I was struck by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 today:
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead . . . .”
This is truly amazing! Think about it. The great Apostle Paul who had such a powerful encounter with the Living Christ; who was powerfully converted to Christ; who lived such an exemplary life that he told the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitated Christ; who wrote a large portion of the New Testament; who was persecuted and suffered so much for the sake of the Gospel – – this highest caliber of godly Christian man still desperately needed God to so work in his life circumstances so that he would despair of life and not trust in himself, but in God! Oh how even the best of men are prone to trust in themselves instead of in God alone!
This temptation to trust in ourselves or in our own righteousness is not new to the human heart.
It was true in Israel’s infancy:
Deuteronomy 9:4: Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, “Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land . . . .”
It was true in Daniel’s day:
Daniel 9:18: O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.
It was true in Jesus’ day:
Luke 18:9: Also He [Jesus] spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others . . .
And it was true in Paul’s day:
Philippians 3:8-9: Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith . . . .
Do you realize the proneness of your own heart to trust in yourself and not in God alone?
If the great Apostle Paul needed to be placed in situations by God’s sovereign hand to cause him to despair even of life itself so that he would not trust in himself, but in God alone, how much more vigilant ought we be to make sure we too are turning from all that is in ourselves, and resting in God alone through our Lord Jesus Christ? May our only boast be in Him and in His glorious cross! And may this free us to live radical lives for the glory of God alone, just like our brother Paul!
Galatians 6:14: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.