As the Lord keeps me digging onto this passage in 2 Corinthians 12 we have arrived at the well-known and the often-quoted verse 9. Quoted I believe at times erroneously. ‘My grace is sufficient.’ NIV.
Observe that there was an answer to Pauls cry, which we can deduce with confidence that the Lord answers our prayers. Therefore, it is incorrect to say the God does not answer prayer. From this we can draw out that we must keep persevering in prayer until we hear the answer from the Father. Persevering prayer is lacking from the lips of many saints today for many of us are time poor and lack the ability to concentrate on the essential things of this world.
From the answer we can infer that the infirmity, as we believe Pauls thorn to be, was not removed as Paul requested. Rather a more superior way was shown to Paul in that he was provided with a new way. He was informed that he was not under, but over, that he was the head, not the tail, that he was the victor, not the defeated. That the Lord was preparing a table in the mist of his enemies as the Psalmist wrote so may eons before.
I cannot go past this verse without noting that Gods grace was sufficient for Paul to continue in the work of his calling. That the infirmity would not hinder his calling to the Gentiles but increase his effectiveness bringing enhancement to his ministry. In this sense he would not only be a victor but more than a conqueror despite his infirmity.
Does this mean that God’s grace would still be sufficient if Paul forfeited his willingness to heed Gods calling as an apostle to the Gentiles?
His infirmity which the world would see as a handicap and hindrance to the work of his calling, in fact becomes Pauls greatest strength by the spoken word from God. This is best illustrated in the battle of David and Goliath. David’s naivety and lack of battle hardness was a weakness, not only a weakness but his weapon, that of a sling was a handicap for he had no recognized armour, spear or sword.
Those who lacked faith saw only David’s weakness and gullibility. But David like Paul rejoiced in his perceived weakness. David like Paul was able to boast in his perceived weakness for he had proven that when he is weak, then God enables him to be victorious.
Grace in the Greek is charis meaning good-will, favour and loving kindness. The meaning in Hebrew has a wider definition including healing, help, being lifted, finding refuge, strength and salvation. These Biblical understandings do not reflect our modern understanding of grace as illustrated in the New Penguin English Dictionary – def one = elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action of. def two = graceful, appealing, or proper behaviour. Any reference to God comes in at def five.
The common mainstream definition of grace is ‘unmerited favour.’ But I sense that even this definition falls short of Gods understanding of the word, for I believe that not even the combined definition of the Hebrew and Greek can do justice to the concept of God’s grace. As an aside I prefer the word favour.
At the beginning I mentioned that many use this verse rather loosely and erroneously to apply to a situation that they do not fully comprehend and understand. I sincerely believe that this verse cannot be used loosely of any situation, unless like Paul we have heard the Lord speak these words into our spirit.
The word translated ‘sufficient’ in the NIV has the sense of contentment and satisfaction. In Pauls case there is the strong hint that you do not need to ask for the thorns removal for you should be comfortable carrying the thorn.