“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you…” (2 Cor 10:13ff)
Paul talks a lot about boasting. As someone who struggles with pride (which is expressed more often in self depreciation than boasting per se) I find his statements about boasting confusing. Paul, in this passage, does boast in the area that God has given him influence. The famous verse later (“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord,” reference to Jer 9:24) seems to be a good rule – boast in the things God is doing that are great.
But what does that look like? It’s so easy to cross the line from “boasting in the Lord” to “boasting in the success of my ministry.”
Boasting with regard to the “area of influence God assigned to us” reminds me of a life principle I try (and often fail) to hold on to. Focus my energy on what I have influence over, and, (here’s the hard part) let go of the areas I don’t have influence over. Working in a church, there are many areas I do have influence over, and many areas I do not. Boasting in areas that I don’t have influence over would imply that at some point I tried to take or gain influence in these areas, perhaps extending myself outside of my lane. That never has gone well for me in the past.
By staying within my area of influence that God has assigned to me, I hope to reduce anxious feelings. Paul understood this. “And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28). Paul also speaks a lot about being anxious. If I want to, I could worry about all sorts of things that the church is not doing well in, but I think God is telling me through these verses to simply focus on the area he has placed me, and boast in the good work He is doing right there.