II Corinthians 12: 1It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
I think this is the only time Paul shared this experience. I don’t know how many knew it before he shared it. You’d think he would have talked about it a lot. God gave us much of his Word through a man who had been through the ringer. On the road to Damascus, heaven’s Number 1 enemy wanted to annihilate Christianity. When we think of what happened and how he experienced the Lord at noon in the middle of the road we might say we didn’t have such a salvation experience. We might wish for the type of experience he told the people about in this passage.
I know I experienced the Lord at the altar the night I got saved. It goes beyond the imaginations of my mind. There’s been many a time I’d hear a noise at night and think someone was in the house only to find my imagination had gotten away with me. The experience of salvation is not a figment of my imagination. You and I have not been hypnotized. We don’t wave our hands in hocus pocus. We have the truth and the world hates it. Society has begun to declare Christians as mentally ill. All religions are respected but not Christianity. We’re fast becoming a disease and threat to society. This is about the most uncivilized time we’ve seen in history. We live in a barbaric world. Those with the public’s attention persuade others that God is not to be followed, yet every abominable type of wickedness is fine and accepted by the crowds. Look at the crowds of people in the places of the world all the while we see church crowds lessening. Schools are pushing meditation over praying as if prayer hurts people and does no good.
Paul was pushed to the limit by the people of Corinth. You would think after all Paul had taught them they would have enough to straighten up. They had let their spiritual gifts go to their head and let everything else in the house of God go. They boasted about their gifts; there was jealously over each other’s gifts. It was at this point Paul shared his experience. He didn’t share it lightly. It happened 14 years earlier. He was caught up into the third heaven. He went from first grade to a senior in no time. He was a young Christian and still learning. He was flabbergasted to the point of saying he couldn’t tell if he was in the body or out of it. He did know he was caught up above the first heaven—the atmosphere. He went past the second heaven—the cosmos of creation. He went all the way to the third heaven, no higher place to go.
I’ve not been to the third heaven but I have had a third heaven experience. I knew I was saved. Close experiences with the world are third heaven experiences. We’re never too low for God to lift us up. Paul didn’t say what he saw except paradise. He heard things so wonderful he couldn’t find words. When he came back he was plagued on every hand. The unsaved were after him. He had physical infirmities. The devil was after him as he is us. We don’t understand but that’s how it is in this old world. Paul couldn’t stay in the third heaven. He had to come back down. It all hit him. He prayed for a thorn in the flesh to be removed; God told him no. God showed Paul how good it would soon be and had a message for him. My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Maybe no one understands what you suffer. Remember at every place in that valley God is there. In his lowest valley God spoke to Paul. It took the discouragement and hopelessness out of the situation and made the valley a pleasure. Paul said most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. That valley could not take away the third heaven experience. The lowest you could ever be is still miles higher than your greatest experience in sin. It is many times better to suffer as a Christian than to be without God.
Been to the highest heaven? Been in the lowest valley? The same Jesus is in both. Why not take pleasure in the infirmities. If that’s insane then lock me up. I don’t care what the world calls me as long as God calls me his son. I want the power of Christ to rest on me. I thank him that even in the lowest valley he is there. Heaven will make the lowest, darkest valley worthwhile.