“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. 5 On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. 6 For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
As with many things regarding our faith and our Christian walk, there is a fine line which separates the two sides of what Paul is talking about in today’s text. Paul talks about a messenger of Satan, in his flesh, which was to keep him from exalting himself. Some speculate that Paul had a problem with his vision and it was this that he implored the Lord to take from him. Paul says the answer he received was not a healing but rather, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” This doesn’t seem to line up with what Jesus says in John 14: 13-14: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Or Mark 11:22-24: “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” Why was it then that Paul’s prayer, his imploring the Lord was not answered in healing? Perhaps, in Paul’s case we can find the answer in his own words. He said that this “thorn in the flesh” was there to “keep me from exalting Myself.” 1 John 5:14-15: This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. If Paul recognized the potential for self exaltation in his own heart then surely God, who judges the heart, would have recognized it as well. So was it that it was not according to the will of God that Paul be healed, so that he would remain humble and dependant on God. Paul had a tremendous calling and purpose in and for God’s kingdom, a purpose he could not possibly fulfill in his own strength. Paul’s conclusion was: Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
How do we, in our own lives, know where the line between accepting God’s sufficient grace and not having enough faith to receive what God would do for us is. Along with the previous scriptures, asking in Jesus name, asking believing and asking according to the will of God, perhaps we also should consider what Jesus tells us in a parable about prayer in Luke 18:1-8: Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying,“In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Paul says he implored the Lord three times. The widow, in the parable, kept coming, she was persistent, even relentless in her pursuit of justice. Paul said it was the Lord Himself who said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness,” and that’s why he was content. We too, like Paul should accept nothing short of the Lord Himself telling us no to our requests. Unless we have heard God Himself say: “My grace is sufficient for you.” We should persist.
If our prayer in unanswered, we should examine our heart to see if there is anything which is hindering the answer to our prayer. In Mark 11:22-26, when Jesus spoke of moving mountains, He also said: “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” Along with pride, unforgiveness is one of the greatest hindrances to prayer. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus response to how many times we should forgive someone is: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” According to that standard, how many of us could say that it is not possible that unforgiveness would hinder our prayers?
As long as we are in these bodies of flesh, we will never attain perfection. So we will always have to deal with the line between faith to receive all God has for us and His sufficient grace for our weakness. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” There, yoked to Christ we will find both the faith to receive all that God has and the sufficient grace to be content in our own weakness. Yoked to Christ He will grant us what we ask and He will do what we cannot do.
May the prayer of the psalmist, in Psalm 26, and the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray be our prayer:
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth… I will go about Your altar, O Lord, That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving And declare all Your wonders. O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house And the place where Your glory dwells… ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ Amen.