I just stumbled across a convicting quotation by Dr. Carson that I wrote down during one of his class lectures last March:
“Most people go through life concerned that others will think too little of them. Paul was concerned that others would think too much of him.“
He made this comment while exegeting verse 6 in 2 Cor 12:1–10:
12:1 It is necessary to go on boasting. Though it is not profitable, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know that this man (whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows) 4 was caught up into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak. 5 On behalf of such an individual I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. 6 For even if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I would be telling the truth, but I refrain from this so that no one may regard me beyond what he sees in me or what he hears from me, 7 even because of the extraordinary character of the revelations. Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. 8 I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Update: Carson makes similar statements in A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10–13 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), pp. 148–49 (bold emphasis added):
2. He fears that others will think too highly of him (12:6b). Most of us spend our lives in fear that others will not think highly enough of us; but Paul, offered the opportunity to boast straightforwardly about the most spectacular revelation ever afforded him, writes, “But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.”
Three convictions clearly underlie this restraint. First, Paul refuses to let his reputation rest on inaccessible claims, appeals to ecstatic or supernatural visions. . . .
The second conviction is the complement of the first. Paul will permit only his open conduct, what he does and says, to be used by his converts as the basis of their assessment of him. Behavior is of unsurpassed importance in the Christian way. . . .
But the third and most remarkable underlying attitude is that Paul is genuinely concerned lest others think too highly of him. This might simply reflect a brutal honesty; he knows his own heart well enough to realize that, apart from grace, it is capable of the most appalling abominations in God’s eyes (cf. Rom. 3:10–20). But in fact it is more: it is the typical attitude displayed by this apostle, who is always concerned to insist that people should focus on the gospel and on the Savior, not the messenger. He will be a more effective witness to the message of Christ crucified if he draws little attention to himself and to his grace-empowered victories, being all the while unafraid to endure suffering, privation, and disgrace.