He is the one who will rescue you from hunters’ traps
and from deadly plagues Psalm 91:3
We just got done proclaiming that we run to our God for refuge. Contrary to Karl Marx, we don’t rely on the Opiate of the Masses, but instead, run to, and cling to the reality that is our God! He is our safe place and a place of comfort and peace. The Psalmist knew this as he cried, “Yahweh, you are my refuge! I trust in you and I am safe!” That’s right — He rescues you from hidden traps and shields you from deadly hazards.
Of course, He is going to deliver you from any of the snares and trouble we get into! Of course, no trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword is going to separate us from His love and care! If your heart is fixed on Him, watch for His defense, His protection, His guidance! But let’s be honest and admit that sometimes we are foolish and weak like poor little birds, and we can get lured into big problems. Well, if we can draw near to Him, He will make sure that the most skilled deceiver is not going to entrap us!
Consider the time David, the slayer of Goliath, is fleeing from Saul and carries Goliath’s unique sword to Goliath’s hometown, hoping he would be protected by (of all people) the Philistines! How foolish could David be? But still, Yahweh rescued him! So even when we make foolish and stupid decisions, He is able to fix the problem!
Now if He can protect us from our foolishness, he can rescue us from those “mysterious dangers,” those illnesses and sickness that we do not understand. There is also, as one theologian calls it, a “deadly pestilence of error.”
Well, if we are willing to be in communion and fellowship with our Lord, He will keep us safe from that! In that regard, there is a “fatal pestilence of sin.” Well, once again, if we can remain close to our Father, we will not be infected by it.
All of us know that there are diseases that we face, and I am telling you that our faith can make us immune from them! If we will continue to abide in our God, and walk in a calm serenity, our faith can quiet our heart and keep it in peace. This alone will keep us free from the fear which, during the times of sickness or disease we may face, is worse that the plague itself.
I am not saying that we will never face those times of difficulties. I am proof of that! For the last two years, I have suffered physical disabilities, but does that mean I am not loved and accepted by my Lord? No! A hundred times NO! During this time, I have discovered what the Lord meant when he told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness!” (II Corinthians 12:9).
For years have heard teaching that the Lord was saying, “Paul, my power will deliver you! All you have to do is believe!” Well folks, during my struggles, I have been drawn closer to Him every day! My times of prayer have been insightful, with tremendous revelations! I won’t say that I have enjoyed the illness, but I have enjoyed the tremendous amount of Grace, I have received!
So what was the Lord talking about? How was His Grace sufficient?
Okay, fair enough. Let’s talk about that. Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Corinth. Now that city was known as a city of wealth, commerce, and . . . depravity. That’s right. Sexual immorality was very prominent, with prostitution being part of idol worship. You can almost picture Las Vegas, San Francisco, Marti Gras and the Florida Keys all rolled into one city! And it seems that the Christians in Corinth had a hard time separating themselves from these cultural pressures and activities.
Oh, Paul tried to encourage the Corinthian believers to higher standards – godly standards, but it seems it was all in vain. You may not have known this, but Second Corinthians was actually Paul’s third letter (at least) to them. And even this was after several lengthy visits to try to steer the church in their pursuit of the Lord. Paul had become quite frustrated and desperately wanted these believers to desire to be The Church – those called out of the world into Christ’s Kingdom.
In this letter, Paul was trying to answer a question the Corinthians were asking themselves – why should we listen to Paul? He was just another preacher, like any other one out there. And Paul acknowledged their grumbling, reporting his awareness that “. . . some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing,’” (II Corinthians 10:10). I mean wow — How rude! The Corinthians were rebellious, and weren’t afraid to say it, when Paul wasn’t around.
Well eventually, Paul decided sarcasm and mockery were the way to go. He was infuriated the Corinthians were choosing to elevate the teachings of the false apostles above the true Gospel that he had given to them (II Corinthians 11:5-6).
Although, in defending himself, he didn’t want the Corinthians to think they should listen to him because there was something special about him. It was important that they realized it wasn’t Paul he wanted them to submit to, but to Christ in Paul. And that is an important point! Paul told the story about his infamous thorn (whatever it was) to illustrate his humanity and frailty and to emphasize only the existence of an all-powerful God could explain how a man with such a restrictive condition could be so successful.
Paul explained that he asked the Lord three times to take away his thorn (II Corinthians 12:8). And how did the Lord respond? He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9). Well Golly! – Shazam! – What in the world does that even mean? Oh, we love to quote it when someone is suffering in some way. but have we really nailed down what was going on here? Come on. What, exactly, is God’s grace sufficient for? Is He saying His Grace is enough for you? What does that mean?
Okay, so grace can mean several things. It can be favor, approval, or blessing. But all of that is typically unmerited. It doesn’t matte how good you are, there is nothing in yourself that deserves it! Now the word “enough” means “to fully meet a need.” So okay, then His favor and blessing will fully meet our need. Big deal! What need? Some needs? All needs? Specific needs? What is He saying?
Well, in Paul’s situation, he had a thorn of some sort causing him some agony. I am sure the Lord wanted Paul to know His favor was enough to get him through that agony. That His blessing was enough for Paul to live in spite of whatever physical, spiritual, or emotional pain he was experiencing. In my situation that was important for me to know.
But we just saw that Paul was defending his credibility as an apostle to the Corinthians. So, since the people were doubting his authority to speak on the Lord’s behalf, He was telling Paul, “My approval is enough.” The power behind Paul’s ministry was in the Lord’s approval and favor, not the Corinthians. Nothing else was needed. Even without the Corinthians’ approval, the Lord’s approval was enough for Him to accomplish whatever He intended to do through Paul.
But I will make it more personal, and say that the Lord wanted to remind Paul that He loved him. He wanted Paul to feel confident of that love and to find his identity in that love. It didn’t matter what others were saying about him, Paul’s Heavenly Father approved of Paul, even if others didn’t. Knowing that should have met Paul’s need to feel secure and valued.
Now remember, Paul had a nearly impossible job. He was taking the Gospel first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). The Jews thought Paul was a traitor preaching sacrilege and would prefer to have him killed (which they had attempted to do) than listen to him try to convince them Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for (Acts 9, 13). The Gentiles didn’t even know what to do with Paul. Some were afraid of him (Acts 9), some tried to worship him (Acts 14:11), some stoned him (Acts 14:19), some believed his message (Acts 14:20), and some, like the Corinthians, believed Paul initially, but got angry when he held them accountable for their sins (it still happens today). So when the Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” the widest application implies the Lord’s favor was all Paul needed to fulfill his calling to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Ephesians 3:8).
So now, what is God’s grace sufficient for you, today?
Well first, I hold that it is to survive the pain. God’s blessing is enough for us to make it through any kind of physical, spiritual, or emotional pain — no matter how long that pain exists. Right now, I am thinking of some very specific people who have contacted me. Please know, our God’s Grace – His favor – is enough to sustain you until that pain ends. It may be today or tomorrow, it might be months or years from now. That is okay. His Grace will sustain you!
For those of us involved in some form of ministry, His Grace will empower you. Our Father’s Kingdom purposes will be accomplished by His endorsement alone. You do not need the approval of men. You do not need their wisdom, their ability or their ambition. No matter what your task is, His grace – His blessing and approval – is enough, all by itself.
I have been hearing from many of you who are struggling with whether He really does love you; whether He accepts you as you are. Well, His Grace is sufficient for you, as well. Too often, we look to others to affirm our worth. His grace – His approval – is enough, all by itself, to solidify your worth.
Whatever your life calling is, His Grace is sufficient. All of us are here to know our God and to make Him known (Exodus 9:15-16). How we make Him known, and to whom, may vary, but, we are all called to the same thing! And this calling is not for the feint of heart. It will require boldness and determination. But, His grace – His favor, His blessing, His approval — and His power – is enough! It is enough to empower us to do what we are called to be doing as disciples and children of our Lord!
The bottom line: His grace is sufficient for everything.
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With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.