Lessons in Growth Meditations: 14. Personal Provision
2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
In the previous study we emphasized that the new resurrection life means a new awareness of the presence of God, and that especially in the matter of prayer and I am aware that in the things I was suggesting yesterday about prayer, it may be that you felt I was saying there is no place for asking for things for ourselves in this approach; quite to the contrary, we have a new confidence to ask things of our loving heavenly Father.
Paul’s Need: In Paul’s very personal second letter to the Corinthians he uses the word ‘grace’ eleven times and nowhere does it contain such significance as in our verse above. Let’s just define ‘grace’ very simply as God’s provision for His children. Now Paul had been suffering something he simply called ‘a thorn in the flesh’ (v.7). Now we don’t know what it was and many have speculated what it was, especially as he also refers to it as a ‘messenger of Satan’, but we will simply say, for the sake of what we are saying here, that it was something that was at its best, a nuisance, and at its worst something totally debilitating that pulled him down.
So, when the Lord says these things to him, we need to note two things that He says. First, whatever this thing is, God’s resources for Paul to cope with it are adequate. Second, and this is implied, the Lord isn’t going to take it away (at least not in the immediate future) because His power will be revealed in Paul’s weakness, i.e. he will still have it, but God’s power will be so obvious that he will be able to cope with it.
God’s Alternatives: Within this we can realize two important ways that the Lord works. Sometimes He delivers us from the situation (e.g. in Acts 12 He miraculously delivered Peter from prison) and sometimes He delivers us in it, i.e. He gives us the grace to cope while we are still in the midst of the trying, difficult or even apparently impossible circumstances. We may ask to be delivered from it but sometimes He wants us to learn to receive from Him the resources to cope with it or handle it while we are still in it or surrounded by it. These things are not only material, e.g. illness or infirmities, but they can be intellectual, where we need wisdom how to act, or they can be spiritual.
Temptation: An example of a ‘spiritual difficulty’ might be temptation: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13) Note the basics of what he says here. First, we will never encounter anything that others have also not already encountered (“common to mankind”). Second, God will never allow anything beyond what we can bear. Third, He will always provide a way to cope with the temptation. So there it is, it doesn’t matter whether it is physical or material, mental or emotional or even spiritual, the message is the same, God WILL provide.
The Resurrection = God’s Provision: Now of course the greatest demonstration of God’s provision was in respect of the resurrection: “you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death,” (Acts 2:23,24) so, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Rom 8:11) Now whether that means now on this earth (e.g. perhaps in healing) or in eternity with new spiritual bodies, is open for debate, but the main thrust of the message is clear: God’s resource is His own Holy Spirit and He will be there for us to energize us now and into eternity.
Our Resurrection Provision: As Jesus exercises his rule at the Father’s right hand in heaven, we see and experience the fruit of that rule as his Holy Spirit is His provision: physical healing where he declares it, mental healing, similarly, healing of emotions, wisdom for the intellect, His power changing the circumstances or us in the circumstances, all of these being His provision, His grace in every and any circumstance.
Waiting: Now we have already said that sometimes His way through a crisis is to provide grace for us, whereas in other circumstances He may simply change the circumstance. Sometimes we may have to wait for answers to prayer to appear while at other times we will ask, and the thing will happen immediately. From our end of things, the big thing is, will we trust and remain faithful while we are waiting either for the circumstances to change or the resources to appear and be experienced? The big truth is that God IS there for us in the circumstances and He will move those circumstances or provide the grace to handle them: “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28) The resurrection life is a life of provision. Not only has God brought new life to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit but that same Holy Spirit is also the channel and means of God’s ongoing provision in our lives.
New Possibilities: Once we fully take this in, life is never the same again. The truth is that we no longer have to put up with the circumstances as they are. The Scriptural testimony is clear: our God delights in stepping into our circumstances and either changing them, and/or changing us. Now, because the Christian life is a partnership between us and God, we have a part to play, and that part is called faith and faith involves learning. Faith means reaching out to God but sometimes that means persevering, but that is another story!