Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sufficient Grace for Weak Believers

I attended our monthly elders meeting at church this past Thursday evening. During our meeting, we received report after report on individuals and couples within our church who are hurting and suffering due to medical and financial situations. It wasn’t simply one or two cases, but multiple cases of people fighting horrible (perhaps terminal) disease, and people who, through no fault of their own, face tremendous financial burdens which threaten the loss of all they have. We concluded our meeting with prayer for each of those individuals and couples, asking the Lord to grant healing and give grace to them as they undergo those trials.

I drove away with a sense of gratitude that the Lord has not burdened me or my family at this point in time with one of those situations. I wondered if I would be able to face those kinds of situations with as much grace as many of them are demonstrating in the midst of their pain.

As I had those thoughts, I was reminded of what our Lord told Paul when he was going through God’s refining fire. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that when he begged the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord’s reply was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul’s response was to rely on the Lord’s sovereign purposes for him and glory in his weakness in order that he would experience Christ’s indwelling power.

Many American Christians have been deceived into thinking that if they live lives of obedience to the Lord and His Word, He will honor them with good health, prosperity, and wealth. In fact, there is a group within American evangelicalism that proclaims what is known as the “health and wealth gospel” or the “prosperity gospel.” They will tell you that you should give your tithes and offerings to the Lord and if you have enough faith, He will return to you an abundance like you have never experienced. In their theology, that abundance is always physical blessing—never spiritual blessing.

In the end, the health and wealth “Word of Faith” proponents do nothing but enrich their own pockets with the donations of their followers and leave them with broken dreams of better health and full wallets. It is a man-centered message which focuses on “what’s in it for me?” rather than a God-centered message which says, “How can I bring greater glory to God in the midst of the pain He is bringing into my life?”

God’s Word never promises us a life that is free from pain. If that was God’s intention, He would have refused Satan’s request to test Job and allowed that righteous man to continue living his life which was filled with abundance of wealth and good things. But instead, God calls Satan’s attention to Job and then permits him to rip everything away from Job except his life and his wife who didn’t understand how Job could continue to praise God in the midst of all he was going through. He lost his health, his children, and his wealth, and never once did God explain to him why it happened.

What we need to learn that God is willing to jeopardize everything we have in order to bring greater praise and honor to His name. We may never know why He causes such things to take place, but we can know that He has our good and His glory in mind. We will never fully understand on this side of heaven, but according to His Word, it is for our good (Romans 8:28).

Our walk with Him is not about fulfilling our dreams for a bigger house, a new car, a full bank account, and a healthy diagnosis. Rather, it is about living in such a way that regardless of what difficulty and pain He brings into our lives—whether physical, emotional, or financial—He receives all the glory for His abundant grace to us. He has promised to give us sufficient grace for those trials; but not so that we might receive praise, but so that His power would be demonstrated in our weakness. May we endure with Paul’s mindset: Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so 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” (2 Corintians 12:9b-10).

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