His Grace is Sufficient!
I’ve heard a lot of the theories of what Paul was talking about in II Corinthians 12. People who rarely read a Bible have heard of “Paul’s thorn in the flesh.” Paul’s experience here, plus Job’s troubles come to the forefront whenever immovable faith in God is presented. “What about Paul’s thorn? What about Job?”
Personally, as I’ve read and studied II Corinthians 12 I’ve found reason to trust God more, not less. What Paul learned was how to access the power of God on his behalf. And we’re blessed, because he passed on what he learned to us.
As far as I can tell, the most detrimental problem here is associated with verse 9.
II Corinthians 12:9 [NASB] – 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.
The problem is that so many are reading God’s response to Paul’s request for help as “No!” That is clearly not what it says. God’s answer? “My grace is sufficient.” What does “sufficient” mean? According to Strong’s it is defined as “to be possessed of unfailing strength; to be enough; to be contented.” His grace is strong, unfailingly strong. It is enough – more than enough – for any problem we could ever face. It is contented – not worried or frazzled over the problem. Add to this the understanding that grace is God’s ability in us to do what we couldn’t do on our own, and we have ample reason to live confidently.
James 4:6 tells us that God gives more grace. Here in II Corinthians 12:9 we’ve seen that this grace is unfailingly strong and contented. Call on that grace. Lean on that grace. Trust in that grace. It will work for you!
While I will readily admit to you that I’m still laboring to learn to rest in God’s grace, I have recently experienced the life-giving dynamic of this great spiritual force. So I can verify – HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!! Had it not been, well, I would most likely have checked out of this life early. But God … I’m still piecing together what happened, but I know this much, the grace of God rescued me when nothing else could.
His grace is sufficient!
It was about a month before Christmas. I was twelve years old. All I wanted for Christmas was an electric football game. I had seen it advertised on TV. You place your eleven players opposite the other team’s eleven on the “field” and stuck the little magnetic football on one of your players. Then you turn on the switch and brrrrrrrr…the “field” begins to vibrate, all the players begin to move, and you’re set for many hours of fun and excitement! What more could a twelve year old football enthusiast ask for?
We lived in a little two bedroom apartment at the time. That’s a family of five with one bathroom and two bedrooms. There was one main closet just off the kitchen. Since this was the only one, this closet contained about every item you could think of, and a bunch you wouldn’t; and of course this was the only place for mom to hide Christmas presents.
One morning I was getting ready to leave for school. I reached into our closet to get my winter coat and saw it! There, way in the back, partially hidden under some winter boots, was my electric football game!
I should have left well enough alone – I should have been happy to know that I was getting the very thing I really wanted for Christmas – but I didn’t. I immediately began to work on my mom to wear her down and get her to let me play with my electric football game.
She wouldn’t give in at first. She insisted that it would ruin my Christmas if I got it out ahead of time. But I was persistent. I guaranteed mom that I wouldn’t let my Christmas be ruined by playing a few innocent games. It took some time, but mom relented and I opened my electric football game.
The “field” was about 18” x 36”, painted green with white lines for yard markers. It came with two teams of eleven players each, painted different colors to tell them apart; two little white plastic goal posts that inserted on either end of the field; a few magnetic footballs; two thin metal inserts painted to represent the home and away fans in the stands; and a little molded plastic, spring-loaded item that acted as a kicker and a passer. It was heaven in a brown cardboard container!
I followed the instructions: pushed all the tabs into the appropriate slots, stuck on the numbered decals, plugged the cord into an appropriate wall socket and was ready to play. I set the defense up, then my offense and, trembling with anticipation, turned on the switch. Sure enough the playing field began to vibrate and all the players began to move. The player with the magnetic football attached moved forward and gained a few “yards” until touched by one of the defensive players, meaning he was down – tackled. On second down I set up the defense, set up my offense and turned on the switch. Brrrrrrr…off the players went. A few yards gained. Third down now. You guessed it – more of the same. As boring as this sounds, I was thoroughly entertained by it for days! I played electric football every available minute.
Then came Christmas morning. My family at that time was struggling financially. My electric football game was a big expenditure of available cash and turned out to be virtually my only Christmas present. [Socks and underwear count for very little to a twelve year old] So, Christmas was the let down that mom predicted. But even more, by this time the electric football game was definitely losing its appeal. The brrrrrrrrr was getting downright annoying! Setting up the players after every play was tedious, and the players did virtually the same thing every time the switch was turned on.
One of the early situation comedies on TV was a show called “Father Knows Best”. This was one situation in my life that proved it was mother, not father, who knew best.
I’m sure you’re familiar with this Christmas season song line: “Tis the season to be jolly.” Christmas should be truly joyful. Think of what we’re celebrating! Sadly though, for many it’s not joyful at all. In fact, the holiday season brings out the worst in many people. (Although I read an article online which stated that December is actually the lowest month for suicides) First of all, many have forgotten or are unaware of what Christmas represents. Then there’s the financial outlay of the season and the hectic docket of things to do – shopping, wrapping, family and friends to visit, and preparing for their company. For those who are missing family at this time of year it can be troublesome.
I had a friend I worked with years ago that took his own life on New Year’s Eve, depressed because his pristine Mustang fastback was borrowed by a friend an returned with scratches on it. (Obviously he had some hart issues also)
I’ve had this verse on my mind:
Psalm 42:11 – Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
The words “cast down” express the idea of being bowed down with mourning. “Depression” is the term that comes to mind. And depression isn’t limited to the holidays. For some it’s a year round issue of their souls. I have lived at that “address,” and there’s nothing good about it. Depression will produce physical symptoms like ulcers and sleep disorders. I didn’t like facing it but I became extremely selfish. My thought pattern was, “If my wife would just do this, or if my kids would stop doing that, my life would be just fine!” So I treated them like they were problems rather than loved ones. Thankfully they put up with me till I snapped out of it.
The first thing I learned about coming out of depression was awareness. Until I was aware that I was depressed there was no improvement. I had to admit, “Yes, I am depressed.” That wasn’t a bad confession. That was simply admitting where I was at the time. I discovered the need to apologize to those closest to me for how I’d been treating them. I repented to God too! “Repent” means I changed my mind – my thought patterns – and adopted new ones.
One other thing, I had to redevelop my hope. Hopelessness is congruent with depression. The Word of God along with time in His presence began to build hope in me again. Thank You Father!
There’s much more to say on this subject, but let me close with this. I did a Bible study on depression years ago and found only one verse in the NKJV using the actual word: Proverbs 12:25 – Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad. Take two principles from this verse: (1) Anxiety is poisonous. (2) If you have a friend who’s depressed, the best thing you can do is give them a good word. Don’t preach at them. Just be patient with them and encourage them. They’re worth the effort!
As I sit here in my office it’s the afternoon of October 31, Halloween. Halloween has become quite a holiday. I read recently that “One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.” I’ve also noticed that Halloween decorations are becoming more numerous and elaborate. In fact, I’ve heard a radio news report declare that only Christmas surpasses Halloween in consumer dollars spent. Suffice to say that Halloween has become a major industry here in the US.
For Christians, Halloween presents a conundrum. The holiday’s focus is on ghosts, goblins, devils and fear. TV producers bring out all their macabre movies. Some of the kids going door to door dress up like zombies, vampires and the like. Pumpkins are carved with eerie faces. Store windows are littered with ghoulish decals. The theme seems to be “Let’s see how we can scare people.” Yet the Bible quotes God – over 300 times – saying “Fear not!” So often we Christians turn off the lights and hide ourselves away, not wanting to participate in the whole creepy thing!
On the other hand, the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” [I Corinthians 9:22] How can we affect the people around us if we hide away from them till the holiday is over?
Halloween has an interesting back story. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints. It became “All Saints Day” and soon began to incorporate some of the same traditions. The evening before November 1st was known as “All Hallows Eve,” and later Halloween. Over time activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns were added and then accepted as the norm.
So we have quite a mixture here of saints and ghosts, fellowship and fear. It’s comforting to think about this being harvest time with colorful leaves and a chill in the air. Yet Halloween carries scary movies, blood gorged vampires, houses tented in toilet paper, etc. etc. We want to take a stand against fear, yet we want to be light and salt to a world around us that need a relationship with their Savior. What will we do? How shall we conduct ourselves?
I guess this comes down to the place where most controversial matters must come – we’ll each have to follow our own heart. The Bible dictates that we pursue peace and let it be our umpire. What’s your heart telling you?