I want you to open your Bible to 2 Corinthians chapter 12, and I want to read a passage to you that is going to be the focus of our discussion together...2 Corinthians chapter 12 and verses 7 through 10.
We begin in verse 7, as the Apostle Paul writes, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, to keep me from exalting myself. Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me on each of those three occasions, by the way, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ's sake for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Now if ever there was a passage in direct opposition to the prosperity message, that's it. There is nothing here about success and wealth and comfort and ease and having it your way and seeing the fulfillment of all your dreams and desires and longings. This is about suffering and suffering is the path to spiritual victory.
I want you to focus on the very familiar statement in verse 9, and that's where we're going to begin. “My grace is sufficient for you.” My grace is enough, My grace is all you need no matter how difficult the issue you face. We're very familiar with the concept of grace, very, very familiar. We talk about it, we sing about it, we use it repeatedly in our prayers and in our Christian conversation and we even go to a church named Grace Community Church. This is perhaps the most used theological term in the New Testament. It is a magnificent word that appears 155 times, as a matter of fact, in the New Testament. This Greek term, grace, the word is charis, it means basically a generous benefit given, a favor bestowed. And in the sense of the New Testament and New Testament theology, it is a generous benefit given, a favor bestowed to someone who could never earn it. This defines our relationship to God. We are awakened from our spiritual sleep and our spiritual death by a work of God that could only be called a work of grace, undeserved favor. We are redeemed, regenerated, adopted, justified, converted, born again, pick whatever term you want in the panoply of terms related to salvation and you will always be able to attach by grace because we have no merit by which to earn any of God's favors given to us in our salvation. We are even sanctified by grace because we are now no more able to earn our way to spiritual maturity than we were to earn our way to salvation, that too is a work of grace. And our glorification in the future is a work of grace so that throughout all eternity the great wonder of all wonders is that we will be in heaven where God will pour out the fullness of His grace upon us forever and ever and ever and ever and we will never get over the fact that all of this is by grace. It is favor, it is benefit, it is blessing unearned and undeserved.
Now the New Testament talks about this. As I said, you have the word 155 times and it tells us so much about grace, we are familiar with it in the general sense. Let me help you get a little more specifically familiar with it as we look at this passage...