September 13, 2018

When God Says No  

By: Larry Shaffer

I recently had dinner with my younger brother, David and his family in Bellevue, WA. Wife, Liza and children Aria and Aiden.

When God Says No  

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 

 “Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He 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, 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.”  

The criticism of Paul was that he lacked power, charisma and dynamism. The Lord would not let him fall into the trap of comparing himself to the world’s standards of power and influence. How did the Lord keep him from this? He filled his life with insults, distresses, persecution and difficulties, etc., verse 10. He kept him weak, because in his weakness, the power of God became evident. 

Additionally, he didn’t remove the thorn in the flesh even though Paul pleaded that He would. God said no, not now. But God didn’t leave him alone in his difficulties. He carried him with an infusion of grace that would not only sustain him but would lift him up and make him stronger and stronger and stronger. 

Let’s reflect on grace for a moment; an unmerited gift. There seems to me to be three kinds of grace described in the Bible.  

  • One is “common grace”. The sun rises on both the wicked and the righteous. All of mankind enjoys various blessings in this world whether it be the beauty of God’s creation, the love of family, the satisfaction of hard work, etc. God casts common grace over all the earth and all of mankind. 
  • Secondly is “saving grace”. It is the gift of salvation. The undeserved gift of complete forgiveness, sanctification and ultimate glorification forever in heaven. For by grace you are saved through faith. 
  • Thirdly, also reserved for the believer, is “sustaining grace”. This is the gift of God to us that in varying portions, according to the need of the moment, He gives power to live, survive and thrive in this world during times of trials and difficulties.  

This special grace gives an added dose of eternal perspective at a time when it would otherwise be clouded with doubt and shame. This grace whispers in our ear that God has a plan and He is working it out for our ultimate good. I suppose this grace emerges in little ways but it is most amazing when it covers us in monumental ways during our times of deepest pain.

How do we tap into this grace? I’m not sure I know exactly. I don’t know of a formula. In our text it simply seems that after intense times of prayer, Paul accepts and experiences the grace of a God. After God said no to him, he said, “most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses.” And also, “therefore, I am well content with weakness…”. I guess the experience of such grace is all about surrendering and accepting God’s added portion of sustaining grace.  

Is it that simple? Well, yes and no. In theory, it’s simple. In practice, not always. When it comes to God’s grace we know three things;  

  • it’s free 
  • it’s abundant and  
  • we don’t deserve it.  

Do you have a hard time accepting gifts that you don’t deserve? Most of us do. I guess that’s why it’s all about surrender. Let’s begin by just accepting the grace of a God that helps us day by day and even moment by moment to see life through God’s eyes; with an eternal perspective. It’s as simple (or as difficult) as rejoicing always, praying continuously and giving thanks in all things, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Here’s another good verse to prayerfully reflect upon: “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand,” Isaiah 41:10. Amen!