Commentary by Walter Albritton


                                   November 30, 2008


No Matter What We Face, God’s Grace is Sufficient!


2 Corinthians 11:16—12:10


Key Verse: I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10


          Thank God Second Corinthians is included in the Bible. Without it, every persecuted Christian might be tempted to indulge in self-pity. Fortunately, we can read Paul’s description of the troubles he faced as a servant of Christ. Upon reading that, most of us must admit that God allowed Paul to endure much more suffering than we have faced as believers.

          Years ago a Christian friend and mentor stunned me with these words, “The people who have hurt me the most have been my friends within the church.” Over the years I have lived into an understanding of his sad comment. As a pastor I have been hurt deeply sometimes by the stinging rebuke of fellow Christians. But thankfully I realize that my suffering is hardly worth mentioning when compared to that of Paul.  Every time I read again what Paul endured I hear the Inner Voice asking, “How dare you complain?” Then my shame deepens as I remember how my Lord suffered for my sins and the sins of the world.

          The important thing is that each one of us comes finally to realize that, no matter what troubles we must face, God’s grace is sufficient! His power can be made perfect in our weakness too. The power of Christ is just as available to us as it was to Paul. That being true, we too can handle insults, hardships, persecution, and trouble in such a way that Christ receives glory and honor.  The question is, are we willing to trust God to the point that his all-sufficient grace becomes transparent in our daily lives? We do not stumble into such an attitude of trust; it is a choice we must make.

          Paul shames most of us when he declares that he had decided to “boast” of the things that showed his weakness. He even admitted that once he had been “a basket case,” having to run for his life when his friends lowered him in a basket from a window in the wall in Damascus. How many of us are mature enough to boast of our weaknesses? We are sons and daughters of a culture that teaches us to value impressive “credentials” and counterfeit “honors.” We covet the recognition of our peers. Paul had lost any confidence in his own achievements; the only thing he valued now was his relationship to Jesus Christ.  Knowing Christ and serving him was all that mattered. Few of us come to such maturity early in life.

          As we mature in Christian faith we too gain a new perspective about the things that matter. Our desires and our values change. We cherish our acceptance by God and no longer thirst for “the applause of men.” I remember how proud I was to have my name and bio listed in “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.” I bought the book so my friends and family could see how important I was. Years later I realized how foolish I had been to value such a thing and threw the book in the trash bin. Thank God that though we may not become perfect in this life, at least we can grow out of some of our foolishness.

          Evidently suffering is part of God’s plan for our lives. He allows and uses suffering to make us not only better people but more useful servants of Christ. Like Paul we know what it is like to have a “thorn in the flesh” that for some reason God will not remove. Why will God not answer our earnest prayers to deliver us from our thorns in the flesh? I have no answer other than this: He does answer our prayers – He says no. And for reasons that may not become clear to us this side of heaven.

          The great example Paul sets for us is this: He learned to depend not on himself but on the grace of God. Here is one of the great secrets of the Christian life. We cannot live the Christian life apart from a vital union with Christ. We must live in Christ and welcome his living in us. Shipwreck without rescue is the ultimate end of those who trust in their own strength instead of the grace of God.

          Pride often leads us to trust in our own cleverness rather than admit our weakness and our need of God’s grace. Only when we realize the futility of showcasing our own strength can we admit our weaknesses and turn in simple faith to Christ. When we do he is more than willing to let his power dwell in us and give us victory in the midst of our troubles. Then, and only then, can we celebrate the eternal truth affirmed by both Paul and our Lord Jesus that no matter what we must face, God’s grace is sufficient! Finally, it dawns on us that grace is truly all we need. Simply said, it is enough.

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