“My Grace is Sufficient”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Pride is a dangerous thing. It causes us to belittle God and His will. It causes us to think we are self-sufficient in this universe when we are not. It causes us to think that we are better than others. And when pride is a motive, even the good deeds we do are only done because they make our ego trips last longer. For this reason, the Lord “is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” and urges us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:6).
Anyone can be adversely affected by pride. I think it takes a prideful person to deny that pride is a danger to him, so if someone claims immunity from pride, it’s probably their pride doing the talking. Those somewhat familiar with Paul's life might find it surprising, but he readily admitted he needed help in resisting pride, and he got it from the Lord. Interestingly, the help did not come in the form Paul necessarily desired, but he was still happy to have it because he knew that in the long run, when he entered heaven, it will have all been worth it. But it gives us pause to think; if Paul needed the Lord's help in this, then we probably do as well.
“And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
“And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,...” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Today there is much talk of the need for a proper amount of self-esteem in order for a person to maintain their emotional and mental health. Certainly this is so, but the question is what will be the source of one's sense of self worth? Will it be their good looks? The car they drive? How far they can hit a baseball? Good grades? Their popularity? If this is where our sense of self-worth comes from, then we are getting it from the wrong place. All these things are bound to fail us one day. The basis for high self esteem ought to be centered on God; that we are creatures that bear His image (Genesis 1:26); that His Son loves us and died to save us (John 3:16; Galatians 6:14).
Paul considered it a great privilege to have been called as an apostle of Christ Jesus. He was most certainly correct. He was entrusted with the oracles of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and granted visions and revelations of heavenly things. Just as a person's wealth or beauty could become the source of ungodly pride, so could Paul's special gifts and blessings.
To Keep Me From Exalting Myself
“... to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-to keep me from exalting myself! “ (2 Corinthians 12:7b). What was Paul's “thorn in the flesh”? I am not sure because he does not say. I think it was probably his failing health or eyesight. He had suffered much physical abuse from enemies; stonings, beatings, imprisonments and exposure to the elements. They were taking their toll, and we know this is so whether it is specifically what Paul is referring to as his “thorn” or not (Galatians 4:12-15; 6:17).
It is interesting to see how Paul deals with this “messenger of Satan.” Of course, Satan had sent this evil to discourage and hinder Paul; to weaken him and the effect he was having. But by God's grace and Paul's faith, Satan's own weapon had been turned against him! He made Paul spiritually stronger by rendering him physically weaker. Now, it doesn't always work out that way, because some of us may not trust in the Lord as absolutely as Paul did. Some have even used adversity as an excuse to abandon the Lord. One's faith needs to grow if that be the case.
Paul's Request is Denied
“Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:8).
Next time one of your prayers is not answered the way you wanted it to be, understand that though you may not perceive it, there is a reason. There always is. And remember, if the Lord responded in the negative three times to someone like Paul, then we must not expect any different if the Lord determines that it will be best to deny our request. It is with the attitude of Eli that we should approach such disappointments; “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.” (1 Samuel 3:18). The Lord sees the end of a matter from the beginning. We trust Him to do right by us, and refuse to make our faith conditional on what answer He gives when we pray.
Why Grace is Sufficient
“And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10). The Lord Jesus explained to His apostle that “My grace is sufficient” because “power is perfected in weakness.” God's power is made perfect, or complete, in Paul's weakness in the sense that Paul was forced to depend fully on God. He had explained to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). This teaches us an important lesson about God's power. We are not fully depending on God's power if we add the doctrines and creeds of men to the gospel, for it is the gospel that is God's power to save (Romans 1:16). We are not fully trusting in God's power, if we use as an excuse for our neglect that we are not talented enough to serve in His kingdom, or that we are too sinful to enter it in the first place. We must never deny the sufficiency of God's grace by either our words or our actions.
Paul says that since his weakness kept his pride in check, then he will “gladly boast about his weakness” because, in helping him to defeat his pride, it made way in ”the power of Christ” to dwell in him. His weakness, or “thorn in the flesh” was necessary to bear now for a little while, that Paul might enter into eternity prepared for glory, and help others to go with him (cf. 2 Corinthian 4:16-18).
Equipped in such a way; mentally, emotionally and spiritually secure, Paul was able to overcome life's difficulties. They could not rob him of his joy in Christ, nor his confidence. The weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties he had endured “for Christ's sake” only served to make him stronger, not by his own power, but through Jesus. This, friends, is the answer. The question is: will you accept the fact that the Lord's grace “is sufficient” for you?
From Expository Files 23.5; May 2016