ImmerseMessiah NLT - Flipbook - Page 174
like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who
disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his
servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end
they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.
Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do,
listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little.
Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And since
others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. After all, you
think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with
it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage
of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed
to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that!
But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I
dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites?
So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of
Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more!
I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times
without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the
Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with
rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a
whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys.
I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from
my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger
from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and
long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and
have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough
clothing to keep me warm.
Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the
churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led
astray, and I do not burn with anger?
If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how
weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal
praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under
King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered
in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.
This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell
about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third
heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body,
I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my