2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 46
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’ve been talking about “Suffering for the Sake of Christ.” This is part 3. But today the message is entitled, “Ce Mare Har.” Do you know what that means? It means “What (Ce) Great (Mare) Grace (Har)”; What Great Grace.|
Ce Mare Har (What Great Grace) (2 Cor 12:9-10)
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 12. We’re going to be looking at two verses today. I told you we just sort of brushed by verse 9 and I want to make sure we don’t do that. It’s a very powerful verse. We’re going to look at verses 9-10.
Well, we’ve been talking about “Suffering for the Sake of Christ.” But today the message is entitled, “Ce Mare Har.” Do you know what that means? It means “What (Ce) Great (Mare) Grace (Har)”; What Great Grace. I want us to talk about that today.
At the finish of one of our sessions there in the conference that we had in Romania—over 100 pastors were there from all over Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, all the way from Moscow—the light came on in their understanding. You have to understand that people in that part of the world only know the law. They do not understand grace and, oh, how I wish you could have been there when they began to pray. You see, when they finish a service they’re not in a hurry to get out. When they finish a service, they stand in respect and honor of God’s Word and then they will pray in actual response to what the Spirit has revealed to their hearts.
And I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It so blessed me later on to hear the actual words of what was prayed during that time, but then suddenly, without any announcement whatsoever, somebody, and it was a male, strong voice, led out in ce mare har. That’s a song that they have over there. It’s very much like our “Amazing Grace.” I had already learned “ce mare har.” I don’t know the rest of the words, so every time they’d come to those three words I could sing it with them. But the way they sang, this happened over and over in the two conferences you sent me to preach in Romania.
By the way, I want you to understand something about me. When I go out to preach the Word of God, the word of grace, I always preach that in every conference I do, no matter where it is, I always feel like I’m taking you with me. I never want you to think that I’m out doing my own thing. I don’t want you to think that. But what I’m doing is extending the message that we hear here every week, week after week. And I’m trying to get it out, not only in our nation but around the world to people who have never heard it once.
In these two conferences 70% of the people, by the way, were brand new people who had never heard this message. The message of living grace; the hope of glory; Christ in us; the hope of glory, traveled all the way to Moscow. God allowed me to preach to over 200 pastors in two different conferences literally, like I said, from all over, but it affected the whole nation of Romania; it affected Moldova; and it affected Moscow. And the response is already coming back.
One pastor in Moldova—which I hope you understand is a communist country under a different name and the mafia completely runs that country—one pastor wrote back and said, “My life will never be the same.” Another pastor came to me and in his broken English said, “This message is so critical to be heard in all of Europe, but particularly in the eastern bloc.” Folks, they saw it. It’s incredible how you can have four days set aside and people see it so quickly. I asked myself a thousand times on the way home, “What made them see it so quickly, when over here in our country sometimes people hear it, it goes in one ear and out the other, they don’t even know what they’re listening to?” And the only thing that hit me was that over there they are more desperate. Over there they have been weakened to the point that their hearing has moved up in its sensitivity to God’s Word about 10 octaves.
Folks, they got it. And it was incredible to watch. Ce mare har; What great grace. It’s this grace that we’ve been talking about in 2 Corinthians and I think it’s one of the best places that we see in the apostle Paul, what he’s taught. He’s taught it, modeled it, but particularly in 2 Corinthians. We’ve seen in this book how that it was God’s grace that comforted him in the midst of intense affliction.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” It was God’s grace that was Paul’s adequacy in everything that he did and that produced life in those who would hear.
In verse 4 of chapter 3 it says, “And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
It was God’s grace that kept Paul from losing heart in his ministry. In chapter 4:1, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we receive mercy, we do not lose heart.”
It was God’s grace that caused his message to be only of Christ and never of himself. It says in verse 5 of chapter 4, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”
It was God’s grace that was the treasure within his weak, frail flesh. Nothing more than an empty clay pot. In 4:7, “but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”
It was God’s grace that kept his focus on the glory that was to come. In 4:16-17 it says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
It was God’s grace that kept his ministry from being discredited. It says in 6:1-3, “And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for he says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you;’ behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’—giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited.”
It was God’s grace that comforted him in times of emotional struggle, and Paul had those emotional struggles. In 7:5-6, “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
It was God’s grace that was so overpowering in his life that he would only boast in the Lord. He just wouldn’t boast in himself. He says in 10:17, “But he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.”
It was God’s grace that taught him the secret of being weakened through many hardships so that he could be strong in Christ, and we just covered this in 11:23ff. It says, “Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so, in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, thorough many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertain to my weakness.”
It was God’s grace that allowed him to be taken into the third heaven, but also, on the flip side of that, it was God’s grace that put a thorn in his side that tormented him night and day. In 12:7, “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!”
Paul experienced the glory of this ce mare har, God’s great grace, in his weakness so that he chose to only glory in that weakness. And in our verse 9, “And He has said to me, ‘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.” Again, ce mare har, what great grace.
You know the wonderful thing about this is? If you’re here today and you’re not walking in that grace, you can experience the same grace that Paul talks about. That grace is a free gift of God only through the Lord Jesus Christ. And if you are a believer, listen, you can experience the grace. I want to put a microscope on verse 9 and also verse 10 and that’s going to be our message today because I don’t want to run through this. I don’t want to assume we’ve picked it up. I want to make sure we’re hearing what the Word of God is saying.
The source of this great grace
Verses 9-10 there are four things I want you to see about this great grace that, hopefully, will bless and encourage your heart. First of all, the source of this great grace. I love in verse 9, “And He (God) has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’” The “He”, obviously God, but Christ is God, but it’s Christ in the context. “Christ has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’” Just like he said in John 14:27, “My peace I give unto you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
The word “grace” is a beautiful word. If you study that you find out that the first way it was ever used, before it ever got baptized into the Christian vocabulary, the word “grace” really means “to rejoice.” It comes from the root meaning “to rejoice.” It’s the word charis. When it was first used in secular situations it was used to describe a beautiful person. If you said somebody is beautiful, you’d say “That person is full of grace.” But then it began to be more defined. They began to realize that a beautiful person was one who gives to others. So they said, “Yes, he’s beautiful, because look what he does. An example of that is he gives.” But then it continued to extend itself and it came to mean “He gives, yes, but he gives to people who don’t deserve it and could never pay it back.”
So grace in its very origin was not just what a person did as we think of it, but it was who a person was. The undeserved and enabling grace that we experience in Christ was first brought into our Christian vocabulary to describe Who God is and what He wants to do in the individual human life. Each context in which it is used in Scripture just further shapes and defines the word “grace.” It takes it into a deeper, more profound meaning. It’s defined in this passage by the word “sufficient.” It’s the sufficiency to supply what is lacking in our weakness.
But God says, “It’s My grace. It’s My grace.” You know, in our country particularly people don’t seem to realize that there is no other source of this grace. All of us can experience the weakness, but how many people really experience His grace? So many people, including believers, are looking in all the wrong places. It’s only found in Christ; the same One that saves us is the same One that continues to enable us to be everything He demands in our lives.
The source of all of God’s grace is the Lord Jesus Christ who lives within the believer. That’s right: it was given by God the Father to believers in Jesus Christ. It says in 1 Corinthians 1:4, “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.” So all the potential of experiencing that grace is living within us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It can only be known and experienced as we learn to yield fully to Him. That’s what worship is, by the way. When we yield ourselves to Him and to the Lordship of Christ in our life, then we’re chained to His chariot and that’s when we experience His victory in His grace and His triumph in our life.
The Corinthians had repented in chapter 7 and they knew this grace. They knew the grace of repentance. They knew a brand new meaning of repentance, the godly sorrow had led them to repentance and now they’ve turned back towards Paul. And so Paul says in 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You’ve experienced this grace. You know what I’m talking about. This grace can be experienced.
I guess the applying question today would be: are you experiencing that grace today? Since you got up this morning have you experienced consciously the grace of God? In your weakness have you experienced His strength in your life? Ce mare har; what great grace. Jesus is the source of all God’s grace. Don’t ever forget that: it’s nowhere else. The church is not a source of God’s grace. Christ is the source of God’s grace. We are His church.
The strength of God’s great grace
Secondly, the strength of God’s great grace. It says in verse 9, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace’—My Grace, My grace—‘is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” You see, it’s this grace, found no other place, that sufficiently gives us the ability to bear up under whatever comes our way, in the unannounced circumstances that life throws at us. Joshua in Joshua 1:8 was in a different covenant. God was with him but not in him, but the principle was the same. God said, “Joshua, I’m going to teach you how to be strong and courageous. Now when you cross over the Jordan River with this two and a half million people, I want you to meditate on My Word. I don’t want you to lean from it to the left, or lean from it to the right, and when you get over there, you won’t fall apart. When those situations come at you and you don’t know, you’re on sealed orders, Joshua. You know that faith will carry you through, but you’re on sealed orders. You don’t know what’s ahead of you. But when it comes, it’s unannounced and when it comes it will be a surprise and it will hit you from all sides. But when it comes, you’ll have success.”
Now that word “success” doesn’t mean what we think it means. It’s translated “twelve times wise and twelve times understanding” in the Old Testament. He’s talking about something different from what the world says success is. He says, “Joshua, you’ll have the discernment, the wisdom, to know what to do; but, Joshua, you’ll have My power to get through whatever it is and My Word that you can stand upon. And you can experience this, Joshua, if you’ll just do what I tell you to do.”
The verb, “is sufficient” in our verse is in the present tense active voice. Do you wonder why I look at those kinds of things? Because it’s important. God’s grace in Christ is always sufficient. There’s never a time that it’s not sufficient: sufficient yesterday and sufficient today. It’s in the present tense: continuous action all the way through. And the wonderful thing is that it’s in the active voice, which means God chose to make it that way. And the active voice means He took full control. This is His heart, He wants His grace to be available to whoever will call out for it in whatever circumstances they’re in.
The word “sufficient” is the word arkeo, which means to have exactly enough for whatever the need is. Now we know from Romans that it’s abundant grace. It’s even more than enough. And we sang “More than Enough” just awhile ago. But the thing he’s trying to get across is that it’s exactly what you need; it’s exactly. It does mean enough. That same word translated in John 14:8 is translated “enough.” It says, “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’” And that is the same word.
The word “sufficiency” carries the idea of being content in His grace and in fact it’s translated “content” in Hebrews 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have, for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you now will I ever forsake you.’” Now God told Paul, “My grace is enough.” “My grace, Paul, is enough.” Yes, it’s more than enough, but you’re going to discover that it’s exactly what you need in the situation that you’re in. It will sustain you; it will replace your weakness with His power.
Oh, me. One of my favorite epistles in the New Testament is the book of James. People always ask me, “What’s your favorite book?” Really, it’s whatever I’m teaching at the time because I just love God’s Word. But James is one of my favorites. And you remember in 1:2 it says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” And the word “various” in the New American Standard version is the word poikilos, multi-colored trials. And James is getting across the same point that Jesus got across to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.
The word “multi-colored.” Do you realized your trials are color-coded this morning. What do I mean? In 1 Peter 4:10 it says God’s grace, that enabling power, is also color-coded: “the manifold grace of God.” And it’s the same word, “multi-colored.” Over in Ephesians 3:10 it says the wisdom of God is multi-colored. “What? You mean to tell me if I’m going through a red trial God gives me the red grace and gives me the red wisdom, exactly what I need, even more and above, to walk through that trial?” That’s exactly what he’s saying. And that’s exactly what Paul’s teaching right here.
God said, “Oh, Paul, don’t run to this person and don’t run to that person and don’t run there and don’t run here. Listen, run to Me, Paul, and confess to Me that you’re weak. And in your weakness My strength is perfect, it’s sufficient, it’s exactly what you need. It’s even over and above. But, Paul, you’re going to find something in your weakness you never knew existed.”
In this text this grace that is so sufficient is what this grace produces when we’re weak. You see it more in the next statement. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power [His power] is perfected in weakness.” The word “power” there is the word dunamis, and it means the ability to do whatever is assigned, whatever is there, whatever is needed. It is the strength of Christ rising up within us in the midst of our acknowledged, pitiful weakness. Whether or not it be under the crippling influence of a disease that has imperiled your body; whether or not it be in a person that you can’t love; whether or not it be in a sin that you can’t seem to overcome and the temptation keeps coming back to you over and over again; whether or not you’re under heavy criticism; God says, “Come to Me, come to Me. Admit you’re weak. That’s your problem: you won’t admit you’re weak. Admit you’re weak. And in your weakness you’re going to discover what you never knew in yourself. You’re going to discover My ability, My power and it’s going to be exactly enough. You’re going to sing with everybody else, ‘It’s more than enough.’ You’re going to see the abundance of My grace, but you have to come to Me and you have to admit to Me that you’re weak.”
James teaches us that He doesn’t give grace to the proud; He gives grace to the humble. Those people who are willing to finally admit, maybe it’s at 4:00 in the morning when you couldn’t sleep; maybe somewhere else; but you’re at the point when you say, “Oh, God, I’m weak. I can do this and I can do that and I can do this, but, oh God, I can’t handle what the problem is. You’re going to have to do it.” And those sweet moments of honesty, in those sweet moments when God sees that you’re willing to be open with Him, He floods your heart with that which you possibly didn’t even know existed in you until that very moment. His strength is made perfect.
God’s strength is never seen when we’re strong in ourselves. Paul’s been contrasting the false teachers that rampaged the church there in Corinth and they bragged about what they could do and they bragged about how smart they were and they bragged about what they had. And the apostle Paul said, “No, no, no.” The contrast in Christianity is so far beyond that; it’s so different as night and day when a person is weak and we cry out to Him is when we discover His strength.
Ficely and a man by the name of John—John is 40 and Ficely is 34 years old—they’re both taekwondo world champions. But they’ve been studying the Word since the time they got saved. Now they’re trainers. They’ve been all over the world now. They go in areas I’m not even allowed to tell you and they go in with absolutely no worry whatsoever because God has led them and they let Him be their strength.
Ficely gave me his testimony the day he had to leave. He told me how he was raised in a Communist home, he was raised in a religious church there in Russia and Romania. And he said he wanted to learn taekwondo. He said he went to Moscow to learn. And he’d just married a young girl a few years back and they’d had a little baby, and he went over to Moscow to learn. And John was there and said “I’ll teach it to you.” He was already a world champion. And he said, “but before you can be in any of my classes, you have to take one hour of Bible study first.” So he got into the Bible study and he got saved while he was there. God just overwhelmed his heart.
He called his wife from Moscow and he said, “You won’t believe what’s happened to me. I’m a totally different person. I met Someone that changed my life.” She said, “I can’t wait for you to introduce me to Him,” thinking it was somebody that he was going to bring home with him. And he did, but in a different way that what she thought.
And he came home and she said, “Where is the one that’s changed your life?” She saw the light in his face and he said, “He’s in here.” And she said, “What do you mean?” “Jesus Christ has come to live in me.” She turned her back on him, her family turned their backs on him, basically excommunicated him out of the religion that they were in. He affected everybody around him. He had no idea. All he did was get saved. He didn’t realize all the mess it was going to create.
And one day he was on his knees before God and the Bible was open in front of him. And he was weeping as he’s telling me this. And he finally said, “Wayne, I almost turned my back on Jesus. My wife had turned her back on me, her family had turned their back, I had no friends, I had no place to go. My Bible was open and I didn’t even know how to really read it. I had learned to study one book, but I didn’t know where to go. I had it open to 1 Corinthians 10:13 and my eyes fell on that verse, “No temptation has overtaken you but as such is common to man. And God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you’re able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also so that you’ll be able to endure it.”
And he said, “I grabbed my Bible and I hugged it to me like it was my precious child. That’s when I went on and God in my weakness became my strength.” And he had never heard this message of grace, of Christ living in and through you. You see, it’s not my message, it’s God’s gospel. This is what’s in the Word, but you have to be weak before you can even get a clue what he’s talking about.
So the word “perfected.” He said, “My power is perfected in weakness.” And the “my” that is in the verse carries to the word power. The word “perfected” is the word teleo, which means “my power is fully accomplished only in those who are humble enough to admit how desperate and how weak they really are.” Paul, in his weakness, has experienced for himself the Source of this great grace. He’s experienced the strength of God’s great grace.
We have the sweet sounds of God’s great grace
The third thing I want you to see is we have the sweet sounds of God’s great grace. It’s the most beautiful thing when you hear somebody that just can’t shut up talking about the power and the strength of God in their life. When you hear them use their own weakness as a backdrop but their emphasis and the spotlight is on His power and on who He is.
Verse 9, again, “And He has said to me, ‘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.” The words “most gladly” is the word hedeos. It’s the word which means “sweet.” Isn’t that interesting? In fact it’s the word that means “to relish” something. Like when you go out after church and you cut open that beautifully cooked New York strip. It’s cooked to perfection. And you put your fork into it and the juice just sort of emerges out of it. It was cooked just right; it was seared enough on both sides to keep the juices in it and you took your knife and it cut like butter and you relish it and you can’t wait to tell other people about what you’ve experienced. That’s the word “‘most gladly.” and when it’s used figuratively as it is here, it means that whatever you’re doing, with great joy. You don’t have to be coerced. I’ve always struggled with programs that teach a person how to witness. Admit that you’re weak and start living in His strength and you can’t shut up. It’s most gladly that you begin to share with other people.
It’s incredible to me how much blindness is in America because we have so much; we can’t cut through it to get to the desperation to where the strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul uses that same word in verse 15 of this chapter and he says, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.” Same word—I’ll most gladly; you don’t have to twist my arm. You don’t have to beat me over the head.
So he says in verse 9, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Do you realize what he’s saying? Because he’d experienced the sweetness of what only God could do in his life, that sweet attitude just overwhelmed in his life and he gladly opened his mouth. And instead of boasting about what he could do, he boasted about what he couldn’t do. And they said, “But look at all the things you’ve done, look at all the churches you’ve started.” He said, “I want you to know that was Christ in me and through me.”
Most gladly; most gladly. You want me to share? Yes, but it won’t be about myself; it’ll be about Him. “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
At the conference they gave me a title and the title was, “Preaching Jesus Will Build a Great Church”. When I got up to speak I had a real confusion in my mind. I told them, “I’m really sort of bothered by my title today, because what constitutes a great church in our mindset in America, we think if it’s big it must be great. And so I’m going to leave that to the discussion in another room. I want to talk about whether or not you’re preaching Christ and we’re not preaching ourselves.”
That’s so often the message. We’re not preaching Him; we’re preaching what we can do for Him. “And oh God, we know that You’re so busy, would You just bless our humble efforts?” “Most gladly, therefore, I would rather boast about my weaknesses.” His weaknesses were the backdrop to enhance the message of Christ’s power in his life. And what a contrast to these false teachers who only bragged on how much they knew, how much they had, and how much they could do. What a contrast to Christianity in the 21st century, especially in the US.
Paul was willing to be weak so that the power of Christ could dwell in him. The NIV and the JKJV translates it that “Christ’s power might rest upon me.” Understand what he’s saying here. Paul knew that only when he was weak could he walk in the power of God in his life. The more Paul thought he could do, the less people would ever see of God’s power in his life. He would actually rather have the pain of the thorn than he would to miss out on experiencing God’s power in his life. How sweet it is, oh, how sweet it is when someone in the midst of his weakness cries out and discovers the power of grace, of Christ working in him, and he just can’t wait to share it, can’t shut up, he can’t wait to tell people about what Jesus had done in his life.
There’s a man from Romania, he’s been fighting Communists all of his life. He grew up thinking that people were his problem. He stayed for the second conference this year and I preached one night on the fact that people are not your problem, they’re your opportunity. People are that which drive you to the end of yourself. When you get around an unlovable person, you’re weak immediately and you don’t know what to do. That’s when God’s power is made perfect; that’s when His love can exude through your life. That’s when that individual can be transformed.
After it was over with he prayed and I couldn’t understand a word, but after that was over someone came to me and said, “Wayne, do you understand who prayed and what they prayed?” And I said, “No, tell me.” They said, “He prayed and said, ‘Oh, God, I’ve been fighting people all of my life, and I was going to win. Oh, God, the problem is not them, the problem is me. I’m the problem and I’ve not been weak enough to let You do through me what only You can do.’”
I got on the plane to go to Vienna and a lady walked up to me. She had been working over there with a team and we’d flown in on the same plane. And she said, “What in the world happened in your conference?” She mentioned this man’s name that had helped her group over there. She said, “He can’t shut up. He’s gone to everybody to tell them what God showed him, that it was him that was the problem, not people.”
That’s what I’m talking about. You didn’t have to coerce him; he didn’t have to have a spot on somebody’s program to give his testimony. He didn’t have to go through a class and be trained on how to do it. He just couldn’t shut up. He’d been in his weakness and God met him and revealed to him truth that had transformed his life.
Paul experienced the source of God’s grace in his weakness, the sufficiency of God’s grace in his weakness, the sweetness of God’s grace most gladly. You didn’t have to even urge Paul to share about it. Paul said, “It will never be about me. It’ll be about who Christ is and what He’s done through me.”
The satisfaction with God’s great grace
And finally, the satisfaction with God’s great grace. In verse 10, “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.” Paul expands what he said in verse 9 in understanding God’s grace being sufficient and sweet in his life by saying “therefore.” Any time you see a therefore, you always look to see what it’s there for.
“Therefore I am well content.” What makes the statement so profound is the list that follows: “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses.” That doesn’t fit—yes, it does. “Weakness” is astheneia, and it means “those things that bring me to the total end of myself.” And Paul goes on and shows what about this weakness. He said, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults.” That word “insults” is the word hubris, and it’s a violent word. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. It doesn’t mean just what people say. This is something that brings physical injury to you as a result from somebody who’s very insolent. It’s much more than to say insulting things; it’s physically insolent, injurious.
Acts 27:10, “and said to them, ‘Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be attended with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’” That’s the word used there. In Acts 27:1 it translates damage and loss again. “When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, ‘Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and this loss.’” That’s the word that we’re dealing with.
It goes on and says, “with insults, with distresses.” You know what distresses are? Distresses are the inevitable—it’s coming whether we like it or not—that come from people that are morally depraved. They haven’t got a clue. Jesus uses the word in Matthew 18:7 in a very profound way: “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable,” that’s the word, “that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”
Next Paul uses the word “persecution,” diogmos. That’s to be pursued with the intent to kill. And that’s going to be in our life until Jesus comes back. The next word he uses is “difficulties,” which is the word stenochoria, and it describes the inner stress when hostility is all around a person and it’s coming in on him and crushing him to his very core and that emotional stress and mental stress and physical stress that he feels. That’s what he’s talking about here.
All of this for Christ’s sake, Paul said it very clearly in verse 10: “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.” And you could even put in “only then.”
Paul never once bemoaned his circumstance even though he had been painfully victimized. But God would not allow him to live as a victim. I want you to hear that again, because we’re living in a society that glorifies the victimized. But God said, “No, I know you’ve been victimized because it’s inevitable. It’s going to come if you’re a believer. It’s going to come. However, I don’t allow you to live as a victim because those were the very things that drove you to the end of yourself. And when you got to the end of yourself you saw Me and you experienced Me in a way that you’ve never experienced. So therefore glory in what made you weak.” Because that’s the only time you can experience who and Whose you are.
The pain had caused him to be weak, and it was in the weakness that caused Christ enabling power to be manifest. Ce mare har, what great grace. The source of this great grace, “My grace,” Christ said. The strength of this great grace is sufficient, for in weakness my power is perfected. The sweetness of this great grace causes a person to overwhelmingly want to share it with everyone. And the satisfaction of this great grace, you can even be satisfied though life has thrown you a curve ball since the day you were born, God says “that’s the very thing I’m using to let you amongst all these others, experience something that many Christians don’t know anything about. Because it’s only in weakness that you experience My strength.”
We know all about saving grace. One day we’re going to understand dying grace. My prayer is that in between time we get a clue about what living grace is. Do you understand how desperate you are this morning? “You wouldn’t believe what I’ve made of my life. You don’t know how many cars I’ve got and where I live.” And God says, “That’s not what I’m talking about. You’re just as needy as the people in Romania. The only thing is they’ve had everything stripped away to where they understand it.”
Do we know because we know because we know the great grace of Jesus Christ in our life?