I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Cor. 12:8-10
Burger King tells us we can have it our way.
The Devil demands us to believe that God owes us.
Madison Avenue repeats the mantra until we’re nearly brainwashed into believing it: “you deserve it.”
When we hurt, we want to be healed. When we’re sick, we want freedom from illness. A testimony of divine, physical health, we assume is a testimony of the faithfulness of God
We don’t like to visit God in the blackness and in the clammy coldness of a prison cell or in the antiseptic sterility of the hospital room. We want to see our God in the victory lane, in the winner’s circle; we think that God and success are synonymous. And it is our definition of success and not another’s.
And in the midst of vain, human philosophy and flimsy human knowledge, the Word of God stands true and faithful, regardless of its popularity or its discredit among the libraries of the earth.
God’s word towers over all of man’s cerebral achievements. God’s word remains if the whole world and all of its elements melt under the violence of flame.
In a universe of transient impermanence God’s word remains while everything created fades away. Scripture itself informs us: The grass withers and the flower fades but the word of the Lord remains forever.
Jacob’s son, Joseph lived a life that bore testimony of the truth: God is in control of everything. Caught up in Egyptian slavery and intrigue,every outward indication cried “untrue!” Every condition insinuated that God had moved on, found a replacement for the young man of the multicolored coat but in truth, God was using painful experience to hone and to polish one who would shine with heavenly glory and not with his own.
Ultimately in your life and in my life, God is in control. Even when we are certain that we control the kite strings of our destiny, it is the unseen hand of God and the invisible purpose of heaven that leads us, provides for us and keeps us.
We neither are lucky or unlucky in the events that take place in our lives – our lives belong to God and as His sons and daughters, we are led rather than driven; covered and shielded rather than we are gifted and smart.
God’s word broadcasts bright promise: we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Not “we think” or “we hope” or “we pray.” We know. “Knowledge” trumps assumption, since the former is based in fact and the latter in hope.
In the great synthesis of all things is included all good things and all bad things. All things beautiful and wonderful and all things confusing and hard to understand are present in the fusion of all things. It is not all good things that work together for good; it is all things, good, bad, neutral. Like a recipe that requires “all things” both sweet and sour, in order to produce the anticipated flavor, so the thing that God intends that our lives should become must include mountain top and valley, high and low, victory and defeat, great satisfaction and extreme dissatisfaction.
Life, we eventually discover has the ability to produce days of glory and splendor followed by days of pain and gray, sallow drabness followed by days of wondrous elation and “can it get any better than this?” trumpetings.
When good things come to us, we think it is because we have been, like the children’s carol, “nice” and not “naughty.” Somebody up “there” we think is “making a list and checking it twice.” We reason that if we are faithful, if we eschew sin, if we live right and do right and if we are right, we will be blessed, rewarded for our efforts. But this kind of reckoning flies full in the face of God’s revealed heart. He reaches to a common thief, a petty criminal who was caught one too many times and in his final, fleeting breaths, the thief turns. And in the turning, he looks toward and not away. He looks on the Man fixed to the central cross and begs, “remember me.”
And these two words are sufficient. He has done no good thing, yet he would find himself in Paradise before the day had concluded.
Too often, I think we take credit for good things that did not in fact come to us because we were deserving of them, but they were given merely and mercifully because He is gracious.
The blessings of God are not the result of our good and determined efforts. God’s blessings are the sanctions of the heart of our heavenly Father.
At this writing, millions are preparing to celebrate Father’s Day. It’s a day we celebrate and we recall the goodness’s of fathers, of dads. But in a larger context it is our heavenly Father’s Day – a day to consider, to think about God our Father who provides for us, watches over us, lest we should dash our feet upon a stone and who cares for us when no one else cares.
It is our Father who repairs us in our brokenness and who guides us in our wanderings and who says to us when we are tempted to despair and when our theology collides with our reality, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Not “My healing” or “My deliverance is sufficient for you,” but His grace is sufficient.
Grace, then must be greater, more profound value than healing or deliverance or provision or any other thing. “Grace” would get the apostle Paul through the things that Paul got through. “Grace” would cause him to triumph. “Grace” would lead him in paths of righteousness. It would be grace that was Paul’s faithful and true companion.
When Paul was in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often, “grace” saw him through. Five times when he received 39 stripes, grace would speak “sufficiency” to him with every venom-fueled lash.
Whether he was beaten with rods or was stoned or shipwrecked, when he was in journeys and perils of water and of robbers and of his own brethren, in the city and in the wilderness and in the sea and among false brethren, “grace” would lead him home.
When his body grew weary and when he could not find sleep, when he hungered and thirsted and when he was found cold and naked, God’s grace and not God’s bank account would be sufficient for him.
We aren’t taught much about grace because as a commodity, grace doesn’t bring the immediate resolution we want. Grace doesn’t come with marching bands and victory shouts. Grace is a balm; it is a noun and not a verb. When we hurt, we demand, because we have been taught to believe that action is what hurt needs. We want medical attention for our wounds. to alleviate our pain. Grace comes as a condition and not as an intervention. Grace soothes, but it does not mend.
But grace is something more than immediate relief may ever provide; it is something greater than instantaneous satisfaction. Grace is the current of a never-diminishing river. Grace is the eternal wind of 35,000 feet above the earth. Grace is the self-replenishing air that fills the infinite number, the billions of lungs of every breathing thing. Grace extends, it arrives from God’s deep chambers of glory and it does not ebb or fade or decline in its effect. Grace comes to us and grace remains with us when the memory of a healed bone or a fixed wheel on the wagon of our faith has faded into a vague and blurry past.
So Paul prayed and envisioned his healing, his answer, the man-made, God-powered solution to his need. But God had a better potion than a holy medication. God had Himself. God embodies, and so exudes grace. And grace received from the Source of grace carried Paul to this:
“I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand… I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”
Grace makes us ready. Because of His grace we are ready to live and we are ready to die. We are ready to be healed and we are ready to endure pains and hardships, losses and declines. Grace causes us to anticipate the mountain-top and to accept with patience, the valley.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.”