"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you—for my strength is made perfect in weakness."—2 Corinthians 12:9
Nothing affords such sweet comfort in a time of sickness and trial as the thought of the "all-sufficiency" of Christ our Redeemer. Be our case ever so trying, our needs ever so numerous, our enemies ever so strong, our fears ever so appalling, our danger ever so imminent—Jesus is "all-sufficient." It is only our weak faith that makes us to become downcast and sad at heart. What is the assurance of Scripture? "He is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good word and work." "All grace!"—"all sufficiency!"—in "all things"—and these to "abound." "Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him."
Here there is enough surely to afford comfort—"grace," "sufficiency," "pity."
Christian, what is your sorrow—your trial—your temptation?
Is it, "I have had a lengthened time of sickness and pain—my strength has failed, and the skill of man has been unavailing. Around me I can see no ray of hope; no symptom of returning health—no indication of the removal of my disease—and my prayers have returned to me unanswered."
Ah, Christian, it is to be feared there is within you a 'spirit of murmuring'. Whose hand is laid upon you? Your Father's. Why has He chastened you? To bring your will fully into conformity with His own. Does not He, "to whom all hearts are open, and from whom no secrets are hidden," know best when His gracious purpose has been accomplished in you, His child? Is it not a token for good that your days have been prolonged? He waits but to see you bowing submissively before Him—saying from your inmost soul, "Do with me what seems good it Your sight"—and He will either remove the cross from off you, or give you the blessedness of realizing the truth of these words, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
But perhaps you are distressed by doubts and fears that God is angry with you—that in displeasure—not in love—He has laid you low. Oftentimes you are compelled to look backward, and the retrospect is gloomy—a retrospect of ingratitude, forgetfulness, wandering—of warnings unheeded, providences disregarded, mercies received unthankfully; and the thought arises—"For these transgressions I am chastened of the Lord; they are too aggravated, too numerous, to be forgiven."
"Forgiven!" "My grace is sufficient for you." "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin." "If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father."
It is well to look backward—well to recall the past; but not in a gloomy, despairing spirit—not as if by present or future suffering we could atone for sin. No, assuredly—but to lead us "to believe on Him who is able to save unto the uttermost"—to "believe, and be saved." All our woe and misery could not atone for any one transgression; and it is not by a painful counting up of duties undone, and sins committed, or by a resolving ever so earnestly to be more careful in all these things for the time to come, that we can be saved. Salvation is alone in Christ. To Him we must go—to Him who, by His death, purchased for Himself the heirs of death, that they might become heirs of glory, and who sends sickness and trial to check and restrain us—to make us bethink ourselves—to bring us to Him, the only Savior and Redeemer—that we may be driven from the world, and from ourselves, to Him, and in Him find rest unto our souls.
Christian, look away then from self and sin—so vile and loathsome—to Jesus your Brother, Savior, God. He will not cast you off, guilty as you are; He will not fail to welcome you; but He will say unto you, "Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!" And if at any time you are becoming faint and weary in the pilgrimage of life, oh, turn hopefully—turn without a misgiving to these words, "My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
But perhaps this is not your case. You tell us, "I feel and acknowledge the infinity of God's mercy in Christ. For years have I tasted that the Lord is gracious, and He has borne with me amid countless sins and shortcomings; but I have an evil heart of unbelief, against whose suggestions I have continually to struggle, and whose temptings I sometimes feel myself unable to resist. No sooner have I gained a victory over some besetting sin, some evil temper, some worldly desire—than another, equally powerful and seductive, presents itself, and from day to day I am engaged in a conflict, battling with some enemy, resisting some onset of temptation, and hardly able to keep my ground."
Reader, yours is precisely the Christian's experience, just what you were told to expect when you entered the narrow way—and what you may continue to anticipate until you "enter the rest which remains for the people of God." But why be discouraged? He who has sustained you hitherto will be "with you" still. Your strength has often been fast failing, but you have not been overcome; why then should you dread that defeat awaits you? The very struggles you have maintained have added to your strength, and given you fresh vigor; the very fear of being vanquished has been a stimulus to new exertion, and is a sign that you "will finally prevail." Your enemies are strong and mighty—yes, but not stronger than those whom your blessed Savior met and trampled underfoot. He will nerve your arm afresh for the struggle. He will help you not only to maintain your ground, but to gain the victory; and if ever you feel within you the risings of fear, or doubt, or despondency, oh, be cheered by these two precious assurances—"My grace is sufficient for you;" and again, "To him who overcomes will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne."
Christian, whatever your trial, distress, or sorrow—have faith in the promise of your Savior. All else may fail you, but "His word stands sure." You will have your struggles and conflicts, you will have dark and gloomy days and nights of storm and tempest; but fear not—you will be carried safely through them all. You may be wounded and torn, and, covered with many scars, bearing the marks of many a hard-fought battle—with the dust of a weary journey on your garments—with the sword not resting in its scabbard, but grasped as if for another onset—you may be summoned from the battle-plain—but what then?
Away from conflict, from tumult, and strife—away from sin, temptation, and sorrow—away, in that blessed home of peace and purity, where no fear shall again disturb, no foe again attack, no evil heart again lead astray—you will "rest from all your labors." The trumpet will no more summon to the battle; its last clarion-note will be "Victory!" and amid the glad hosannas of the heavenly hosts, you will be welcomed as another conqueror—a conqueror through Him whose grace was sufficient for you, and whose strength was made perfect in weakness.
O most gracious Father, who has invited all who feel their need of Your grace to come unto You—have mercy upon me, for I am in trouble. I am deeply sensible that I am far from exercising that unreserved submission to Your will which I ought to exercise. Help me, I beseech You, so to trust in Your infinite goodness and unerring wisdom, that I may be able to say from my very heart, "May Your will be done." Oh, teach me to be grateful for the manifold comforts allotted me, and support me graciously, that my soul be not cast down and disturbed within me. Keep me from all repining thoughts, and make Your grace at all times sufficient for me, and perfect Your strength in my weakness. Let my soul be supported by faith, hope, and patience, under all the sufferings I may yet endure. Bless the means that are used, and make them effectual, if it be Your good pleasure, for restoring me to health, that I may again praise You in the assembly of Your saints. Make me willing to glorify You either by life or by death. Give me a simple dependence upon You, and enable me in all things to commit my way unto You, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
"Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God." Isaiah 50:10