When Paul prayed three times for God to remove the thorn in his flesh, the answer God gave him was wonderfully satisfactory to him. "My grace is sufficient for you," to strengthen, comfort and bear you up under and through whatever trial or affliction it is my purpose for you to experience (Phil. 4:11-13). The Lord's strength and grace are more manifest, are more glorified and are more appreciated in the light of our weaknesses (Luke 7:47). Paul considered himself to be a weak, feeble, sinful creature and the power and grace of Christ to be his refuge, his salvation, his shield and his strength.
(Vs. 10.) "Therefore," he said, "I take pleasure in the infirmities of the flesh, in reproaches from Satan and men, in the common necessities of life (such as hunger, thirst and nakedness), in persecutions from the enemies of the gospel (whether in the church or out), in distresses of mind and heart and for all things that I am called upon to suffer for Christ's sake; for when I am weak in myself and aware of my inability and the arm of flesh provides no help, then my Lord strengths me, meets my need and reveals his grace, and this is my real strength." When we have nothing to say, to contribute, or to find comfort in, we will look to Christ and find that in him are all things! To live, we must die; to be full, we must be emptied; to be rich, we must become poor!
(Vs. 11, 12.) Paul declared that in calling attention to his revelations, his office and his sufferings, he felt like a foolish person, for it was against the principle of grace, against his humble spirit and against the truth of divine providence for him to boast (1 Cor. 4:7). But these people forced him to do it by listening to the false preachers and taking sides against Paul. They ought to have spoken in his defence, for he was the instrument of God in their conversion, and he was not one whit behind the greatest apostles in call, gifts, labours, or suffering, though in himself he knew that he was nothing (I Cor. 3:5-7; 15:9, 10). Indeed, the signs and credentials of a genuine apostle were performed among them by Paul and revealed in wonders and mighty deeds (Rom. 15:16-19; Heb. 2:3, 4).
(Vs. 13.) "You have not been neglected, not treated any differently than the churches where Peter or James or the other apostles ministered. You have heard the same gospel, witnessed the same miracles and been enriched in the same spiritual gifts. The only difference is that I took no financial support from you, but provided for my own support by labouring with my hands. If this offended you, I apologize" (2 Cor. 11:7-9).
(Vs. 14-15.) Paul planned to visit them again and lets them know that he was coming to them with the same resolutions, not to be a financial burden to them. His chief reason for this determination was to impress upon them the fact that his only concern was their salvation, their growth in grace and their fellowship in Christ, not material, nor physical, nor personal gain for himself. He looked upon them as his children and, though children ought to help parents who are in need, yet it is the duty of parents to provide for children. He declared that he loved them so exceedingly that he would spend all that he had and be willing to labour and even die for their spiritual welfare, though it seemed that the more he loved them, the less they loved him.
(Vs. 16, 17.) "You must admit that I did not burden you at all, and the false accusers will admit it also, but they suggest that I was crafty and sly, making use of other persons to get your money, while I professed to preach the gospel freely." Paul desires them to name even one person of the many messengers he sent their way who had received anything from them for him. Enemies of the gospel seek their own and are not only cruel in their accusations, but usually have no regard for truthfulness.
(Vs. 18.) He urged Titus to visit them and sent a brother with him. He asked, "Did Titus take advantage of you in any way? Did he not act in the same spirit in which I acted and take the same steps, seeking your good and not his own?" God's true ministers all are of the same Spirit. They seek the glory of God and the good of the church, not their own gain, glory, or welfare (1 Tim. 3:1-7).
(Vs. 19.) Did Paul speak all these words about his ministry, his labours and his sufferings only to defend himself against false charges, to build himself up in their eyes, or to gain their favour? No! It was for their sake, for their edification, because he loved them, that they might be grounded on the true foundation, the Lord Jesus Christ, built up and established in the faith of the gospel. He spoke in all sincerity, without deceit, before God as one in Christ. He was fearful lest they be led astray by listening to the wrong voice. God speaks through men, but since there are so many false preachers; we must try them and their message (1 John 4:1-3; Rev. 2:2).
(Vs. 20, 21.) Paul closes this chapter by expressing the fear that when he visited them again, he would find things in the church not honouring to Christ and contrary to holiness, such as quarrelling, envy, wrath, strife, selfishness, gossip, pride and disorder. "If I find you in these things, you will not find me to be so co-operative, but quite severe in my dealings with those who will not repent of their sins and walk in Godliness." This would cause the apostle great distress, grief and sorrow of heart to have his visit concerned with discipline instead of comfort. "Put away these things from among you and walk together in love and purity, that the name of Christ be not slandered" (Eph. 5:1-4).