My Grace Is Sufficient for You, Part Two
So Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 tells of an encounter with the presence of God in a vision, but more importantly he tells of encountering the presence of God, the power of God, the grace of God, in our weakness, because life’s greatest truth is – and it is healing truth – that the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us, that power is made perfect in weakness, and that when we are weak, then we are strong.
It goes back to what Jesus said to Peter that night of the Passover moon when Peter drew his sword and slashed off Malchus’ ear (Matthew 26:52): “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” It’s not by force. That’s not the way. It’s not how you get results that last. The things that matter most are not done by force.
So we don’t force decisions, or issues, or relationships, or conversations. We don’t force agendas, our sense of the way things ought to be. We don’t even force Scripture. We have learned what Paul learned, that when we are weak, then we are strong, that power – the only power that has lasting results – is made perfect in weakness.
You see, Jesus came to show us a new way, not to impose a new creed, but a new way to live, a revolution of love and forgiveness worldwide. And at the heart of it is this: that power is made perfect in weakness. In a very real sense, this is the one human story, and from the standpoint of Scripture this is the clearest life lesson of all – that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. It’s the story of Jacob, the younger twin. It’s the story of Joseph, the eleventh of twelve sons, resented and despised by his brothers. It’s what the two spies knew that the ten didn’t. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. It’s how Jericho is captured. It’s the story Gideon’s 300. It’s David and Goliath. It’s the way of the prophet Elijah not the king Ahab. It’s Daniel in the lion’s den. God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
It’s the birth of Immanuel in a stable in Bethlehem. It’s the temptations of Jesus. The devil takes him up on a very high mountain, and offers him all the kingdoms of the world. And Jesus answers, not that way, not by force, not by power. It’s the whole Sermon on the Mount. It’s not calling down fire from heaven to destroy a hostile village. It’s Jesus walking away from the 5000 who wanted to make him king by force. It’s Jesus washing the feet of his often ne’er-do-well disciples.
It’s Jesus dying on a cross, in excruciating pain, with throbbing wounds, with flies buzzing, and passers-by hurling insults at him, gasping out his last agonizing breath. And all that time
“He could have called 10,000 angels
To destroy the world and set him free.
But he died alone for you and me.”
But God’s grace is always sufficient – whatever happens, and God’s power is made perfect in weakness. So, we can practice this strength in weakness. People can say the most outrageous things about us, and that’s O.K. Even friends can confound us, and do what we would never do to friends, but we will realize that they may still be loving us the best way they know how. Moreover, we don’t have to be “right” on everything. We don’t have to get our own way; things don’t have to go this afternoon, or this week, or this year, the way we want them to go. When we are weak, then we are strong. And we will have time and space in our lives for God, and for encountering the presence of God.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 is a remarkable passage. It tells of God being encountered in a dream or vision. But more importantly, it’s Paul seeing past the stabbing pain – the stake in his flesh – to the truth of God’s sufficient grace, of God’s power made perfect in weakness.
So we find ourselves feeling weak, life out of control, things happening to us that we never anticipated. And very often it’s right then that we encounter the presence of God. We plead with God to take the pain away, to restore our strength. But then deep in our hearts, we hear the truth. God says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
So even the person under hospice care, his heart weakened and his mind sometimes scattered may still have some of his finest, most joyful, most meaningful moments in this lifetime yet ahead. God’s grace is sufficient. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Or think of the ways sons and daughters usually feel about mothers. Isn’t motherhood the most powerful testimony to this truth – that power comes from taking care of others, from laying down one’s life in many different ways for one’s family? And in the abiding life-long affection of children for their mothers, we see this truth played out over and over and over.
You see, it’s in our times of weakness when we are least sure of ourselves, when can no longer take anything for granted, that we are far more likely to call on God: to call on God to come to us from the north and the south, from the east and the west, to enter us, to fill us, to heal us in all our broken places. In those moments, we call out to a God who has promised, “I will be found by you,” a God who tells us, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with her and she with me” (Revelation 3:20).
So over and over we are called to a God who is encountered in dream and vision, but who is also encountered in our thorns in the flesh, and in those times when we accept our weakness, when we acknowledge our dependence on God, when we acknowledge that God and nothing else is the ground beneath our feet. And now acknowledging this we find that we do have ground on which to stand.
May God’s grace be sufficient for you. May God’s power be made perfect in your weakness. For when you are weak, then you are strong. And that is the way back to Paradise. That is the way that leads us one day to the third heaven and beyond.
– Dale Pauls