God gives more grace

By Pastor Jan Philip

Grace and peace be to you in the name of our Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us pray: our Most Heavenly Gracious Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word and as we think on these things, open our hearts and our mind to hear you, we pray in Jesus mighty Name. […]

Grace and peace be to you in the name of our Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Let us pray: our Most Heavenly Gracious Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word and as we think on these things, open our hearts and our mind to hear you, we pray in Jesus mighty Name. A-men.

“My Grace is Sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in Weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12: 9

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am so thankful to God for this opportunity to share today on this topic of “My Grace is Sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in Weakness.”

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul describes how God’s grace empowered him to deal successfully with the thorn in his life. If we look at the background story of Paul’s life, he was one of the most successful preachers, writers, missionaries and apostles to serve the Church. At the same time, he established most of the first congregations of the Church in the Roman Empire. And he was responsible for breaching the wall between Jews and Gentiles.

In the other dimension, all of this success and all of these blessings upon his ministry were tempered with many disappointments. For example, he suffered many horrendous things for the sake of the gospel. Paul had been put in jail many times, was beaten with whips five times, and was cold from not having enough clothes. Many, in and out of the church, opposed him. Even several of his close associates abandoned him and the work. It seemed that no matter what heights he scaled in service of the Lord, there was always a spoiler, always a competing negative force making sure that the situation was never completely satisfying.

If we think about our life, we may also find unsatisfying situations. For example, have you ever noticed that there is something always holding you back? Have you noticed that there is always one or two or three things that prevent you from having everything you want or having it your way? You may have a great job and a great family but there is something wrong with your body (headaches, diabetes, a sore back) that interferes with total enjoyment. You may have just built the house you always wanted and then discovered that your neighbor has a constantly barking dog or a couple of noisy roosters. You may have the desire to go to church but because of the coronavirus you are only able to worship online.

Thinking about the Myanmar context, we have the desire to attend holy communion together at the church however we are not able to as we could in the past. The military coup and the coronavirus have prevented us to live as we wish. Sometimes, we don’t know how to cope in these situations.

It seems that no matter what is right with our lives, there is always something that takes the shine off, something that spoils what could be an ideal situation. Of course, we are not unique and this is not a new phenomenon. Even Paul, one of the most dynamic apostles, experienced this type of disappointment.

Thinking of coping with horrendous life experiences, makes me think of the beautiful hymn writer Anne Johnson Flint. Born on December 24, 1866, in New Jersey, Annie Johnson Flint was made an orphan shortly after her birth and was raised by the Flint family. She suffered a lot in her life. She got rheumatoid arthritics until she was twisted up in bed for many, many decades. She had cancer inside of her, she was incontinent and lived in diapers. Blindness started to overtake her and before she died, there were so many boils and marks on her body from lying in bed that she needed eight pillows just to cushion her body. It was here that she wrote:
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Annie’s life was continuously filled with suffering but instead of complaining, she started to write poems which didn’t only comfort her but also provided comfort to others. When her life was filled with unimaginable suffering, she put her faith totally in Jesus and took refuge in the word of God that “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness”.

Grace is the reason that God sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we might be forgiven. Grace is the reason that God made you and me. In fact, grace is the reason for every good thing that God gives. We are deserving of none of it. But because of his own character, he chose to give freely to us.

There are many of us who keep trying to earn God’s approval. But grace is a gift and God gives this gift to unworthy people. God’s grace is greater than our deepest, darkest sins. Romans 5:20-21 mentions “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We need God’s grace, not just for forgiveness, but to remove sin from our lives. Grace means that we can quit feeling inadequate. We can always remind ourselves that, without God’s grace we are not perfect. We need God’s grace to rethink our life, our circumstances and everything around us as God does. Because God’s grace is greater than our shortcomings, failures, weaknesses, sinful desires, feelings of inadequacy and our own self-images. We will never be perfect in the eyes of God by trying on our own. Nothing is required anymore because God has already paid it all. He wants us to remember and be thankful for that. His grace is sufficient for every moment of our days and we all need it.

Paul had a ‘thorn’ in his flesh, so he pleaded with the Lord three times that the ‘thorn’ be taken away. His plea was not granted, but he was told “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, God promised Paul that in the midst of the weakness and frustration which this ‘thorn’ produced, he would find God’s power all the more present.

Later on, Paul was able to boast about his weakness, not because he enjoyed it, but because he knows that the power of Christ rests upon him in his weakness. 2 Corinthian 12:10 says ‘for the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.’ Paul proclaimed that ‘for when I am weak, then I am strong.’

Indeed! God’s grace is sufficient for every moment of the day. We might feel inadequate and challenging situations may come into our life. Even Paul, one of the most dynamic apostles, experienced disappointments. And God reminded Paul that His Grace is sufficient for him. We can rest in the assurance that our troubles are not punishments for certain past deeds. We can be thankful to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, that in everything, He gives us His grace.

***The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord, Amen.***

This sermon was shared by Pastor Jan Philip from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Myanmar via a virtual pulpit exchange with their partner church, Ipswich Lutheran Church.

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