Paul's Vision and His Painful Problem
1We can't gain anything by bragging. But I have to do it anyway. I am going to tell you what I've seen. I want to talk about what the Lord has shown me.
2I know a believer in Christ who was taken up to the third heaven 14 years ago. I don't know if his body was taken up or not. Only God knows. 3I don't know if that man was in his body or out of it. Only God knows. But I do know that 4he was taken up to paradise. He heard things that couldn't be put into words. They were things that people aren't allowed to talk about.
5I will brag about a man like that. But I won't brag about myself. I will brag only about how weak I am.
6Suppose I decide to brag. That would not make me a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I don't do it. Then no one will think more of me than he should because of what I do or say.
7I could have become proud of myself because of the amazing and wonderful things God has shown me. So I was given a problem that caused pain in my body. It is a messenger from Satan to make me suffer. 8Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak."
So I am very happy to brag about how weak I am. Then Christ's power can rest on me. 10Because of how I suffered for Christ, I'm glad that I am weak. I am glad in hard times. I am glad when people say mean things about me. I am glad when things are difficult. And I am glad when people make me suffer. When I am weak, I am strong.
Paul's Concern for the People of Corinth
11I have made a fool of myself. But you made me do it. You should have praised me. Even though I am nothing, I am in no way less important than the "super-apostles." 12You can recognize apostles by the signs, wonders and miracles they do. Those things were faithfully done among you no matter what happened.
13How were you less important than the other churches? The only difference was that I didn't cause you any expense. Forgive me for that wrong!
14Now I am ready to visit you for the third time. I won't cause you any expense. I don't want what you have. What I really want is you. After all, children shouldn't have to save up for their parents. Parents should save up for their children. 15So I will be very happy to spend everything I have for you. I will even spend myself. If I love you more, will you love me less?
16In any case, I haven't caused you any expense. But I'm such a tricky fellow! I have caught you by tricking you!
17Did I take advantage of you through any of the men I sent to you? 18I asked Titus to go to you. And I sent our brother with him. Titus didn't take advantage of you, did he? Didn't I act in the same spirit? Didn't I follow the same path?
19All this time, have you been thinking that I've been speaking up for myself? No, I've been speaking with God as my witness. I've been speaking like a believer in Christ. Dear friends, everything I do is to help you become stronger.
20I'm afraid that when I come I won't find you as I want you to be. I'm afraid that you won't find me as you want me to be. I'm afraid there will be arguing, jealousy and fits of anger. I'm afraid you will separate into your own little groups. Then you will tell lies about each other. You will talk about each other. I'm afraid you will be proud and cause trouble.
21I'm afraid that when I come again my God will put me to shame in front of you. Then I will be sad about many who sinned earlier and have not turned away from it. They have not turned away from uncleanness, sexual sins and wild living. They have done all those things.