Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-5
1 This boasting will do no good,but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 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. 3 Yes,only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words,things no human is allowed to tell. 5 That experience is worth boasting about,but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. (NLT)
When it comes to what we might call ‘mystical experiences’ or ‘close encounters with God’,we can fall into two errors. One is to dismiss them. We sternly lecture those who tell us of such experiences that they ought not to rely on them. Fair enough-Paul would seem to agree! However,such people are usually those who have had no such experiences. They are in danger of relying on their lack of experience! We dare not throw cold water on what might be genuine encounters others have with God because we ourselves have not had them.
Then again,we can also exalt such encounters and experiences. We can vainly believe Christian discipleship is all about bounding from one mountain top to another. We can consider ourselves more ‘spiritual’ than those poor souls whose lives in Christ are so much more mundane.
Each of these mistaken responses is an expression of pride and arrogance. We pride ourselves on our being above such doubtful experiences,or pride ourselves on our being God’s favourites because he has given such experiences to us.
Paul welcomes the experiences he has had. But he reminds the rather super-spiritual Corinthians that they are not the essence of his faith. He is glad for a sense of God on the mountain top,but even gladder for his presence in the valleys.