I don’t like difficulties of any sort. Take physical pain, for instance. When I have a headache, I want it to end. When my joints ache, I want the hurt to stop.
I don’t like relational difficulties. Or financial. Or anything that complicates my life on a boat. My human nature would rather do life without difficulties. But reality is—that’s not going to happen. Difficulties are a part of life, so we’d best learn to deal with them well.
Paul dealt with difficulties
The apostle Paul’s experience with difficulties earned him a wealth of wisdom. He shared some in 1 Corinthians 12:9—”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.”
In the verses preceding this one, Paul talked about struggling with a thorn in the flesh. No one knows exactly what the problem was, but one theologian says it was no thumbtack-size issue. It was more like a tent stake. Paul prayed three times for God to remove it, but still it remained.
God addressed Paul’s difficulties
The phrase, “But he said to me…” indicates that God heard Paul’s prayers and responded to him in a personal way. The verb tense used for the word “said” suggests an ongoing action as well as finality. God said it, therefore it was a done deal.
When God speaks, His word stands forever. When He makes a promise, it cannot be broken. Paul could count on God’s word to him, and he could count on it continuing to be fulfilled so long as the need existed.
God gave Paul a promise: “my grace is sufficient for you.” The wee pronoun “my” takes on noteworthy significance when we understand more about the One to whom it refers.
God, the One making the promise, has a limitless supply of anything His children need, and He is generous in nature. Because of who God is, Paul knew he would have all the grace needed to overcome his difficulty. If the thorn weighed like a burden on his shoulders, then God would give him enough strength to bear it.
God’s amazing grace
What is this “grace” that God promised to give Paul? One definition says it is “God’s supernatural provision for our every need when we need it.” God’s grace was never intended to help Paul merely survive or endure. It was a gift to help him rise above his difficulties, even flourish in the midst of them.
The promise contains another couple of gems. Consider the little word “is.” God did not say, “My grace might be sufficient,” indicating a question about whether or not it’s enough. He did not say, “My grace was sufficient,” indicating that the supply had run dry.
God did not say, “My grace will be sufficient,” implying that Paul would have to wait for it. He said, “My grace is sufficient.” It would be available in the present. Always. At any given moment when Paul needed it.
Then comes the word “sufficient.” This means “enough, ample, plenty, or abundant.” The opposite of “sufficient” is “inadequate.” God’s supply of undeserved favor available to Paul was said to be ample for the need. In contrast, Paul’s resources to cope with his problem were insufficient, inadequate, not enough. And it was in that place of lack that he would experience God’s abundant resources.
One theologian says it humorous to think God’s grace could be anything but sufficient for a mere mortal. He says God was being modest when He used the word “sufficient.”
It’s also noteworthy that there are no limitations placed on God’s sufficiency. The promise didn’t say, “My grace is sufficient for the pain in your back” or “My grace is sufficient for your headache this afternoon.” It’s open-ended—“My grace is sufficient for you—for whatever your need.”
Finally, the promise ends with stating who the recipient is. God could have said, “My grace is sufficient” and left it at that, but He personalized it for Paul’s benefit. “This gift of grace? It’s for you, my friend. It’s for you.”
God promised Paul an ample supply of divine favor to help him rise above the chronic difficulty he lived with day after day, and Paul acknowledged his absolute dependence on God’s grace to see him through. He confessed this place of total dependency as a good place, for that’s where he experienced God in deeper ways.
Remember these things about God’s grace
This verse is so packed with life-changing truth for us today! None of us like pain. None of us enjoy feeling weak. But dealing with difficulties is a fact of life, and we need to know how to overcome their potentially negative impact.
When we face hard things, let’s go back to God’s promise in 1 Corinthians 12:9—“My grace is sufficient for you.” And let’s remember these things:
- God is the One making the promise. His resources are limitless. His wisdom is infinite. His love for us is beyond our scope of imagination. We can trust His ways even when we don’t like them. And we can trust the reliability of His promise. He said it. Let’s believe it.
- God’s grace is His supernatural provision for us, and it’s ample—more than enough—to help us rise above whatever we face.
- God’s grace is available in the present moment. We don’t have to wonder about whether or not it will be there when we need it. It just is.
- God’s grace is for you. It’s for you, God said so!
Isn’t it freeing to know that God doesn’t expect us to face difficulties in our own strength? He’s there for us. The weaker we are, the stronger we become when we draw from His supply of grace.
May I pray for you?
“Almighty God of grace, thank You for caring for us so well. Thank You for providing Your supernatural gift of grace to help us when we’re weak. Grant us the humility to accept that gift and to learn to do life in Your strength. In Jesus’ name, amen.”