Grace: what does it look like?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Grace is the anthem that the Apostle Paul sings. That message pervades his letters. In fact, every single epistle written by him bears his trademark opening “Grace to you” and ending “Grace be with you”. A popular preacher uses the term ‘unmerited favour’ to describe the grace of God. And certainly, there is that aspect to it, the idea of the blessings of God.

However, what grace looks like sometimes surprises us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is a well known and well loved verse. From it, we often draw strength to sustain us during trials and testing. Let’s take a closer look at it. The first observation we make is the weakness Paul talks about is a ‘thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan’ (2 Corinthians 12:7). We are not told specifically what it is; I postulate it was deliberate so that whatever situation we face, we can identify with Paul (whether it’s an illness, a temptation etc.)

The surprising thing is though Paul pleaded with God to remove it, three times in fact, God chose to allow it to remain. And that was God’s grace to Paul. Now, we would imagine God’s grace as removing the thorn. But God’s grace to Paul was His enabling to endure the thorn. Paul would experience God’s power especially in his weakness.

Why would God do this? There are at least two reasons. The first is to enable Paul to remain humble… ‘to keep me from exalting myself’ (2 Corinthians 12:7). The second is that Paul may experience ‘the power of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). The grace of God sometimes comes to us in a form that we would not choose for ourselves. But as we learn from Scripture today, may we receive the fullness of God’s grace in all its forms.


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