God’s Grace is Sufficient for You
In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he is constantly fighting an undercurrent of division that exists in the Corinthian church. On the one hand, he fights for the unity of the church. In 1 Corinthians 1-3, the church is divided over which person they should be following: some said Paul, some said Apollos, others said Cephas (Peter), and others said Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:11-12).
On the other hand, he fights for his own right to be heard. In 2 Corinthians 10-12, Paul defends his own apostleship against those of the “super-apostles” a.k.a. the “most eminent apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5). Apparently, these charismatic men were false teachers, deceiving the Corinthians and pretending to be apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13). In order to prove himself as a true apostle, Paul shares his credentials.
Paul’s Vision that Leads to Pain
When we get to 2 Corinthians 12, we learn that Paul had a vision of Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). It is at this point, that Paul gives us some information about his current situation. He tells us that God has allowed something into Paul’s life that causes him much suffering. Paul calls it a thorn in his flesh. It is given to him in order that he stays humble, especially after receiving this great revelation about Paradise.
Paul prays for God to remove the thorn. God doesn’t respond. Paul pleads with God a second time to remove the thorn in his flesh. God still doesn’t respond. A third time, Paul implores God to remove this thorn in his flesh that is causing him such suffering. This time, God responds.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
God’s response to Paul’s begging for healing is to tell him that His grace is sufficient. In other words, Paul doesn’t need to keep praying because the thorn is staying. Yet, this is not a story of dejection and rejection. Paul will continue to deal with this suffering, but he is not so dejected that he gives up. God has not rejected His servant by insisting that Paul live with suffering rather than comfort.
Living with Pain
Paul knew before he even began that his would be a life filled with suffering.
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” – Acts 9:15-16
Chosen instruments of God will always deal with suffering. Jesus said, “In the world, you have tribulation.” Throughout the gospels, Jesus teaches that there will be suffering for those who are His disciples (Luke 14:27, Matthew 5:10, Mark 13:13, John 15:18).
Yet, when God shows us suffering, He also shows us grace. While we may suffer in this life, there is something greater than this suffering.
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. – Mark 13:13
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12
We may suffer, but Jesus has overcome the world and we have peace. We may be hated but we have eternal salvation. We may be persecuted but great is our reward in heaven.
This is true with Paul as well. He might suffer his thorn in his flesh, but God’s grace is sufficient. What did this mean to Paul? He understands that God’s power is seen in our weakness. Therefore, the weaker we are, the greater God’s power is apparent to all. His response is to be most glad. He boasts about his weakness. He is content with his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Is God’s Grace Sufficient for You?
So why is it, that when we are faced with a thorn in our side, we become dejected? Why is it that our brethren take pity on us when we admit, “God’s grace is sufficient?” It seems that most Christians believe that saying “God’s grace is sufficient” is equal to saying “I quit.”
Yet, “God’s grace is sufficient” is the furthest thing from quitting. It is the definition of meekness, a positive attribute of godly people. Quoting “God’s grace is sufficient” is not the mantra of one who has given up. It is the conclusion of a godly mindset. Only one who has been humbled enough to recognize that God is going to use them in their weakness can say, “God’s grace is sufficient.”
When we reach the place where we take for ourselves these words God spoke to Paul, a very specific change occurs. Paul underwent this change when God first spoke this phrase. We undergo the same change when we receive this notion ourselves. The change is this: we become greater Christians and more like children of God because we have stopped seeking His hand and we instead seek His face.
God’s purpose in giving us this suffering is so that we look at Him rather than what He can do. God desires that we experience Him and not only His blessings. God wants us to know that we can love Him for who He is rather than for what He gives us. He wants us to discover His person. He wants us to know Him.
Those who understand this are the ones who finally accept that God’s grace is sufficient. This does not mean that the only thing that matters is our salvation. This is not speaking of saving grace. It is speaking of the grace God gives daily. What He gives us today is all we need. If that means we continue to endure in our suffering, we still seek the Person of God through our situation. When we do this, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). When we find Him, we will react as Paul did: with praise, with joy and with contentment. For when we are weak, then we are strong.
Is there anything in your life that God has given to you as a thorn; that you have prayed about repeatedly and yet, He seems to answer, “No?” Share how you are dealing with this in the comments below.