his weakness? Paul has come to see that when he has been stripped of everything society thinks is cool, awesome and satisfying, he ends up having everything because he has Jesus! Think this point through: When we are stripped of all the stuff that our society says makes us hip, desirable, happy and prosperous and are left with Jesus, we have what is our greatest good, what is our deepest joy. Now that, to be honest, is a pretty sour-tasting-hard-to-swallow medicine!

But there it is! We are left only with the Lord himself, and that’s the kind of thing Paul voiced earlier, when he said:
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (10.17-18).

This is what is worth boasting in, the Lord himself; and that in our weakness (the lack and abundance of it) his strength is made perfect. 

And the hard, cold reality is that kind of boasting requires faith. In the midst of the lack and abundance, the questions float to the top of our consciousness: Is Jesus really my greatest good and deepest joy? Is being in this weakness something I can genuinely “boast the more gladly of”, because I am left with nothing but Jesus?


This is the right kind of boasting. And it requires faith.

Mike

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