My Grace is Sufficient

 “…because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

(2 Cor. 12:7-9 NKJV)

You know, if ever there was a Biblical passage in direct opposition to the prosperity message, that’s it. There is nothing here about success and wealth and comfort and ease and having it your way and seeing the fulfillment of all your dreams and desires and longings. This is about suffering.

Let’s focus on the very familiar verse 9 – “My grace is sufficient for you. . .”

We’re very familiar with the concept of grace – we talk about it, we sing about it, we use it repeatedly in our prayers and in our Christian conversation. We even have a church in Stuart named the Grace Place.

The word grace and its attentive forms, gracious and graciously appear over 175 times in the Bible – mostly in the New Testament. (Paul uses the term 87 times in his letters)  This Greek word is charis; it means basically a generous benefit given, a favor bestowed. It is the root

word from which we get our word charity. In a theological sense we must add the expository “undeserved” and “unearned”.

We are awakened from our spiritual sleep and our spiritual death by a work of God that could only be called a work of grace, undeserved favor. We are redeemed, regenerated, adopted, justified, converted, born again;

pick whatever term you want related to salvation and you will always be able to attach by grace, because we have no means by which to earn any of God’s favors given to us in our salvation.

We are even sanctified by grace because we are no more able to earn our way to spiritual maturity than we were to earn our way to salvation; that too is a work of grace. And our glorification in the future is a work of grace so that throughout all eternity the great wonder of all wonders is that we will be in heaven where God will pour out the fullness of His grace upon us forever and ever and ever and ever and we will never get over the fact that all of this is by grace.

So how much grace is sufficient and how can we know we receive the promised grace that ‘washes us white as snow’?

We should understand that the grace to cover your sin is not the same as the grace I need to cover my sin. God does not spray paint His grace.

 “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

(Romans 5:20-21 ESV)

I cannot compare your pain, nor your pain tolerance with mine. You may say that on a scale of 1-10 your pain level is 3. Were I to experience that same exact pain I might insist it is a 6.

Likewise your trespass and mine, even though we may think them alike, are not alike because of the contriteness of our hearts, the sincerity of our sorrow, and the understanding of the grief we have caused our Lord.

I cannot know the level or amount of grace, how big a helping of grace is required to cover your trespass, but I can promise you it is not the same as mine, or your child’s, or your husband’s or wife’s. It is not equal to or the same as that needed by anyone you know or anyone you might encounter.

Jeremiah wrote of God’s grace in his book, Lamentations. He labeled that grace as ‘compassions’, and said, “They are new every morning“.

As we read chapter three of that book. Jeremiah is in despair. Though we could assign his woeful laments to all of Zion, or even appropriate them personally, what we really find in this chapter is the outpouring of the author’s own sorrows. No person in all the Bible, save Jesus, was treated with more contempt than Jeremiah.

And yet, like a match struck in the dark, there in verses 22-23, sandwiched in by so many travails, Jeremiah proclaims the soul saving grace of God:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23 NIV)

Again I tell you, God does not spray paint His grace. Just as He has counted the hairs on your head (Matt. 10:30), just as He has ordained the number of your days before you were born (Ps. 139:16), and just as He has devised a plan for your life (Jer. 29:11), so too has He conceived and formulated the level of grace you need for today.

That is not the same grace you needed yesterday, nor the same you will need tomorrow or next week. It is the grace you need for today, for right now. If tomorrow your trespass is greater than today’s, then His grace is greater still than today’s.

The English versions of many verses in the Bible lose much in translation, and such is the case as we dissect Romans 5:20. “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”

Several translations use the same English word for ‘increased’ and ‘abounded’, i.e.., ‘where sin increased, grace increased’, or ‘where sin abounded, grace abounded’.

It is important to note that in the original Greek the two terms used different words altogether.

I think it important that we see and understand the difference. The Greek word in the first instance is “pleonazō” which is Plain-Jane increased or abounded, whereas in the second instance the Greek word is “huperperisseuō“, meaning super-increased or super abounded, and the difference in meaning is as great as natural and super-natural! We might as well compare an afternoon rain shower to a force 5 hurricane.

Mankind may “pleonazō his sin, where, as only He can, God provides “huperperisseuō” grace.

And – “[It is] new every morning“!

It is basic to say God is a God of grace, that God is gracious, that Christ is gracious, being full of grace and bestowing that fullness on us, grace upon grace, or grace after grace after grace after grace.

As long as we live, and it will be forever, as long as we live in the realm of grace and salvation, we will accumulate grace upon grace upon grace upon grace forever. In Acts 4:33, Luke said about the early Christians that they were experiencing abundant grace.

Paul informs us in Romans 5:2 that we all stand in grace. We live in the environment of grace. It’s the spiritual atmosphere that we breathe. And in Romans 5:17 he adds that God bestows upon us as we stand in the realm of grace, an abundance of grace.

No matter what you might think of that grace, no matter how great you think it is, no matter how grand you think it is, no matter how lavish you think it is, no matter how superabundant you think it is, James adds, “He gives a greater grace.” It is greater than you think; it is greater than you can comprehend.

And when you think about the grace of God, typically, you probably think about the grace of God related to salvation. But that’s a very limited view.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 9 and verse 8, this is what Paul writes: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you”; all grace, meaning stretching across all categories.

It’s not just saving grace though it all fits into the realm of saving grace, but it can be more narrowly defined. God is able to make all grace abound to you. Again, the language is always extravagant when it comes to grace; “So that always you will have all sufficiency in all things.” In fact, you will have an abundance for every good deed.

This pulls all the superlatives together. God gives all grace, God makes all grace abound so that you always have all sufficiency for all things and an abundance for all good deeds.

This is lavish grace. This is profuse grace. We’re given grace to repent, we’re given grace to believe, grace to be saved. We are given grace to understand the Word of God. We’re given grace to wisely apply the Word of God.

We’re given grace to overcome sin. We’re given grace to defeat temptation. We’re given grace to endure suffering, disappointment, pain. We’re given grace to obey the Lord. We’re given grace to serve Him.

We’re given grace to use our spiritual gifts which are gifts of grace. This, Paul calls in 2 Corinthians 9:14, the surpassing grace of God that operates in you. What an amazing gift God has given us in this grace. And it is always grace which means it is not the result of our own efforts and earning.

In closing I would ask you to consider what might be your thorn in the flesh. Note that Paul referred to his thorn as a “messenger from Satan”. This was no punishment from God. It is my interpretation that God used Satan to inflict Paul with his thorn – however it may have been manifested. We know Paul suffered greatly throughout his work for the Lord – that he may have been afflicted with some other added malady is just speculation.

But we all suffer some “thorn” and it is only by the grace of God that we are able to do life, glorifying God, in spite of our thorns. And His grace is indeed sufficient.