Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 14, 2013
Is the grace of God enough to get us through tough times?
Now and then I hear a Christian say rather glibly, “No matter what you have to face, God’s grace is sufficient.” Though I believe that is true I know there have been times in my own life when I was not sure. When truly bad things happen to good people, even the best of us will wonder if God’s grace will be enough to get us through the heartache and pain.
It is for that reason that I thank God the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians is included in the Bible. It is a short letter but it contains a powerful message. Without that word from the Lord every persecuted Christian might be tempted to wallow in self-pity. Fortunately we can read Paul’s description of the troubles he faced as a servant of Christ. Upon reading that most of us will admit that God allowed Paul to suffer far more than we have suffered.
Years ago a friend stunned me with these words, “The people who have hurt me the most have been my friends within the church.” I was shocked because I knew the man to be a devout Christian. Over the years I have lived into an understanding of his sad comment.
I too have been hurt deeply by the sharp tongues of fellow Christians. But I realize that I have also hurt Christian friends with my own tongue. And while I am quick to excuse myself I recognize that my “suffering” is hardly worth mentioning when compared to that of the Apostle Paul. Every time I read again what Paul endured I hear the Inner Voice asking, “How dare you complain? You should be ashamed of yourself.” And I usually am ashamed.
But back the question: Is the grace of God always enough to get us through the troubles we face? I can give only one answer: Yes, yes, yes – God’s grace is sufficient no matter how harsh our troubles! Even when doubt comes knocking on my heart’s door I have to say, “Trouble, you are not greater than my God. And his grace is sufficient for every need I face!”
The amazing thing is that God’s power can be made “perfect” in our weakness. And we must not forget that the power of Christ is just as available to us as it was to Paul. That being true, we too can handle insults, hardships, persecution, and trouble in such a way that Christ receives glory and honor. The question is: are we willing to trust God to the point that his all-sufficient grace becomes transparent, or active, in our daily lives?
Paul shames me when he declares that
he had decided to “boast” of the things that showcased his weaknesses. He even
admitted that once he had been “a basket case,” having to run for his life when
his friends lowered him in a basket from a window in the wall in
How many of us are mature enough to boast of our weaknesses? I find it hard to do. We are sons and daughters of a culture that teaches us to value impressive “credentials” and counterfeit “honors.” Paul had lost any confidence in his own achievements; the only thing he valued now was his relationship to Jesus Christ. Knowing Christ and serving him was all that mattered.
As we mature in faith we gain a new perspective about what really matters. Our desires and our values change. We cherish our acceptance by God and no longer thirst for “the applause of men.” I was proud one day to be included in a list of “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.” I bought the book so my friends could see how important I was. Years later I realized how foolish I had been to value such a thing and threw the book in the trash bin. Though we may not become perfect in this life at least we can outgrow some of our foolishness.
Suffering is evidently God’s plan for our lives. He allows and uses suffering to make us better people but more useful servants of others. Like Paul we may know the pain of having a “thorn in the flesh” that for some reason God will not remove.
Why does God not answer our prayers to deliver us from our thorns in the flesh? I have no answer other than this: He does answer our prayers; He says no. And for reasons that may not become clear to us this side of heaven.
The great lesson Paul teaches us is this: He learned to depend not on himself but on the grace of God. Here is one of the great secrets of the Christian life. The Christian life demands a vital union with Christ. Life works God’s way when we live in Christ and welcome his living in us. Shipwreck without rescue is the ultimate end of those who trust in their own strength instead of the grace of God.
Pride leads us to trust in our own cleverness rather than admit our weakness and our need of God’s grace. But when we realize the futility of showcasing our own strength we can admit our weaknesses and turn in simple faith to Christ. When we do he is willing to let his power dwell in us and give us victory in the midst of our troubles.
Then, and only then, can we celebrate the eternal truth affirmed by Paul that no matter what we must face, God’s grace is always sufficient! + + +