2 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
We often think of Paul as a super Christian who did everything that God expected of him and never suffered any disappointments in life because God blessed him. But Paul suffered from physical problems that he begged the Lord to take away. And God refused him.
We don’t know exactly what Paul’s ailment was. Some have suggested that his eyesight was failing. It could have complications due to being beaten and left for dead, being shipwrecked three times, or sitting in cold, dark prisons. Or it could have been any number of other things; Paul just refers to it as his “thorn in the flesh.” It was an ailment that apparently wasn’t going to get better on its own without the Lord healing it.
Paul’s ailment caused him to rely on God’s power and not his own. Every time Paul tried to do something but couldn’t he was reminded that God was in control. If God wanted him to do something, He would provide a way for it to happen.
These reminders caused Paul to boast about something that most people would complain about. They were constant reminders of God’s goodness when God provided ways of working around his physical short comings. And they were also a reminder not to grumble because things could be worse.
Paul had God’s grace and that’s all that he needed in order to accomplish whatever task God gave him to do.
2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Often at Christmas we focus only on Jesus’ humble birth. It is the ultimate in human interest stories – a poor baby who had to be delivered in a stable because the inn was full. Imagine the headlines today if this happened. Some would slam the innkeeper and the capitalist system that forced the baby to be born in a manger. Others would see the compassion in offering the manger when there was nowhere else to stay.
Jesus gave up far more than a bit of comfort to become a man however. He left the majesty of heaven to experience life at its worst. In His life, Jesus was mocked, threatened, rejected, betrayed, lied to, lied about, beaten, and ultimately executed in a way that was so barbaric that Roman citizens could not even be subjected to it.
But Jesus did it all for us. His pain is our gain. We now have access through grace to everything that Jesus gave up.
Sometimes we don’t feel very rich in life. There are bills to pay and needs to fill and charities to give to. We’re not promised to be made rich monetarily. If this were the case, people would flock to Christianity like a get rich quick scheme.
Grace is something that we can never buy and gives us a richness that surpasses financial security. We have a God whom we can rely on no matter how difficult things become in life. And we have a home in heaven awaiting us. This is true richness.
2 Corinthians 1:12
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.
We must be careful that when we conduct our Christian lives that we don’t do so according to worldly wisdom. According to worldly wisdom turning the other cheek is going to have us taken advantage of time and time again. According to worldly wisdom the strong and powerful are blessed, not the meek and lowly.
When we live our lives, we must do so in recognition of God’s grace. This does not only mean telling other’s about His grace. It means that we must remember how much we have been forgiven.
Jesus tells a parable of a man who was forgiven a great debt and then holds a small debt over another person. When the forgiver of the large debt founds out, he has the man thrown into prison for not forgiving the small debt.
We must look at other people through God’s eyes, remembering that we have been given a lot of grace. It may not make any earthly sense to forgive someone who has wronged us greatly and may even have the potential to wrong us again. But when we act according to God’s grace, we remember that we’ve been forgiven a lot when there was no reason to forgive us either.
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
We often think that bigger is better and that greater numbers is a sign of God’s blessing. Quite often just the opposite is true however. Jesus taught that the meek and poor and spirit were blessed.
Of the seven churches in Revelation, only two are praised without reservation, Smyrna the persecuted church and Philadelphia the smallest church.
God chooses to work with a small number or a remnant far more often than a majority. When Christianity is in the minority people must rely on God completely. This was the lesson that God taught Gideon when He reduced the army down to only 300 men. A remnant means that people must rely on God because they cannot trust the outside world to protect them.
Christianity has been its weakest when its numbers were the strongest. In the 300’s AD Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome and the Holy Roman Empire began. Christianity became accepted and soon it was a national way of life instead of a personal conviction.
When we get frustrated today by small numbers, we need to remember that God can do great things in spite of our numbers and it can even be a blessing as we must rely on Him instead of other things. It is God’s grace that sustains us and not a matter of personal strength.
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Some mistake God’s grace as a license to sin because all is forgiven. Paul had to deal with the notion that people should sin because it brought about more grace and if grace was good, more grace was better.
Nothing could be further from the truth however. Because we are under grace and no longer subject to the law does not mean that we can do as we please now. If anything, it means that we should strive even harder to live a righteous life because we have the Holy Spirit as an aid and guide.
Paul goes on to explain in Romans 6 that we were once slaves to sin. We were under its control and could not help but sin. Because of grace we are free from sin but this doesn’t mean that we are free to do as we please.
Instead we are now slaves to righteousness. We want to do what is right because God is our Lord and Jesus our Savior. While we continue to struggle with sin, we should no longer be mastered by it and instead bow only to our Lord.