By Stephen Altrogge
Why does God say, “My grace is sufficient for you?”
And what does it mean that God’s power is made perfect in weakness?
Ponder, for a moment, all the ways God displays his power. He controls the raging, torrential storms and the crippling droughts. He causes pompous, blustery dictators and kings and presidents to rise and fall.
Occasionally, he puts the laws of nature in detention and does the miraculous, like when a woman in our church was healed from terminal Stage 4 breast cancer.
God isn’t like the insecure, overly pimpled high school bully who constantly feels like he needs to establish his dominance. He’s quite confident in his power and has an infinite variety of ways he can flex his figurative biceps. Throughout scripture, God makes it clear that we should have a healthy fear of the Lord.
All of this makes God’s preferred method of showing off his power rather strange. God’s grace is sufficient, and his is power is made perfect…
God’s Power is Greatest When We’re at Our Weakest.
When Paul begged God to take away his thorn (whatever it was), God said this to him:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This is one of those scriptural double take, spew the water in surprise moments. It doesn’t make sense on the surface. God could have delivered Paul and said to him, “My power is made perfect in my deliverance.” He could have said, “My mighty deliverance is sufficient for you.”
But he didn’t. Instead, he left Paul in his crippled state and said that his grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in weakness.
God’s power is greatest when we’re at our weakest.
And what we need most in our weakness is God’s sufficient grace, not more strength and not a dramatic deliverance.
This is so backward from how the world operates. We like to show off our strength. To act like we’ve got it all together. But this is the opposite of God. His power is made perfect in weakness.
Why is this? Why is God so doggedly insistent on using weaknesses, MY WEAKNESSES, to show off his strength? Why does God repeatedly say, “My grace is sufficient for you?”
It Means God Gets All the Glory
If I could sustain myself through trials by my own grit and moxie, then I could take some of the glory. I made it on my own. I locked and loaded, buckled down, and hacked and whacked my way to the finish line.
But I can’t sustain myself in the slightest. If God wasn’t behind me pushing and before me making a way, I would head toward apostasy at the first sign of trials.
No one will be boasting of their own strength in heaven. I will be boasting about how God sustained me through depression and heartache and trials. I will be boasting about how God answered my desperate prayers for my children.
God’s power is made perfect in weakness because it ensures that he alone gets all the glory.
If God’s grace alone is sufficient to sustain me, I can’t take credit for sustaining myself. God does it all, and we will boast only in him.
It Shines a Spotlight on God’s Power
One of the great lies I’m tempted to believe is that I’m sufficient. For everything. For life, for marriage, for parenting, for working – the whole ball of wax.
Trials are a match that torch my facade and fallacy.
I have zero ounces of sufficiency in myself. This reality is highlighted all the more when I’m in dire circumstances. I simply don’t have the spiritual strength keep going when the Red Sea is before me and the Egyptians are behind me.
However, God’s grace IS sufficient. God is Omni-sufficient. Sufficiency and strength and power course through his being and he is able to keep me through the bleakest struggles.
When I’m up against the wall, it forces me to cry out, “God, only you’re grace is sufficient to sustain me!” And when he delivers me, his power, not mine, is put on full display.
It Highlights the Glory of His Deliverance
God loves to deliver his people when the stakes are highest and the odds are the worst. He loves to come through in Hail Mary, do-or-die, Helm’s Deep is surrounded, situations.
God wouldn’t let Gideon use 30,000 or 3,000 men. He carved his army down to a measly 300 men, making the odds of victory so unfathomably small that only God could bring deliverance.
Goliath was an executioner armed with a colossal sword and spear. David was a shepherd boy attacking with a sling and a few rocks. Only God could snatch victory from the jaws of this defeat.
God’s power is made perfect in weakness because it shows that God and only God can deliver. We don’t have the power to rescue or deliver or save. But God’s grace is sufficient to do all those things.
It Forces Me to Trust in God Alone
In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul recounts one of his darkest moments:
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
God allowed Paul’s circumstances to become so bleak, so dire, so desperate, that he felt as if he had received a death sentence. From Paul’s perspective, death appeared to be imminent.
Why would God let things get so horrifically bad? Why would he let Isaac get all the way to the altar? Why would he let Daniel actually be thrown into the lion’s den rather than rescuing him beforehand?
God wants his people to know that he alone is their hope.
God leads me through the Valley of Death so that I’ll trust in him alone. So that I’ll cling to his sufficient grace. So that I’ll give up the ludicrous charade that I can go it alone.
It Deepens My Trust in God
When things get really bad, I start playing out various scenarios in my head. For example, if my finances are tight, I start doing all sorts of calculations about when this bill will go through and whether I can make some additional money doing this activity and how to make everything work out alright in the end.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with planning for the future, it’s easy for me to fall into the temptation of trusting in my own understanding rather than God’s sufficient grace.
I think this is why Proverbs exhorts us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not to lean on our own understanding. When I lean on my own understanding, I’m failing to trust God, whose power and ability to deliver are far beyond my understanding.
When God does intervene and rescue me, it becomes abundantly clear to me that it was not due to my magnificent strategizing, but his glorious, sufficient grace.
Let Us Lean on God With All Our Weight
Charles Spurgeon said:
“Let us lean on God with all our weight. Let us throw ourselves on his faithfulness as we do on our beds, bringing all our weariness to his dear rest.” – Charles Spurgeon
The solution to weakness is not a stiff upper lip. It’s to lean on God with all our weight – to throw ourselves on the one whose power is made perfect in our weakness.
Then, and only then, are we strong.