2 Corinthians 12:7-10 God’s grace covers it all! Pentecost 7 July 12, 2015
By Pastor Kenneth Mellon, Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Pleasant Valley Rd., West Bend, WI
Our gracious heavenly Father offers us His peace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
God’s Word to help us in times of weakness is written in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
This is Your Word heavenly Father. Help us to grow in Your grace through Your Word. Your Word is truth!
Dear Christians living by God’s amazing grace,
All of us make mistakes. It’s a part of us being sinners in a sinful world. How easy is it for us to get rid of these mistakes? If we are using a pencil and paper, we can simply erase a mistake and continue. If we mess up a paper with ink, throw the paper away and start over. If using a computer, just hit delete. If only it was that easy to get rid of our sins against God and against each other! But, it is not easy. Our sins stick to us and sinfulness is part of our nature. Sins don’t just disappear. But, the Bible makes it clear that in Christ
God’s grace covers it all!
First, we need to recognize the love in God’s grace, even if hidden. Sometimes we’re tempted to think that God’s grace is like water from a faucet that turns on or off by our good or bad behavior. We’re tempted to think that when everything goes well God is gracious or if we are having a bad day He isn’t gracious. If that was the case, Paul never had a gracious God. He wrote, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of the … great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (v.7) God had given Paul many visions to direct him during his ministry. But, 14 years earlier God had taken Paul to see and hear the sounds of heaven. This gave Paul a motivation for his faith and moved him to tell unbelievers the Good News of Christ. He didn’t want anyone to miss out on heaven.
Since he was the only one to see heaven and return, God wanted to be certain that Paul did not become overly proud. So God, out of love, gave him a thorn in his flesh. What Paul’s problem was we don’t know. But, we know it was a very painful thing that continued to inflict him on and off for the rest of his life. Yet, Paul considered this painful experience as a gift of God’s grace!
So, what is the grace of God? It is the undeserved love of God toward sinners who deserve His judgment. No one earns God’s favor. God shows favor to people because of His love alone. It was out of love that God gave Paul his weakness to make God’s power known to Paul and through Paul to others. He lovingly reminded Paul that His grace was sufficient in Christ to pardon sins and bring peace between
Him and all people. So, God’s grace connects us to His powerful love in Christ.
Grace has been described as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense!” Paul wrote, “In [Jesus] we have… the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) From the time of Paul’s conversion until his death, he was amazed at God’s grace. He was saying, “If God in His great love can save me, a man who persecuted Christians, He can save anyone! God knew what Paul needed to reach the goal of heaven and He knew how to work through Paul to get others there. A “thorn” was part of His plan. Thorns are painful. We want to be rid of them immediately. If we don’t get them out, they become infected. But, the Lord’s thorns are different. He doesn’t let things get worse, but works for our good.
Second, we call on God for strength. As Christians, we know that God’s gracious love is ours through Christ. We have the privilege to call on our loving heavenly Father with any problems. Paul prayed, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” (v.8) Paul prayed intensely about this thorn. He probably would have prayed more than 3 times, but God graciously answered him. His answer was: No! I am not taking away your problem. But, I’ll give you strength to live with it and bless your ministry.
So, we can learn that God has the power to do anything. If it is His gracious will, He will heal our sicknesses or take away our problems. Or like with Paul, God may wisely allow us to continue suffering or having problems but He will also give us strength. When people join the armed forces, they are not hoping to endanger their lives. Yet, when soldiers have gone through a battle they are stronger to help others facing new battles. So, we are thankful that God helps us through struggles in life so our faith will grow and, we pray that our confidence in God will lead others to Him. God’s strength for Paul in Christ kept him strong to live for Jesus. We will find that His strength is greater than our weaknesses, too.
Third, we trust that God’s grace is sufficient. Paul’s prayer that God take away his thorn was not a selfish prayer. He didn’t want anything to slow or obstruct his mission work. And by God’s grace, his problem did not stop his advancement. Humbled, Paul gladly accepted God’s answered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (v.9) The word “made perfect” means “to finish or to complete a job.” God was telling Paul that he didn’t need to depend on his own strength or even his good health. God would bring Paul’s work to completion.
What a lesson in life for us! The more that we depend on ourselves to come up with all the answers instead of Christ, the less God will work through us. The less that we depend on ourselves, the more God uses us effectively as His tools. Gideon was a leader in the O.T. He was called by God to lead Israel against an army of 100,000 soldiers. Gideon gathered 32,000 volunteers. God said, That’s too many, so 22,000 went home. Then God said that the 10,000 remaining were too many, so Gideon was left with 300 men to face a vast army. God said, “Now you will know that my strength will give you the victory not your own.”
So, there are times when God takes away part of our strength: our status, wealth, or influence, or He sends a problem that won’t go away. That’s when our faith is tested and we realize God’s gracious help. Paul wrote, “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, and in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (v.9-10) What do people usually boast about? Is it children or grandchildren or important people they know or important things that they’ve done. Paul boasted about his weaknesses because He knew that Christ’s power was like a tent which came down over him and covered him in strength! This could only happen because Christ died for us. In Christ every sin in the world was erased! All of us who believe in Christ, no matter what our circumstances, will receive the gift of eternal life! God did this in Christ by grace, by His undeserved love for us!
Can God really work great things through weakness and humility? In life, people work to avoid weakness. They want to be known as those who rose out of poverty or a distress. But, Paul is living proof of God’s grace at work. Paul with his weaknesses worked as a missionary for over 20 years. Not only did he stay in the faith until his death, God worked through him to bring 1,000’s of people to faith. Jesus is also living proof of God’s grace. He was weak while on the cross, yet He won the victory over sin and death. His resurrection proves it. We can be certain of God’s blessing by His grace in Christ. God is committed to us in love and gives us the strength we need for life and eternal life. Trust in Him! Amen.