I shall never forget that split second, when I finally understood that my prayers and self-induced penitence could never earn favor with God. It only took a single grace-filled “aha” moment for my life to go from darkness to light; From working to resting; From earning my way to simply receiving the gift. In that instant, words like “grace” and “mercy” and “free gift” rang out in my mind in heavenly chorus.
However, as I continued my journey in the Christian life, I soon forgot what almost every Christian I know seems to forget from time to time.
Don’t we all tend to forget that we must continually live out of His grace? How often don’t we try to offer God our help? Especially when the problems seem rather minor, and we feel we can handle it ourselves.
The difficulty arises when problems suddenly go from minor to major. If we have never learned to trust God’s grace in the minor things, how will we trust Him with the majors?
Several years ago a friend of ours shared with us how her brother and his wife were going through a painful separation. When our friend told Him to leave it all with the Lord, and to trust His grace to carry Him through, his response was,
“I try, but every time I leave it with the Lord, I just take it right back with me again.”
Oh, don’t we know what that’s like! I could sympathize with my friend’s brother very well. Why is it that we tend to think we can do a better job than God at bearing our burdens? Is it because we have never learned that His grace is sufficient for us?
Just think about it. If we truly believed God’s grace to be sufficient for us,
Wouldn’t we trust Him to bring us through each crisis that His grace brings in our pathway?
Even the apostle Paul had to learn to stop relying on himself, and draw from the Grace of God instead. We are told in 2 Corinthians 12 that Paul was given a thorn in the flesh; a trial of some sort, which kept raising its ugly head to hinder Paul in his ministry. Paul thought He would be able to serve God better without this trial, so He pleaded with God to take it away. When God did not remove the infirmity, Paul pleaded again…and again! After bringing it to the Lord three times, God said to him,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
Let’s look for a moment at two of the lessons Paul learned about the grace of God:
1. PAUL LEARNED THAT GOD’S GRACE IS ENOUGH
Paul thought he needed his thorn taken away. That irksome thing—whatever it was—was proving to be a hindrance, because he was relying on his own resources to accomplish his own goals. What he didn’t realize was that God was able to accomplish His work anyways, not because of Paul, but in spite of Paul.
Paul came to understand that everything God’s grace supplied for him was enough for him to accomplish everything God had planned for him to do. God’s grace was entirely sufficient for Paul’s purpose in life. Paul didn’t need to add anything to it.
2. PAUL LEARNED TO TAKE PLEASURE IN WEAKNESS AND TRIALS
I love the conclusion Paul comes to after the Lord told him His grace was sufficient for him. He concludes,
“Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 10 (NKJV)
Dear friend it is precisely through our weakest moments, through our greatest trials, and through life’s difficult circumstances that we learn to trust the grace of God.
Paul had learned to walk the limb…to test God, and see if His grace would hold him up. And guess what! It did! He found out that God’s grace not only held him, but it also glorified His weaknesses!
All those trials and burdens can become outlets for God’s grace to shine through if we would only stop relying on ourselves. We must step out on that limb, just as Paul did, and let God’s grace hold us up in every situation as we lean on Him.