If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness... In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.2 Corinthians 11:30-33
Paul reaches back twenty years into the past to this rather remarkable incident that occurred shortly after his conversion, and he says,
If I must boast, this is the kind of thing I am going to boast of. He boasts about the things that show his weakness. That is what we ought to be boasting about, the times when we did not look good, the times when we fell on our faces and failed. Paul says that is what he boasts about. He says,
As I look back on my life, one incident comes to mind. It was a time when I was a complete failure at what I was trying to do. That is what I boast in, because that is when I began to learn the most important lesson of my life.
After his conversion he went into the wilderness of Arabia for a while. There he undoubtedly studied the Scriptures to try to understand how he had missed seeing who Jesus was. But as he searched, he found Christ on every page. When he came back from that experience, he had two burning convictions in his heart. First, he believed that the Old Testament proved that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. The second thing that he was convinced of from that experience was that God had chosen him to be the apostle to Israel. And he tried. He did his best with his brilliant mind, with all his Hebrew qualifications.
But things kept falling apart, until circumstances reached such a terrible state that one night the governor tried to find him in order that guards might seize him and put him to death. On hearing about it, his friends took him out to one of those houses built on the wall of Damascus, and through a window in the dark of the night, they let him down in a basket. Paul says,
The night I became 'a basket case' is the thing I boast about. Looking back, he says,
That was it. As I walked away from the city of Damascus, with all my plans and dreams of glory for Christ collapsed around my feet, that was the night I began to learn a great truth: My natural gifts are not what qualify me as a servant of Christ. Would that I could teach this to all Christians today! We are being bombarded with the philosophy that natural abilities are what make a person usable as a Christian—a strong personality; an outgoing, optimistic outlook; gifts of leadership; handsome frame and body; musical ability; speaking ability—all these are the things that God will use.
This is a ridiculous way of thinking. I had to learn that these ideas did not help, that Christ working in me is the only thing that God approves of. Anybody who is a Christian has Christ working in him or her, and if you learn to depend on Jesus' work within, ready to work through you as you choose to do things, He will work alongside you and make your efforts meaningful and valuable both in God's sight and ultimately people's. That is the great secret that Paul learned.
Teach me, Lord, to boast in the things that show my weakness.
Do we see the value of our failures as part of God's curriculum for training us in humble trust? Do we trust Him to redeem our failures?