But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
-2 Cor. 12:9
I was asking for the pain to go away. I wanted the agony I was feeling to be removed. Instead, this verse was ministered to me.
What this verse said to me was the opposite answer to my request to have the pain go away. God was saying that he had grace for me, in the midst of the pain I was experiencing. He also says in this verse that power, his power in my life, is perfected in my weakness.
In my pain, God did not go along with my line of thinking which was ‘make the pain go away’ (please). Instead, God introduced a whole different thought to my situation. His answer to my request for pain relief was, “My grace is more than enough and my power flows in you when you are weak”.
Since this word was not what I had in mind or expected, I had to begin to assimilate it. I felt a bit baffled and reasoned that the Lord was saying that he wanted to give me grace in my pain. My next thought was, “Okay”, and then, “I wonder how this
The place where this revelation happened for me was at my school, where three years previous, I had picked up their brochure and on it was this curious quote, by Augustine, that read:
In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me.
Sure enough, what they advertised; that I really did not get at first, ended up being my experience. I was caught by surprise, like a deer in the headlights and a bit blinded to my preconceived ideas of how God should work. That is how I was dazzled.
I was also baffled. “My grace is sufficient”, what does that mean?
Grace is unmerited favor or God’s empowering presence. Grace is good, so there must be something good it this.
Sufficient is not a word that I use. It means ‘enough’, ‘all you need’, ‘adequate’, ‘plenty’ or ‘more than enough’. The implication is that God is saying, “Rather than escaping this, my grace is more than enough and all that you need”.
God says, “My grace is always more than enough, all that you need”.
I know that I am always in need of grace and am in trouble if I do not rely upon grace. But today, I am in a third acute time in life when I particularly need this verse ministered to me. This verse is the answer to my prayer to God today, that says, “This is impossible!”
Today it seems impossible to have or find a church or a group of people who are also envisioned with the desire for church that I have. I did not say it is impossible, but that it seems or feels impossible.
This is more like a horse that won’t drink the water. For me, this is also like how when I first went back to college, to begin pursuing graduate studies in counseling, I was about twenty-six years old and I was beginning to long for and dream about my future wife. “Could she be walking here on this campus right now?”, I thought. And the answer was actually, yes she was. But we were not to meet for about fourteen years.
The point of that story is that sometimes the answer or the fulfillment of your dream is right there, close by. But you or they are not ready. And God, walking with both of you, is getting you ready for your future.
The lesson is that we are all in the process of getting ready, being developed, for our future roles, assignments and affiliation communities. All people in churches are not people who have ‘always known each other’, buy God brings different people together. Even though the former is active today, God is also doing the latter.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”
The first time that I heard this verse in my life, and it was not a direct quote, but it was definitely the lesson that God was teaching me, was earlier in my young adult life, when I was in trouble, stuck, trapped and exposed. I audaciously asked God to rescue me and I even tried to make a deal, saying I would be good if he would rescue me. And the answer was, “No, but you will serve me”.
The exact quote was something like, “I am not going to rescue you and you are going to serve me.” The voice of God that I heard was the Lord, my Lord, who was speaking to me sternly. I had been through a journey in my Christian life where I had made Jesus my savior, but not my Lord. That journey shifted that night, and he began to bring me into the revelation that Jesus is Lord and King.
That night was like lightning came into my darkness, but then I spent the next year assimilating the change in my life, leaving my home, going for long walks and just being with God.
The second time that I learned the lesson that God’s grace is sufficient, was when I was witnessing my parents going through divorce. Everything was going good in my life except for this painful thing. I learned that the grace to walk through the pain, is transmitted by Jesus.
Today, the way forward again seems impossible. People say, “That’s impossible!”, but Jesus says, “There are some things people can not do, but God can do anything.”
My thing that seems impossible, is my vision for the church.
My vision for church gatherings can be distilled down to: A Jesus Christ centered family reunion where everyone plays a part or has a voice.
And sometimes it seems like pretty much everyone in my life, laughs and says, “Ain’t gonna happen”, or “That does not exist”. I also hear, “That’s not church”, and “We’ve never done it that way before”.
To take Jesus style and substance of church life and bring it into our culture is a challenge and passion of mine that I dream about and think about and talk about. And I believe that a lot of people who have stopped attending church services, for a variety of reasons are also looking for this.
But many of these people are hurt, disillusioned, burned out and feel betrayed and disoriented. And these ‘negatives’ become their language and they begin living from negativity in regards to Christianity. They turn off their old friends of family who still attend church services and do not share their fed-up experience.
And when these exiles meet up with other exiles, they are vulnerable to gathering around negativity rather than the positive message and person of Jesus Christ. A bunch of people who have felt rejected and run off, but have not processed this through Jesus’ grace are like porcupines that you don’t want to hug or get behind.
Ouch, I just got barbed again.
If the conversation is just about the negative, then either people will be turned off with you and not want to talk, or you will attract other negative people and end up having a gripe festival as your gathering. And it is human nature to not see your own stuff, so you will eventually not want to be around such negative people, not realizing you are one of them.
How can we gather with the de-churched, un-churched and done with (the old way of) church people? The answer I believe is to make Jesus Christ the center of our gathering. Through recognition and cultivation we will gather around him, and not our hurts and ‘tales of woe and intrigue’.
We don’t deny our pain or erase our history. But we put Jesus first, who says that all things are possible and to stop looking at how we can not do it and to look to God who can do all things.
Even if it looks impossible and if people say it can’t be done or that will never work, I believe that we can find out, figure out, and have faith to come into an experience of church life that is in Jesus style, that is patterned out of his life and what he taught and how he functioned. Even though the church carries his name, I believe that his essence and form, heart and life has become lost, like a lost art.
But it can be found, because he is alive and he is still building his church. He lets us build his church our way and he inhabits it to a degree. But that does not mean he built it or he endorses it; but that he is gracious and loves people who love him, even when they are more religious and less authentic than what is his plan.
Jesus was continually correcting his first disciples, while loving and caring for them. And our being corrected or disciplined is part of being loved and belonging. And another point is that God has a very wide latitude with his people and with his servants who are visible. We criticize where God sees people who he loves who love him.
Doing church in a new way:
- Centered on Jesus Christ through recognition and cultivation.
- That is like a family reunion.
- Where everyone participates or plays a role.
Seems impossible; but by God’s grace is possible, if we will be weak and let his power flow. The Passion Translation puts it this way: “My power finds its full expression through your weakness”, and the CEV says, “My power is strongest when you are weak”.
I think what this is saying is that instead of seeking to be stronger, in our own strength; that we need to embrace our weakness. You think this is impossible? Let yourself be weak, so that God’s strength can bloom out.
For myself, what I need to do is move forward and live, engaging life and the people in my life and even new people outside the present borders or boundary lines of my life, and share my self with them, in weakness.
Community comes from communion which means sharing. The ‘one anothers’ draw a picture of church life centered around Jesus personhood. Much of what we call ‘church’ is not the communion of the saints, described in the NT.
There is a way and I believe it is the God prescribed way, to not give up on your dreams or who you are and what you want to be all about and to embrace weakness. That means gentleness, kindness, humility and love. This is Jesus style.
Imagine if the thorn that Paul calls ‘the messenger of Satan’, for you or me, are a person who harasses you in some way that is so bad that they are diabolical and psychopathic. It would be natural to ask God for help, to deliver you from or remove that person out of your life. But God says ‘no’, and that his grace (for that) is all you need and his power finds its full expression in your weakness.
In other words, the challenge, whatever it or who it is, will not be removed. Instead, the direction for you is to rely on God’s grace and embrace your weakness. That is God’s direction to me, as best I understand it.
There have been two ways that I have applied or practiced this in recent times. One, is to be silent before God for times, holding out my impossible situation; doing the opposite of complaining to people or to God in prayer, and letting grace work. The second is to engage the impossible situation, person or idea in weakness and let grace work.
I learned the former a few years ago. And it really works. I am now going to learn that latter.
In the past, I would argue, debate, harangue or try to cajole. But today I am learning to be a weak one, relying on his grace to fill out, fill in and create life where things seem impossible.
This song is a prayer:
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong