I suppose I have to boast, even though it doesn't really help. Let me go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was taken up to the third heaven (whether physically in the body, or out of it, I don't know, but God knows). I know that this man (whether taken up physically in the body, or apart from it, I don't know, but God knows), how he was taken up into Paradise, and heard things too wonderful to be spoken, in words so sacred that no human being is allowed to say. Something like that I'll boast about, but I won't boast about myself, except for my weaknesses. I wouldn't be foolish if I wanted to boast, because I'd be telling the truth. But I won't boast, so that nobody will think more of me than what they see me doing or hear me saying. Also, because these revelations were so amazingly great, and so that I wouldn't become proud, I was given athorn in my flesh*a messenger from Satan to hurt me so that I wouldn't become proud. I pleaded with the Lord three times to get rid of this problem. But he told me, “My grace is all you will need, for my power is effective in weakness.” That's why I happily boast about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me. 10 So I appreciate weaknesses, insults, troubles, persecutions, and difficulties that I suffer for Christ's sake. For when I'm weak, then I'm strong!
11 I'm talking like a fool, but you made me do it! You should really have been speaking well of me, for in no way am I inferior to the super-apostles, even though I don't count for anything. 12 Yet the marks of an apostle were patiently demonstrated among yousigns, wonders, and powerful miracles. 13 In what way were you inferior to the other churches except I wasn't any burden to you? Please forgive me for doing you wrong! 14 Now I'm preparing to visit you for the third time, and I won't be a burden to you. I don't want what you have, I want you yourselves! After all, children shouldn't save up for their parents, but parents should for their children. 15 I will happily spend myself, and be spent, for you. If I love you so much more, will you love me even less? 16 Well, even if that's so, I wasn't a burden to you. Maybe I was being devious, and tricked you with my cunning ways! 17 But did I take advantage of you by anyone I've sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go and see you, and I sent another brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? No, we both have the same spirit and use the same methods. 19 Maybe you're thinking that all along we've been just trying to defend ourselves. No, we speak for Christ before God. Everything we do, friends, is for your benefit. 20 I do worry when I visit that somehow I won't find you as I would want to, and that you won't find me as you would want to! I'm afraid that there will be arguments, jealousy, anger, rivalry, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder. 21 I'm afraid that when I visit, my God will humble me in your presence, and that I will be weeping over many of those who have sinned previously, and who still have not repented of impurity, sexual immorality, and indecent acts that they committed.
* 12:7 Probably some physical problem in Paul's body. 12:11 See 11:5. 12:13 Again a statement that should be viewed as ironic; similarly verse 16.