Grace is Sufficient- 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

We have seen that Paul’s thorn in the flesh most likely was in the form of false apostles, false teachers in the church who openly opposed him and cause him much difficulty in his ministry. We then find, in verse 8, that Paul tells us that :”Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me”. The word translated pleaded here is parakaleo, a term in Greek referring to one who presents a case in a court of law, so we find that three times Paul “presented his case” to the Lord. We can be relatively sure that Paul felt he had a good case, that his reasoning was sound and that it would certainly make sense for God to agree with him and remove his “thorn”. Much to his surprise, Paul finds that the thorn is still very much there. To Paul, and to us, you would think God would want to rid His church of false teachers, that God would want to wipe out those who were leading His people astray. But we find here that this is not the case. Paul asks three times that these false teachers be removed and done away with, that his major irritation be removed, and God does not do so, even though that seems to Paul to be the best and most sensible thing for God to do. It turns out that God has a purpose even for those who oppose Him, for the answer Paul receives is that “My grace is sufficient for you”. The Greek word translated “sufficient” here is arkeo, which literally means “to be of service”. God tells Paul that He will not remove the thorn because the thorn is from God in the first place, it is a gift of grace, given to Paul to “be of service” to him, that the thorn was actually for his good. The thorn is from God and has a purpose, so we learn here that God’s grace often functions not by removing difficult and irritating circumstances, but by bringing us through them and making us better in the process. We must remember that God’s purpose for us is not to make us happy, but rather to make us holy, and sometimes He needs to make us unhappy in order to help us become holy. God then reveals to Paul a wonderful secret, that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness”. The Greek word power here is dunamis, which refers to ability or capability, and the word perfect here is telos, which refers to something fulfilling its purpose or reaching its goal. What God is telling Paul here is that God is only able to use people to fulfill their full and true purpose who are “weak”, who realize they cannot be all God created them to be and do all God calls them to do in their own strength. As we saw in the post on Paul’s flesh, he was a person who was very confident in his own ability to do things, very confident in “self” and in his own strength and ability to do things and to succeed. It was this “flesh” which God was working to help Paul overcome, and the thorn was part of God’s plan to help Paul do this. We then find that Paul learned the lesson the thorn was sent to teach him, for he tells us that he will no longer boast about his strengths (as his flesh was prone to do) but about his weakness, because it is only through “weak” people that God is able accomplish His purpose and fulfill His plan for their lives. God sends these kinds of “thorns” to “weaken” us, to help us overcome our tendency to rely on the flesh and learn to rely on Him. We then find that this is a lifelong lesson, that Paul learned to “delight” (present tense indicating an ongoing process) in the things that made him “weak’, that made him learn to rely not on his flesh and his former ways of doing things, for it is only as he becomes more and more aware of his “weakness” that he actually becomes strong. It is only as he realizes he is not able to be all God created him to be and do all God called him to do in his own strength that God is able to work through him to do so. So we see here that not all “hardships” and “difficulties” and “opposition” are from the devil, for the devil does not seek to weaken the flesh and the self but to build them up, keeping us reliant on flesh and self to keep us from God’s purpose for our lives . Sometimes hardships, difficulties and opposition are from God, gifts of His grace, which is always sufficient to carry us through the difficulties, making us better and stronger in the process, helping us to learn to rely not on the flesh and the self but to rely on God alone, for only then is he able to fulfill His true purpose and calling in our lives.

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