Beyond 'a Rock and a Hard Place'

Note from JesusDear Disciple,

Nearly every one of My leaders through the ages has been stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m talking about being in a situation where they had to defend themselves, or defend the truth they were trying to communicate, against unfair accusations. These leaders were stuck because defending themselves would mean revealing confidential information or speaking about themselves in self-promoting ways that made them feel uncomfortable. As true servants, they weren’t a self-promoting kind of people. Since My servants were attacked by unfair accusations or because of misunderstanding, they needed to defend their actions for the good of the congregations they were leading. Most managed to find effective and ethical ways to address the issues of concern, but that doesn’t mean that it was easy for them to do it.

Paul was stuck between a rock and a hard place when he wrote 2 Corinthians. He was being called less than the “so-called great emissaries” (2 Corinthians 12:11 The Voice) — others of your translations use the term “super apostles”. Because Paul had previously been reluctant to boast to the Corinthians about his qualifications, speak about his special spiritual experiences, or give a list of his greatest accomplishments, many of the Corinthians quit respecting him. Plus, Paul didn’t ask for monetary support, so the Corinthians assumed that he wasn’t as worthy a minister as those who demanded support.

In the letter you call 1 Corinthians, Paul confronted the Corinthian believers for their divisions rooted in their pride about the different groups to which they belonged. He also confronted their pride about the spiritual gifts they had been given. So Paul was careful in 1 Corinthians not to boast about anything other than My cross. He was careful not to take money or depend on their support. Paul didn’t trumpet his accomplishments or spiritual qualifications because that would have only fed into the Corinthians own misguided sense of greatness, status, and importance.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul emphasized that his qualifications that really mattered were the ones that showed My power at work in his weaknesses, hardships, and persecutions. He said:I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.Near the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul had to address his critics directly. He had to confront the Corinthians’ concept of the “so-called great emissaries” who trumpeted their own accomplishments and highlighted their spiritual qualifications while taking money from the Corinthians.

Paul told the Corinthians that he was “out of [his] mind” (2 Corinthians 11:23 NIV) and having to resort to “foolishness” (2 Corinthians 11:1) to defend himself, but the Corinthians had left him no other choice (2 Corinthians 11:16-21; 2 Corinthians 12:11). Paul exposed the “so-called great emissaries” for the charlatans and frauds they were (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

Even when Paul finally resorted to boasting about his supernatural experience and his powerfully fruitful ministry, he ultimately came back to his weakness, his “nagging nuisance” from Satan, as his sign of integrity. Even though Paul asked the Father three times to remove his “nagging nuisance” — also called his “thorn in the flesh” — the Father did not remove it. Paul emphasized that this “nagging nuisance” was present in his life to keep him from becoming “too high and mighty.” Paul was being reminded that the Father’s “grace [was] enough to cover and sustain” him. He was challenged to see that the Father’s “power is made perfect in weakness.”

Bottom line: Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that My example of being a sacrificial servant must be the primary mark of authenticity that they used for greatness. A truly great emissary, apostle, or minister is known for her or his willingness to sacrifice and serve. If the credibility of the Corinthians’ “so-called great emissaries” was not found in sacrificing for others like I did, then their ministry was not really empowered by Me.Verses to LiveAs you read these verses, use them to help you assess the value and importance of anyone who claims to minister in My name. I want you to keep asking yourself if your standard is like the Corinthians’ standard or like Paul’s standard.Boasting like this [as in the preceding verses] is necessary, but it’s unbecoming and probably unavailing. Since you won’t hear me any other way, let me tell you about visions and revelations I received of the Lord.

Fourteen years ago, there was this man I knew — a believer in the Anointed Who was caught up to the third heaven. (Whether this was an in- or out-of-body experience I don’t know; only God knows.) This man was caught up into paradise (let me say it again, whether this was an in- or out-of-body experience I don’t know; only God knows), and he heard inexpressible words — words a mortal man is forbidden to utter. I could brag about such a man; but as for me, I have nothing to brag about outside my own shortcomings. So if I want to boast, I won’t do so as a fool because I will be speaking the truth. But I will stop there, since I don’t want to be credited with anything except exactly what people see and hear from me.

To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh — a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish; and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on — I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.

I have become a fool, but you drove me to it. Why didn’t you stick up for me? I may not be much, but you could have shown me the same respect as you did the other so-called great emissaries. I am not inferior to them in the least. Miracles, wonders, and signs were all performed right before your eyes, proving I am who I say, a true emissary of Jesus. With the exception of not asking you to shoulder the burden of my care, I have treated you no differently from any other churches. Forgive me for wronging you by not charging for my services!
(2 Corinthians 12:1-13)Response in PrayerO Father, please forgive me. When I evaluate those who serve in Your kingdom, I sometimes catch myself using the earthly standards of success that many others use. Tune my heart to Jesus and His example of ministry, shepherding, and serving. I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to discern what is true and what is false about myself, about my standard of judgment, and about the integrity of those who serve. Father, give me the patience to trust You, not myself, to judge the value and worth of Your servants. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.’A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware. © 1998-2022, Heartlight, Inc. ‘A Year with Jesus’ is part of the Heartlight Network.All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Beyond 'a Rock and a Hard Place'
Source: Passion for Praise