What is grace? We have defined grace as God’s Unmerited Favour. It is God’s favour towards us, something which we have neither earned nor deserve. It is God’s kind and merciful involvement in our lives. Warren Wiebe has a great definition of grace: “God’s provision for our every need when we need it.”
There was a man called John Newton who was a captain of Slaves ship during the slavery trading times. After he saw the light and got saved from his sinful life style, John Newton did not always consider God’s grace to be amazing. There was a time when Newton was a very hard and cruel man. As a sea captain, he carried slaves from Africa to England. Yet during a storm one night, John Newton was made to realize his need for God’s grace and he cried out for salvation. God did save John Newton. And by His amazing grace, God gloriously changed John Newton and from that point on Newton worshiped God for His amazing grace. Some believe that Amazing Grace is the greatest hymn ever written. Indeed it is the most well-known.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
Saul of Tarsus, who we know today as the Apostle Paul, struggled with receiving God’s grace. Paul had been raised as a Pharisee and therefore all of his life he had lived by a very strict religious standard.
Yet, like John Newton and so many others, Paul was gloriously saved by God’s grace from that point on he wrote more about grace than any other person in the Bible. What did Paul learn about God’s grace?
We Can’t Earn Our Way to Heaven; In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read in Romans 3, where
Paul first had to learn that he couldn’t earn his way to heaven. It was only by God’s amazing grace could he be justified and declared righteous in the sight of God
All of us have sinned. All of us have had things in our lives that were sinful and displeasing to God. Yet through God’s amazing grace, there is way for us to be forgiven.
It is only by what Jesus accomplished on the cross that we can be forgiven and made acceptable in God’s sight.
How can we receive God`s Amazing Grace today? We do not deserve it but in HIS infinite love to us, God pay the price for our redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here’s how you can receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour today: When you admit that you are sinful and in need of forgiveness, believing that Jesus died for your sins and Call upon His name and ask Him for His forgiveness
If you pray to God to forgive your sins and you make Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour, by His amazing grace He has forgiven all of your sins and declared you to now be one of His children. Like John Newton, you can sing-
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
Without the grace of God, we are nothing. Jesus said in John 15:4
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abide in me, and I in him, the same bring forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
Nothing can we accomplish without the amazing grace of God. God did not save you and then turn you lose to try to live life on your own. God saved you by His grace and He will sustain you by His grace. ‘Abiding in Christ’ is the same thing as drawing upon His grace.
Paul had a difficult time learning that lesson as well. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul shares a lot about himself. He opens up more in this letter than anywhere else. He talks a lot about his struggles and his journey as a Christian. In the 12th chapter Paul shares a lesson with us that isvery important.
Many have said that Paul was one of, if not the greatest Christian who ever lived. Paul seemed to have a commitment to Christ that few ever have and God used him in a very powerful way. What made Paul such a dynamic Christian? Paul was raised in a Roman city called Tarsus. In Tarsus was one of the known universities of that day. Some have said that Tarsus surpassed even Athens and Alexandria in knowledge and intellect. Being raised in Tarsus, Paul became a very intelligent man and his extensive knowledge is seen in many of his sermons and writings where he often made reference to many of the great intellects of his day. Paul was a very intelligent man yet it was not his intellect that made him a great Christian.
Paul was a Jew by birth. Before he became a Christian, he was a Pharisee and perhaps the son of a Pharisee. The Pharisees were among the most intense in their religious fervour of any of the Jewish people of that day. Recently I heard John MacArthur state that of the hundreds of thousands of Jews living during Jesus’ day; only 6,000 ever became a part of the Pharisees.
Being a Pharisee, Paul was intensely opposed to Christianity. He believed that the followers of Christ were evil and he did everything he could to destroy them and their gatherings. He was passionate about it. In Acts9:1, the Bible describes him as someone who ‘breathed out threatening and slaughter.” He was consumed with killing Christians.
After his salvation, Paul demonstrated this same kind of passion as a Christian.
Whatever Paul did, he did it whole heartedly. Yet it was not his religious zeal or passion that made him a great Christian.
Paul wrote half of the New Testament and much of the book of Acts is about his ministry. Some estimate that during his time as a Christian, he travelled over 14,000 miles going to various cities and preaching the gospel. That’s like someone today circling the globe hundreds of times on an airplane. Paul preached in the greatest cities of that day. He preached in Jerusalem, Damascus, Athens, Ephesus and even Rome. Yet it was not his golden opportunities that made him a great Christian. Much of his ministry occurred from a prison cell.
What was it then that made the apostle Paul the greatest Christian who ever lived?
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12; “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The thing that made Paul such a dynamic Christian was his dependence upon God’s amazing grace. God’s grace is not only sufficient to save us from our sins; it is also sufficient to strengthen us in our struggles.
Christian life is a journey. It’s a pilgrimage. We are saved instantaneously the moment we receive Christ as our Saviour. Yet it often takes us many years to grow and develop as a believer. Spiritual maturity is a process. Often it is a slow and difficult process. You will see this as a reflection in Paul’s entire life. He had a difficult time understanding that God’s grace was sufficient to strengthen him in his struggles. As a matter of fact, before God could build Paul, God had to break Paul.
At one point in his life, Paul was caught up into heaven. That should not totally surprise us. Isaiah was allowed to see Christ sitting upon His throne. (Isaiah 6) While in heaven, Paul received revelations that were too magnificent to put into human words. Though the Bible describes heaven as a wonderful place, there’s a whole lot more about heaven than we know. The best is yet to come!
As the result of this experience, there was the temptation for Paul to become prideful. Apparently pride was an area of weakness for Paul. Being so intelligent and gifted and having been raised in a religious system that petted men’s pride, Paul was prone to become prideful. Therefore the Lord had to break him. God had to get a hold of Paul’s pride and God did so through what Paul described as a ‘thorn in the flesh.’
Many have tried to guess what Paul’s thorn was. Some have said that it was certain individuals who followed him around and continually harassed him in his ministry. We often call these men ‘Judaizers’ and they are seen throughout the book of Acts. It was almost like they travelled from town to town, following Paul in order to oppose him and to make his life miserable. Indeed they were a thorn in his side, but we’re not for sure that they were his thorn in the flesh.
Others have supposed that it was some type of physical ailment. It appears from his letter to the Galatians that Paul suffered from some type of infirmity in his eyes. Maybe his thorn was his eyesight. Maybe it was something else. We’re not told for sure and that’s good because what the thorn was is not as important as why the Lord allowed Paul to suffer from it. God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh in order to cause Paul to depend upon God’s amazing grace.
Some believe that Christians should never suffer. They believe that all suffering was done away with at the cross. Yet that is not what scripture teaches. A number of believers found in the Bible suffered for a variety of reasons. Timothy suffered because of the curse that was placed upon man at the fall. Scripture indicates that Timothy suffered from some type of stomach ailment. Sickness, suffering and even death are all a part of the curse found in Genesis 3. Romans chapter 8 teaches us that even creation is suffering and longing for the day when the curse will be removed. But until that day comes, we’re going to get sick and we’re going to suffer and we’re going to eventually die.
Christians as Hymenaeus and Alexander, suffered because of their sins. We read from Hebrews 12:6;‘For whom the Lord love he chasten, and scourge every son whom he receive.’ If you’re a child of God and wilfully walk in sin, the Lord is going to chasten you in order to bring you back to Himself. That’s a promise.
Others, like Job, suffered in order to prove the validity of their faith and to make it more pure. Peter tells us – “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perish , though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7) Jesus said that the Father ‘prunes the branches’ so that they might bear more fruit and less foliage.
Then many, like Paul, suffer in order to teach them to depend upon God’s grace.
Though it seemed like God was hurting Paul, in reality God was helping him. In order to keep Paul from becoming proud and self-sufficient, the Lord had to keep Paul humble and dependent. The Bible teaches us that the primary thing that keeps us from experiencing God’s grace is pride. We read from James 4:6 … God resist the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. This same truth is also found in 1 Peter 5:5. God hates pride and therefore He opposes those who become proud. He withdraws and withholds His favour from them. But to the humble God gives grace and even more grace. God lavishes His grace upon those who are broken and in need of Him. The weakest believer, who is drawing upon the strength of God’s grace, is stronger than the strongest saint who is trusting only in himself.
Maybe Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a combination of all of these problems. Maybe it was a life that was never free of difficulty. Maybe one day it was an unpleasant individual, the next day an unpleasant incident and the next day an unpleasant illness. I say that because Paul refers to: weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. (see vs. 10)
Almost every day you and I fight some kind of a battle with Satan. Almost every day it seems that one of his evil emissaries is pounding on us. We long for the day when we will be free of all of this; but that day is not today and until that day comes, we have to focus on our relationship with the Lord. We have to continuously pray to Him and ask Him for His help and strength. We need the sufficiency of God’s amazing grace just as much in our struggles as we do in our salvation. Without Him we are nothing and can do nothing. Yet with Him, we can do all things.
What did Christ mean when He said – ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness?’ The word ‘strength’ means power or ability. Christ’s power and ability is perfect. Christ is God and therefore everything about Christ is perfect. How then is His strength made perfect in weakness? The word ‘perfect’ as it is used here comes with the thought of bringing something to completion. Fulfilment – if you will. Christ possesses a perfect strength, yet His perfect strength cannot be fully realized unless there is a need. Christ allows needs in our lives, needs that are beyond our ability to handle, so that He might demonstrate the glory of His power and strength.
Understanding the sufficiency of God’s grace is not always an easy lesson to learn. It requires us to decrease while He increases. It requires a putting to death parts of self so that Christ might live in and through us.
But, you need to; admit your weakness, accept your weakness, believe that God is with you in your weaknesses and let go of the control over your life and yield to the will of Christ. You must seek to draw upon His strength through prayers, studying the Word of God and in meditations.
In 2 Corinthians 12:8 Paul said; “For this thing (weakness) I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Paul learned this lesson and that is what made him a great man of God. That is what empowered his intellect, passion and opportunities. Paul said in Galatians 2:20; ‘Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ live in me.’