Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Power in Weakness
Although Paul's request for the removal of this thorn was denied, Jesus ("the Lord") gave him profound reassurance that his grace would be sufficient to sustain Paul through this trial. This I believe to be the great message that reoccurs throughout the letter--that God may not remove trials from our lives, but will grant us sufficient grace in order to endure them. Think about what Jesus prayed when he was in the garden, right before his crucifixion, "And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36) The gospel of Mark says that Jesus prayed "the same words" three times. And here in Paul's letter, we see the same pattern of prayer, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me." (2 Cor. 12:8) The Father did not remove the cup of wrath that Jesus drank on the cross, nor did Jesus remove from Paul the "thorn in the flesh" that tormented him. In both cases, Jesus and Paul, were given the grace of God to endure their trials. Did not Jesus have to suffer by becoming weak, in order to be resurrected by the power of God? Jesus' reply to Paul's plea was a reminder of the gospel. The same gospel which Paul exhorted the Corinthians to believe in was what Jesus, in his response to Paul, told Paul to remember. The tense of the verb "is" ("my grace is sufficient") is in the present tense, not the past tense, meaning that Jesus' grace is continually being dispensed. The power of God is made perfect in weakness, and that perfection was first displayed in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Himself who "although he was rich, yet for [our] sake became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (8:9) Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on behalf of believers so that the righteousness of God would be imputed to their account. What a beautiful, applicable message!
When we think of the trials and hardships that we face in this life, even imagining that we cannot possibly live on, we are reminded that God's power (through his grace) is sufficient. It is sufficient for Jesus, for Paul, and for us. It will sustain us, invigorate us, humble us, and make us thankful that we have a God who is able to do "far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). So whatever you are facing today, remember that God's supply of grace is unending and he loves to distribute it to all who will receive it by faith.