A Special Blessing in Paul’s Life
1I must continue to brag. It will do no good, but I will talk now about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who was taken up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. I do not know whether the man was in his body or out of his body, but God knows. 3-4And I know that this man was taken up to paradise. I don’t know if he was in his body or away from his body, but God knows. He heard things he is not able to explain, things that no human is allowed to tell. 5I will brag about a man like that, but I will not brag about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6But if I wanted to brag about myself, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will not brag about myself. I do not want people to think more of me than what they see me do or hear me say.
7So that I would not become too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me, a painful physical problem was given to me. This problem was a messenger from Satan, sent to beat me and keep me from being too proud. 8I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. 10For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong.
Paul’s Love for the Christians
11I have been talking like a fool, but you made me do it. You are the ones who should say good things about me. I am worth nothing, but those “great apostles” are not worth any more than I am!
12When I was with you, I patiently did the things that prove I am an apostle—signs, wonders, and miracles. 13So you received everything that the other churches have received. Only one thing was different: I was not a burden to you. Forgive me for this!
14I am now ready to visit you the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I want nothing from you, except you. Children should not have to save up to give to their parents. Parents should save to give to their children. 15So I am happy to give everything I have for you, even myself. If I love you more, will you love me less?
16It is clear I was not a burden to you, but you think I was tricky and lied to catch you. 17Did I cheat you by using any of the messengers I sent to you? No, you know I did not. 18I asked Titus to go to you, and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not cheat you, did he? No, you know that Titus and I did the same thing and with the same spirit.
19Do you think we have been defending ourselves to you all this time? We have been speaking in Christ and before God. You are our dear friends, and everything we do is to make you stronger. 20I am afraid that when I come, you will not be what I want you to be, and I will not be what you want me to be. I am afraid that among you there may be arguing, jealousy, anger, selfish fighting, evil talk, gossip, pride, and confusion. 21I am afraid that when I come to you again, my God will make me ashamed before you. I may be saddened by many of those who have sinned because they have not changed their hearts or turned from their sexual sins and the shameful things they have done.