2 Corinthians 12:9

Sermon preached on November 23, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few years ago around this time of year I was driving home from the prison one night and a car coming toward me did something unusual. He flicked his lights on and off a couple of times. He had just made a right hand turn at the intersection and was now coming toward me. When he made the turn I suspect that the sweep of his lights picked up some deer in the field. They were behind this line of trees on my side of the road—and I couldn't see them at all. As we got closer I noticed that he was almost stopped just before the line of trees. I knew that something was wrong so I slowed down. And sure enough just as I got to that line of trees two deer darted across the road between the two cars. Was I ever thankful that he had flicked his lights—otherwise I might have hit one of them. His help came at just the right time—just when I needed it. He gave me all the help that I needed.

God's grace is like that. It comes at just the right time, just when we need it. It keeps us safe and helps us to avoid danger. But of course that illustration only shows part of what grace can be like. Grace is multifaceted. This morning we're going to look at the great truth that verse 9 which tells us about grace. The truth is that

God's grace is sufficient.

God said to the apostle Paul,

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power
is made perfect in weakness."

God was telling Paul that His grace would always be there for Him, that it would be enough for him so that with it he could face and successfully handle any situation or difficulty. This promise was so encouraging and comforting to the apostle that when God told him about it—Paul reacted with rejoicing and great hope for the future.

We need to grasp this truth like the apostle Paul did. This is a truth that we need to bring to mind every day, when we face a difficulty. It's a truth that can be incredibly helpful to us in difficult times.

None of us what to go through difficulties. We often pray that God will prevent difficulties from coming our way. We pray that that we won't get cancer. If we do get it, we pray that we'll be completely healed. We pray that we won't lose a child. We pray that we'll get a good job, that we'll have enough money. Young people pray for a good spouse.

All those prayers are good. It's wonderful if God blesses us with positive answers. But the reality is that sometimes, for our good and for what are often mysterious reasons—God wants us to go through trials. Christians often find themselves in situations they don't like. The apostle Paul is an example of that here. He was given a thorn in the flesh. It was a messenger of Satan that tormented him. We're not sure what the thorn in the flesh was. But it was very troubling to him. The thorn in the flesh 'tormented' Paul. The word is only used four other times in the New Testament and it refers to striking someone with the hand or fist. For example, when Jesus was arrested and was before the high priest, they abused him by spitting on him and striking him with their fists. (Matthew 26:67) It appears that Paul's thorn in the flesh was something physical, that was causing him distress. He felt that he could better serve the Lord without it so he asked the Lord three times to remove it from him. But God said,

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power
is made perfect in weakness."

So let's look at this great promise so that we can apply it to our lives. God told Paul that His grace is sufficient.

The word 'sufficient' means 'enough'. The grace that God will give us will be enough for us. It will not be inadequate. Indeed, the word 'sufficient' is emphasized. In the Greek the word order is literally 'Sufficient for you my grace,' placing emphasis on the words 'sufficient for you'. A good paraphrase of this phrase would be, (GNC)

"my grace is enough, more than enough, for you"



But even more than the fact that the word 'sufficient' is emphasized in our text, Paul Barnett draws our attention to the fact that in the context here, (Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT; p. 573-574)

"There is a close association between 'grace' and 'power,' because (1) these words appear in synonymous parallelism in different parts of the couplet…"



Paul wrote,

"My grace is sufficient for you, for
my power is made perfect in weakness."

Barnett continues,

"and (2) the explanatory connective, 'for,' links the two ('my grace is sufficient, for [my] power …'). The grace that Christ displays toward… his people is expressed in, and is inseparable from, his power. To be shown the one is to be given the other."



R.C.H. Lenski adds,

"This grace cannot be insufficient; it will attain its… goal in Paul's experience. This grace cannot abandon Paul; it is mightier than 'the thorn,' mightier than any 'messenger of Satan.' It will support him in every ordeal and shine the brighter as pure, undeserved grace the more it is put to the test. What a sweeter reply from the Lord could Paul have desired?"



God's grace is enough. It is more than enough.

I remember once reading a story about men in a lifeboat during the war. Their ship had been sunk by a submarine and they only had a limited supply of water. They rationed it because it could run out.

God's grace is not like that. It's not a small reservoir that can be depleted. Our text reminds me of what the apostle Paul to the Corinthian Christians in 2 Corinthians 9:8. The context is different, it's not about facing a difficult circumstance, but being generous in giving. The Holy Spirit said through Paul,

"And God is able to make all grace
abound to you,
so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need,
you will abound in every good work."

God's grace is abundant. God's grace can never run out. It's something that is rich, powerful, abundant.

Shortly after the tsunami hit Japan in March of 2011 I watched a video of the tsunami hitting a Japanese town. The video was about a half hour long and it was just incredible. The first part of the video was shot by a little river in the middle of the town. At first the water was just coming in a little. It didn't look like anything to worry about. It wasn't like I pictured a tidal wave—more like slow motion surge. But it just kept coming. After about 15 minutes there was so much water rushing up the river that it was filling the river, smashing the small boats and then covering the walking bridge over the river. Then the video switched to a view from a tall building and you could see an overview of the tremendous amount of water—it came in and swept away cars and filled all the streets of the town and seemed to be up to two or three stories of the buildings.

God's grace is like that, only in a good way. God's grace is enough, more than enough. It will never be insufficient for us.

This has great implications for us.

First of all, this means that

you can depend on God's grace.

If you are a Christian this promise applies to you. Don't think it just applies to others, to great Christians like the apostle Paul. We might think—

"Well of course God was going to give grace to the apostle Paul. He was a great warrior for God. He had worked hard for God. Of course God was going to reward him for his hard work."



And about ourselves we think,

"But me—I've messed up time and again. This bad thing that has come to me has come upon me because I've been unfaithful to God. I'm not at all in the same category as the apostle Paul. If God gives me a little time, if I am able to do good for awhile, then I'll deserve grace and God will give it to me."



Such thinking is so completely wrong. It totally misses the point of the text. Our text is about grace. God told Paul that His grace was sufficient for him. We saw a couple of weeks ago that

grace is unmerited favor toward those who deserve punishment.

Our text is not about deserving something. It is not about us doing good for awhile and then being in a position where we deserve good things from God.

No. No. No. Our text is about grace. God told Paul that He was going to give him grace so that he could get through the difficulty. Just like us, Paul did not deserve God's grace. No one can ever deserve grace.

So we should realize that we're in the exact same position as Paul. As a Christian, no matter what your situation, not matter what your difficulty—God promises you grace.

This means that whatever situation you are in, whether you're suffering because of your faithfulness to Jesus, or whether you're in a difficult situation because you've sinned, like when Peter denied Jesus—there is grace for you. God says to you,

"My grace is sufficient for you…"

You should have great hope and confidence. God promises you grace to meet difficulties. He will give you favor, favor that you, nor Paul, deserved. It's grace.

Thus, if this is about grace, about getting good that you do not deserve—then apply it to your life.

You can depend upon it to be there for your in your most trying times. It will be sufficient for you. It will be there for you when you need it.

Too often we have a defeatist attitude. We think, "If my situation was different, I could be a better Christian. If I had a different
job. If I had more money—then I could be a better Christian, I could do a better job for the Lord—if I had a better house, if I had better equipment. If I was healthier, I would be much more effective witness for the Lord. If I had a different wife. If I didn't have kids—I could do a much better job."

At
prison—I often hear about the things that are different about prison life. Some say, "If I were out, I could be a better Christian."

There's a guy I'm currently ministering to in the CJ. He awaiting trial. One of the things that he has said to me is that he can't go back to prison, that he's not going back to prison. He hasn't explained it to me but I'm guessing from what he said that he feels it will be too difficult for him, that he won't survive prison or that the years he will have to spend will be too much out of his life.

Such thoughts are complete nonsense. They're excuses. But what God tells us here is that we don't have any good excuses. His power is available to help us.

In any situation you face—God tells you that his help is available for you to get through it successfully. His help will be enough for you to triumph. It is enough. It is all we need.

I remember reading in one of
Bruce Hunt's books (The Korean Pentecost, p. 113, 114) about a Korean evangelist (Pak Eehum) who preached against the shrine worship that the Japanese were forcing on the Koreans. He also told people to flee, rather than fall into the hands of the Japanese. He told his people,

"You cannot hold out if you fall into their hands, so just keep out of their hands."



He himself was arrested and tortured. Under torture he would cry,

'Hallelujah to the name of the Lord.'



and

'How am I worthy?'



He died 3 years after his arrest. In his death he proved he had been wrong in saying that 'You cannot hold out once you fall into their hands.' Rather he found the words of the Savior true, 'My grace is sufficient for you'.

So
a Christian can never say,

"I can't get through this. I can't handle this. If circumstances were different, I could, but I can't with things like this."



Christian, don't have a defeatist attitude about your ability to stand. Don't believe Satan's lies. Don't believe it when people tell you that sin is inevitable. Satan and the world are always contradicting this promise—always telling you that it's not true.

Consider what it tells young people today.

What does the world today tell you? It tells you that because of the way you're made—you can't possibly wait until marriage for sex. You have all this emphasis on
safe sex today—condoms and everything else. And the world will tell you a great lie—that abstinence is not reasonable for teens today.

And the world will tell you that everyone has to fall—that no one can keep himself pure. It's a lie. We need to always remember that Jesus spoke about
two paths that we could follow. In Matthew 7:13f Jesus said,

"Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road
that leads to life,
and only a few find it."

What did Jesus say? He said that there were two paths and that both were open. The world contradicts that. It says that there's only one path. But Jesus came so that there would be two paths. And he urged people to enter the narrow gate.

But the world will have none of that. What does it say to
Christian parents? It says,

"Don't be so naive. Every teen is promiscuous today. You can't expect your teen to wait until marriage. The pressures on them are too great. What you have to do is teach them about safe sex."



It's a lie. The world is telling you that you can't live in this world and keep yourself holy and pure to any degree at all. Satan and the world will tell you that it's impossible for anyone to live a life even remotely resembling a righteous one.

But what does God say? He says,

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power
is made perfect in weakness."

Thirdly, you should realize the greatness of this promise and rejoice in it.

Consider Paul's reaction to what the Lord said. God told Paul that He wouldn't remove the thorn in the flesh as Paul requested, that His grace was sufficient for him. Paul's reaction? Paul said,

"Therefore I will boast all
the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ's sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults,
in hardships, in persecutions,
in difficulties.
For when I am weak,
then I am strong."

This promise from God was a revelation to him that changed his attitude toward his future, toward troubles and trials. Paul started boasting about his weaknesses. He took it to heart. He told us that he began to delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties.

Wow. Do any of us do that? I know I need to change. If I'm weak, I don't like it. If I'm insulted, I don't like it at all. If I face a hardship, I'm disappointed. I wish the hardship would go away. I like it when things go well.

But if I really believed the promise, if I was really concerned about God's glory—I wouldn't be like that. I'd me more like Paul.

So I ask you—do I value this promise like I should? No. What a different attitude the apostle Paul had. If we're going to be good witnesses for Jesus we need to have Paul's attitude.

Lastly, for those of you who aren't Christians,

there's going to be a time when you will face the activity of Satan in your life and you'll be lost unless you're in Jesus.

Paul could only stand and survive because of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Trouble, hardship suffering and death were ahead for Paul. And Paul could boast in his weaknesses and delight in difficulties because He know that Jesus would give him victory and carry him to glory.

Without Jesus, your weakness, your difficulties will lead to your destruction. You're a sinner and you need saving grace. Go to Jesus and ask Him for it. May God give you grace to do so.