“1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
In the passage above, the Apostle Paul provides for us a glimpse of the sovereign sustaining grace of God. In sustaining grace, I’m referring simply to grace provided by God, at the time we need it, in the amount we need, such that it sustains us through difficulty, be it trials, tragedies, or tests of faith. In Paul’s account, he had been given a vision of heaven, one in which he was instructed to keep silent about. In God’s omniscience, He knew that such a grand vision would create in fallen, sinful man (even one as righteous as Paul) the propensity to boast, so in order to humble Paul, we are told he received from God a thorn in the flesh. Many commentators have speculated about what this could be, but that may be an unnecessary point of contention. The real focus of this passage is the grace of God. Note, Paul pleaded with God for removal of the thorn, yet God persisted in saying that His grace was sufficient and that through Paul’s weakness the Lord’s power would be made perfect. Simply stated, Paul’s struggle, whatever it may have been, caused him to rely on God’s strength and not his own. And that’s where sustaining grace comes in. Paul was able to rely on God because of grace. Certainly his own strength was emptied, such that his reliance was solely on the strength of God through the grace of God. A powerful reminder for us indeed.
What are you struggling with believer? Health? You need grace. The loss of a loved one? You need grace. An unwelcomed change in circumstances? God’s grace is sufficient. Marital, financial, employment, relationships, the strengthening of your faith. All require the sovereign sustaining grace of God. May that be your prayer today, that God would supply grace in your time of need, such that you can say with Paul, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Grace and Peace to you!