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Day 254

His Grace is Enough for You

Wisdom Psalm 106:40-48
New Testament 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Old Testament Isaiah 27:1-28:29

Introduction

I first met Nick Vujicic when he came to speak at Focus, our church holiday. Nick is a remarkable man. I think that all of us who met him were inspired and challenged by his life.

Nick was born without arms or legs, yet he can say, ‘I am truly blessed. I am ridiculously happy.’ Many times as a child he prayed for arms and legs. He would have settled for getting one arm or leg.

God did not answer his prayer in the way that he had hoped. Yet he writes, ‘God used me to reach people in countless schools, churches, prisons, orphanages, hospitals, stadiums and meeting halls. Even better, I’ve hugged thousands of people in face-to-face encounters that allow me to tell them how very precious they are... God took my unusual body and invested me with the ability to uplift hearts and encourage spirits.’

The people of God depend on the grace of God. Mother Teresa wrote, ‘I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do. Sometimes I feel so helpless and weak. I think that is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on Him twenty-four hours a day. If the day had even more hours, then I would need His help and grace during those as well.’

Paul expresses this dependence when he writes about the ‘thorn in his flesh’. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. But God said to him, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). His grace is not only amazing; it is ‘sufficient’. It is enough.

This is one of my favourite verses in the entire Bible. I often quote this verse to God and remind him of his promise that his power is made perfect in my weakness.

Wisdom

Psalm 106:40-48

40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
    and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
    and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
    and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
44 Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
    to show them mercy.

47 Save us, Lord our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

48 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord.

Commentary

His grace comes from his great love

But’ is a key word in this passage.

The people were ‘bent on rebellion’ and ‘wasted away in their sin’ (v.43). ‘But,’ says the psalmist, ‘he took note of their distress when he heard their cry... out of his great love’ (vv.44–45).

The source of the sufficiency of God’s grace is ‘his great love’ (v.45). Because God loves his people so much, ‘many times he delivered them’ (v.43). He ‘heard their cry’ (v.44).

Some years ago, I wrote in the margin alongside this psalm summing up all the blessings the psalm speaks about. When I ‘disbelieve, grumble, disobey, worship the world’s idols, sin, do wrong – what does God do? He shows me favour, he comes to my aid, he gives me joy, he is kind, he saves me. He leads me, he redeems me, he answers my prayers, he delivers me, he notes my distress and hears my cry, he shows me his great love.’

No wonder the psalmist ends by saying, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord’ (v.48).

Prayer

Lord, I praise and thank you for your great love for me. Thank you for delivering me over and over again. Thank you for hearing my cry. Thank you for the sufficiency of your grace.

New Testament

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Paul’s Vision and His Thorn

12 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or 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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Commentary

His grace is what you need

We think we will impress people with our strengths, but we connect with people through our vulnerabilities. Most of us want other people to see our strength and are nervous about anyone discovering our weaknesses. We do not advertise our limitations. However, Paul was not afraid of being vulnerable about his frailties.

Paul had some amazing spiritual experiences. He had ‘visions and revelations from the Lord’ (v.1). He had been ‘caught up to the third heaven’ (v.2). He had ‘heard inexpressible things, things that human beings are not permitted to tell’ (v.4). He had ‘surpassingly great revelations’ (v.7).

Yet Paul did not boast about these things. The false teachers in Corinth boasted about their spiritual experiences, but Paul did not. Rather, he told stories against himself. He boasted about his weaknesses (vv.5,9).

He told the Corinthians how God gave him ‘a thorn in [his] flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment [him]’ (v.7b). He made this confession in very general terms. Dr Paula Gooder, who wrote her PhD thesis on these verses, says that there are at least thirty-six theories about what the thorn in Paul’s flesh could be. The fact that we do not know what it is enables us all to identify with Paul.

I remember our good friend, the evangelist J. John, saying that he had not just one, but three thorns in the flesh! I don’t think he told us what they all were but it was encouraging for the rest of us to know that, like all of us, he had his struggles.

Whatever Paul’s thorn was, three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. But God said to him, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (v.9). Were it not for the thorn in his flesh, Paul might have become conceited because of the ‘surpassingly great revelations’ (v.7).

As it was, Paul knew he was totally dependent on the Lord. When things are going well, I am tempted to be proud and self-reliant. When I am struggling and know my weaknesses, I become utterly dependent on the Lord. Christ’s power rests on us (v.9). His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Paul has written something absolutely remarkable. He says, ‘It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become’ (vv.7–10, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, help me, like Paul, to delight in my weaknesses because your power is made perfect in weakness. Thank you that your grace is enough for me.

Old Testament

Isaiah 27:1-28:29

Deliverance of Israel

27In that day,

the Lord will punish with his sword —
    his fierce, great and powerful sword—
Leviathan the gliding serpent,
    Leviathan the coiling serpent;
he will slay the monster of the sea.

2 In that day —

“Sing about a fruitful vineyard:
    3 I, the Lord, watch over it;
    I water it continually.
I guard it day and night
    so that no one may harm it.
    4 I am not angry.
If only there were briers and thorns confronting me!
    I would march against them in battle;
    I would set them all on fire.
5 Or else let them come to me for refuge;
    let them make peace with me,
    yes, let them make peace with me.”

6 In days to come Jacob will take root,
    Israel will bud and blossom
    and fill all the world with fruit.

7 Has the Lord struck her
    as he struck down those who struck her?
Has she been killed
    as those were killed who killed her?
8 By warfare and exile you contend with her—
    with his fierce blast he drives her out,
    as on a day the east wind blows.
9 By this, then, will Jacob’s guilt be atoned for,
    and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin:
When he makes all the altar stones
    to be like limestone crushed to pieces,
no Asherah poles or incense altars
    will be left standing.
10 The fortified city stands desolate,
    an abandoned settlement, forsaken like the wilderness;
there the calves graze,
    there they lie down;
    they strip its branches bare.
11 When its twigs are dry, they are broken off
    and women come and make fires with them.
For this is a people without understanding;
    so their Maker has no compassion on them,
    and their Creator shows them no favor.

12 In that day the Lord will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one. 13 And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.

Woe to the Leaders of Ephraim and Judah

28Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
    to the fading flower, his glorious beauty,
set on the head of a fertile valley —
    to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine!
2 See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong.
    Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind,
like a driving rain and a flooding downpour,
    he will throw it forcefully to the ground.
3 That wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
    will be trampled underfoot.
4 That fading flower, his glorious beauty,
    set on the head of a fertile valley,
will be like figs ripe before harvest—
    as soon as people see them and take them in hand,
    they swallow them.

5 In that day the Lord Almighty
    will be a glorious crown,
a beautiful wreath
    for the remnant of his people.
6 He will be a spirit of justice
    to the one who sits in judgment,
a source of strength
    to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

7 And these also stagger from wine
    and reel from beer:
Priests and prophets stagger from beer
    and are befuddled with wine;
they reel from beer,
    they stagger when seeing visions,
    they stumble when rendering decisions.
8 All the tables are covered with vomit
    and there is not a spot without filth.

9 “Who is it he is trying to teach?
    To whom is he explaining his message?
To children weaned from their milk,
    to those just taken from the breast?
10 For it is:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that;
    a little here, a little there. ”

11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
    God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said,
    “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”—
    but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that;
    a little here, a little there —
so that as they go they will fall backward;
    they will be injured and snared and captured.

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
    who rule this people in Jerusalem.
15 You boast, “We have entered into a covenant with death,
    with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
    it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
    and falsehood our hiding place. ”

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.
17 I will make justice the measuring line
    and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
    and water will overflow your hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled;
    your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
    you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it comes it will carry you away;
    morning after morning, by day and by night,
    it will sweep through.”

The understanding of this message
    will bring sheer terror.
20 The bed is too short to stretch out on,
    the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.
21 The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim,
    he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon —
to do his work, his strange work,
    and perform his task, his alien task.
22 Now stop your mocking,
    or your chains will become heavier;
the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has told me
    of the destruction decreed against the whole land.

23 Listen and hear my voice;
    pay attention and hear what I say.
24 When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
    Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
25 When he has leveled the surface,
    does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,
    barley in its plot,
    and spelt in its field?
26 His God instructs him
    and teaches him the right way.

27 Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
    nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
    and cumin with a stick.
28 Grain must be ground to make bread;
    so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it,
    but one does not use horses to grind grain.
29 All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
    whose plan is wonderful,
    whose wisdom is magnificent.

Commentary

His grace comes through Jesus

God loves you. He speaks of his people being like a vine. God tends it, waters it, watches over it and cares for it (27:3–4, MSG).

God in his love, judges. He pulls out the thistles and thorn bushes and burns them up (v.4, MSG). There is much here about God’s judgment. Yet this is described as ‘his strange work’ (28:21). Martin Luther, the great reformer, made the point that while judgment is Christ’s ‘strange work’, salvation is his ‘proper work’.

Isaiah continues to announce judgment on those whose attitude is the very opposite of the apostle Paul. Paul had reason enough for his pride (his ‘surpassingly great revelations’, 2 Corinthians 12:7) but he was, in fact, humble. Ephraim was proud whereas it had no reason for pride.

Isaiah speaks of ‘the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards… the pride of those laid low by wine!’ (Isaiah 28:1). And ‘the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards, will be trampled underfoot’ (v.3). Although the Bible tells us that God gives wine to gladden our hearts (Psalm 104:15), it warns of the dangers of excess.

Here Isaiah describes ‘the pretentious drunks… shabby and washed out and seedy – besotted with wine and whiskey, can’t see straight, can’t talk sense. Every table is covered with vomit. They live in vomit’ (Isaiah 28:1,7–8, MSG). He also speaks against the ‘scoffers’ (v.14, MSG) – in other words the sceptics and cynics.

In the middle of these prophecies of judgment, Isaiah foresees the one who will be the cornerstone of grace: ‘Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: A TRUSTING LIFE WON’T TOPPLE’ (v.16, MSG).

Jesus is the cornerstone. He is the ‘solid granite foundation’ (v.16, MSG). The apostles Paul (Romans 9:33) and Peter (1 Peter 2:4–6) see these verses as referring to Jesus. He is the one on whom the church of living stones is built. He is the one chosen by God but rejected by human beings. Whoever turns to Jesus will never be put to shame (1 Peter 2:4–6). ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree… by his wounds you have been healed’ (1 Peter 2:24).

Jesus is your sure foundation. The one who trusts in him will never be stricken with panic (Isaiah 28:16). This doesn’t mean that you and I will never experience fear, worry or even panic attacks, but it is a reminder, when we are tempted to fear, that Jesus, your sure foundation, is the source of all grace and strength – the one who died so that you can be forgiven and experience his great love, grace and power for you. Whatever weaknesses and difficulties you may be struggling with today, his grace is enough for you.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that I am utterly dependent on you and that as I boast of my weaknesses, your power rests on me. Thank you that ‘a trusting life won’t topple’. Your grace is enough.

Pippa adds

2 Corinthians 12:9

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

This is another of my favourite verses. It is one I have hung on to time and time again when I have not known quite how I was going to get through a situation. God has been gracious and helped me and I have known his mighty power helping me in my life.

Verse of the Day

2 Corinthians 12:9a

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

Mother Teresa quoted in The Power of Prayer (MJF Books, 1998) p.3, taken from United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCB, 2006) p.479–80

Nick Vujicic, Life Without Limits (Waterbrook, 2012) p.viii, 21.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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