God's Grace is Sufficient
Second Corinthians 12:7-12
INTRO: Good morning. We covered in recent lessons - God’s Grace, our faith, works and God’s Law. We said that God's Grace represents everything He did to make salvation available for mankind. Today I would like to examine some more aspects of God’s grace.
Please turn in your bibles to 2 Corinthians the 12th chapter and I will read beginning in verse 7 through verse 12. 2 Corinthians 12:7-12 - “7. And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10. 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. 11. I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. 12. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”
Not long ago while reading this very familiar passage in which the apostle Paul refers to his “thorn in the flesh”, I came to v. 9. I could not get beyond the Lord’s response to Paul’s prayer ... “My grace is sufficient for you.” I wondered to myself could I be comfortable, could I be content, as content as Paul, with that assurance from God? “My grace is sufficient for you.” I wonder, too, just how many times, though knowing those words, might I have responded this way, “Yes Lord, but...” Can I be as accepting, can I be as positive, and can I be as comfortable with that assurance as was the apostle Paul? This morning I’d like to give you some of my thoughts as I reflected on these words “My grace is sufficient for you”. ... with the hope that I am not only able to help you, but also myself.
I. THE GRACE OF GOD – (TITUS 2:11-14). In the book of Titus, in chapter 2, the apostle writes in an interesting way of the grace of God. Go with me there now and let’s read starting in verse 11, “11. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12. teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13. looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14. who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” There are affirmations about the grace of God here. For example, the grace of God … brings salvation
A. God’s grace brings salvation
1. We find this also in the familiar verse in (Ephesians 2:8) – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”
2. The grace of God is what brings salvation. We saw in previous lessons that neither the works of the Law of Moses nor works of merit which you and I might engage in can bring to us that salvation. It is only through the grace of God that salvation comes.
B. The second affirmation in the text in Titus is that - God’s grace has been manifest to humanity (it has “appeared”). If you turn to the gospel of Luke, chapter 2 let’s begin in verse 21 and set the scene Luke 2:21-22 - “And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. 22. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord''”. This is where Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple to do what is required by the law.
1. Next look down to verse 25 and we will begin to read about a man whose name was Simeon. I want to particularly notice what Simeon says about salvation and what his eyes have seen.
2. Luke 2:25-32 – “25. And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28. he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29. "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word;” now listen to these words – “for my eyes have seen Your salvation 31. which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32. a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.''” The salvation of God has been manifest and it has appeared in the form of Jesus Christ.
3. God’s grace appeared in the form of Jesus, His Son – In John chapter 1, verse 14 (John 1:14) we read “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” We beheld Him.
C. God’s grace is instructive. Third in the affirmation in Titus 2 is that the grace of God is instructive, the grace of God has appeared teaching. In the 20th chapter of the book of Acts, at verse 24, listen to this. –
1. (Acts 20:24) – “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” There it is. God has a message for us!
2. There is a message from God - that message is the gospel - that message is a provision of God’s grace. That message is a gift from Him, His grace extended to humanity. Going back to those words from 2nd Corinthians chapter 12, “My grace is sufficient for you.” There are four things I would like to address about this.
II. THE GRACE OF GOD IS SUFFICIENT...
A. The first is that God’s grace is sufficient to provide our salvation
1. The salvation that is provided by God’s grace is all the salvation there is going to be. It is complete; it is perfect, it is sufficient.
2. Any thought of salvation other than that which God’s grace provides is insufficient, ineffective, it is useless.
3. In the 2nd chapter of the book of Hebrews at verse 9 there is this (Hebrews 2:9) – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Jesus’ atoning death is not just for one segment of society, or for one race of people. The grace of God, extended toward humanity, offered the atoning death of Jesus, “for every man”. That is the sufficiency of the salvation God’s grace has provided.
4. We, you and I, need to be very comfortable, with the simplicity of the salvation which God offers.
B. God’s grace is sufficient to provide for our direction
1. The life we have on this earth presents us with so many choices, challenges, and dilemmas.
2. I know that we so often try to meet these things, answer these choices and challenges and dilemmas, with our own knowledge and our own wisdom. All too often the results of these attempts are not satisfying to our needs.
3. I ask you to look at the 20th chapter of the book of Acts again, and I will read from verse 31. (Acts 20:31-34) – “31. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. 32. And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33. I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.” Looking at verse 32 again “… I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up… ”
4. God’s grace is sufficient to provide direction for our lives. God’s grace has provided the up building word - and it is sufficient, all we need, it is perfect. We remember from a very familiar passage (2 Timothy 3:16-17) – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
5. God’s grace is sufficient to provide all of the information we need for our lives. So when we come to the perplexing problems of our lives, we go to the word of God, to the word of His grace, for answers, for direction, for instruction.
C. God’s grace is sufficient to provide for our hope
1. The reality is that life is not easy. I mean there are times when we can just roll along but the reality is that life can be very harsh. There are so many people, perhaps even among us here this morning who lack hope for the present or for the future. That said—let’s go back to Titus for just a minute.
2. To chapter 2 and I want you to look there and note verse 13 while I read starting in verse 11. Titus 2:11-13 - “11. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12. teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13. looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”
3. We recognize that life isn’t easy; life can be very hard for so many of us. Maybe not all the time but there are times when it is most difficult. At those times we find ourselves wondering “what next?” Looking at verse 13 I realize the ultimate hope we have, even if life has been hard, exasperating, is that the Lord is going to come again and receive us to Himself and we will live eternally in heaven, and there won’t be any problems there.
4. I recognize also that we have hope in prayer. Lets read in 1st John chapter 5 verses 14 and 15. (1 John 5:14-15) “14. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him...” We have hope in prayer.
5. And then in Psalms 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” There is our hope. God is with us. We are not abandoned or left alone. God’s grace is sufficient to provide us with hope because He is always with us! I may at times feel like that God is distant, but I have to realize that it is not God who is moving. If God feels distant, I am the one who has moved. He is a very present help… I love those words in the King James, a very present help in trouble.
D. God’s grace is sufficient to provide us with comfort
1. Not the “creature comforts”, that is not the comfort I’m speaking of - but comfort in times of anxiety, distress.
2. In Philippians 4:7 remember that verse 6 talks about prayer and we will read that in a bit, but at verse 7: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – The peace of God, how wonderful it is to be at peace with God and how much we need that in our lives.
3. Peace in this world is certainly a difficult thing. When my day starts I take a moment to catch up on the news on the computer or the radio and the first news of the day is about conflict and turmoil. There was the St Louis school shooter, the homecoming week party shooting in North Carolina, two dead in a shooting in Hamilton Ohio on Tuesday, and the constant death tolls and reports of suffering in the Ukraine and Africa. Then I’m treated to the discouraging news of world leaders in Iran, Russia or North Korea. Not a very comforting picture is it? I sigh and see that this day starts out like so many others in a less then comforting way.
4. These are realities aren’t they? But when I talk about the comfort God’s grace offers, I’m talking about the peace of God which passes all understanding.
5. There is a wonderful passage I would like us to look at now: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” God is called the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, but I want you to particularly look at v. 4. Here I read something I am not sure we emphasize as much as it should be. Note that we are comforted by—God so that we may be able to comfort other people who themselves are in trouble. We understand that Gods comfort may come to us through those who themselves have experienced the comfort of God!
6. Yes, we have the comfort of the scriptures (Romans 15:4) “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”.
a. Yes, and by prayer (Philippians 4:6) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”
b. - but the comfort we can receive from faithful, devoted, mature Christian people is so “here, and now”. How wonderful this is that God provides us comfort through the comforting arm and the encouraging word of a brother or sister who has him or herself also been comforted. God’s grace in this way provides with “real time” comfort and encouragement.
III. BUT DO WE WANT MORE THAN THIS?
A. We are so rooted in this world and in this life
1. We are so caught up in things that are urgent and necessary.
2. Our eyes and our lives are so connected to the temporal – the demanding things.
3. We have bills to pay, doctors’ appointments, children to “taxi”, jobs to work - care to give to sick children, spouses, aging parents.
4. These are our realities - and they just will not wait. It is no wonder life can be so overwhelming, even all consuming.
B. The world can tend to become so very consuming in importance
1. The answers we want are; who’ll pay the bills. Who will relieve the pains. Who will taxi the children, etc. Who is going to do that?
2. To suggest to one who is overwhelmed by life’s realities that God’s grace is sufficient for them may not seem terribly satisfying.
3. “We need real answers to today’s problems ... now!”
4. So too, did the apostle Paul when he prayed, “remove this thorn from me”.
C. I know that there must be a reordering of the way we think.
1. That was, in effect, what the Lord told Paul when He answered Paul’s prayer. Paul wanted to be rid of the hurt, of the constant aggravation, whatever it was. God said “my grace is sufficient for thee”. You see the apostle Paul had to begin to think in a different way.
2. Yes, we have our problems in life you and I. Life has its realities - but if we have a deep and abiding relationship with our Lord God, in keeping with His word, I submit to you that that can change our perspective about our realities and our problems. The problems may not go away but we may be able to see them in a different way, perhaps in a different scale, that permits us to deal with them so much more constructively, and in a way that God would have us to deal with them.
3. Contentment in God’s grace takes the edge off of so many dilemmas.
IV. GOD’s GRACE IS MUCH MORE – Not long ago I read the following:
A. Yet, we suffer from a grace too small. We think grace is pleasant to receive. We think it’s ours to give, as if we could ladle raindrops from Niagara Falls.
B. But Grace isn’t safe: it’ll wreck your world. Grace assaults and grace subverts. Grace grabbed one man and knocked him to the ground. It rendered him blind and healed him three days later. Grace put him in danger time and time again: shipwrecked three times or more, beaten with rods and sticks, stoned and left for dead. Grace used him like a ragdoll, overthrew an empire and saved us all—even him, the foremost of sinners.
1. Grace assaults us in so many ways. We seldom see it coming, and after it’s gone we rarely know what, exactly, just happened. Grace whispers and sometimes yells. Grace asks, and it’s the one telling us how it’s going to be. It binds the strongman.
2. Grace is a strong man’s game. Its God’s game. He invented it and plays it full out. Good luck against Him. Grace huddles with the opponent, calls the play and then runs the ball right up the middle. The enemy knows it’s coming, but Grace executes the play—just try to stop it.
C. There’s only one way to deal with Grace. Surrender.
1. Grace is birthed in a stable and though it is homeless, it welcomes all who hear it and do the will of its Father. Grace pulls back the veil between heaven and earth; it turns the night sky into the glory of God. Grace is where shepherds gather and humble young parents play host to perfect strangers.
2. Grace wanders; it does not build a house. Grace searches for welcome. Grace calls at every door, but never trespasses. He stands at the door and knocks, ready to bring a feast inside. Vagabond grace is the beggar bearing treasure. We welcome the wretch into our home; he reaches into his threadbare bag and pulls out gifts more precious than gold. His satchel holds love, joy and peace. He bestows patience and kindness. He fills the room with the fragrance of goodness, and leaves behind a map to the faithfulness, and gentleness and self-control.
3. Grace is the subtle hand of God before our very eyes. Grace gives thanks for a humble meal, and thousands sit and eat. Grace never condemns, yet somehow commands us to go and sin no more. Grace walks the pavement and it turns to gold.
4. Grace supplies our deepest need. We want a deliverer; God sends grace. We want to see power and the glory; God sends grace and truth. We want a king; God sends a Servant. Grace rules the world without title or rank. Grace has legions at his command, and never once calls for their aid.
5. Grace is never a tyrant—but forever a king.
CONCLUSION: So maybe I just need to have those words etched in mind as a response to things which confront me each day - “my grace is sufficient for thee”.
I mentioned awhile ago that the grace of God brought salvation and that it is instructive. The grace of God having brought salvation in the form of Jesus Christ and His atoning death then instructs us in the way in which we receive the benefits of salvation. It instructs us through the written word that we must believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, repent of our sins, that we must confess our faith in Jesus Christ and then be buried with Christ in baptism. If we do this then we are restored to life in God’s view. Raised to walk, as Romans 6 says, in newness of life. It is in the book folks, it is in the book God has provided by His grace to instruct us.
If there are any here this morning that have not been baptized into Jesus Christ you are withholding from your life the blessing of God’s grace. As we sing this beautiful invitation song, I would urge you to come to the front and say I want to be baptized. That same grace that instructs concerning baptism, how one receives that salvation, also teaches Christian people how to live soberly, righteously and Godly in this present world. If we do not - we are quenching the grace of God. I would say to you my Christian friends that if that applies to you, you should repent of your sins and pray for forgiveness. The grace of God has brought salvation. The only question this morning is where you are relative to that salvation. Whatever your needs, we will do what we can to assist you and we encourage you to come while we stand and sing.
Song #644—Trust And Obey
Taken from sermon by Cecil A. Hutson, 06 August 2006, quote from Ray Hollenbach
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