2 Cor. 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
There are then two ways to live: by God’s grace or by our strength.
When we rely on our own power, we cannot at the same time rely on his power. His power, his grace, only manifests itself perfectly when we are weak. Because when we are strong the only thing that we rely upon, the only thing that others can see, is our own strength.
It is precisely in those moments when our human strength fails us that his grace, extended to the weak abundantly, shows itself as more than sufficient.
During a difficult trial from the Lord years ago, I was weak, afraid, worried, anxious. In my weakness I turned to the LORD for help, recognizing my own great weakness. He did for me what he does for all his people who come to a place of utter weakness, of brokenness, of despair: he gave me his grace for strength!
God’s power is made perfect in our human weakness. Therefore, while weak, his grace is sufficient for us. Not sufficient as in just barely enough to get by. But rather, sufficient as in we need nothing else.
So sufficient was his grace during that period of suffering that a close friend wrote to me years afterward: “I was and always will be struck by how peaceful and calm you were through the whole [difficulty].”
Paul derives a life practice from the fact that God’s power is perfected in weakness: I will boast gladly in my weaknesses. While the world and human nature urge us to hide our weaknesses, to defend our weaknesses, to overcome our weaknesses, God shows us here how to live. We are to boast in our weakness.
What does that mean? To tell others that, while we have no strength to endure, he enables us. That while we shake and tremble, he steadies our heart and hand. That while we wish to run away, he makes us run toward the fight.
So, I replied to my friend, after thanking him for his kindness: “All [that peace was] a work of grace, poured out abundantly, as the need arose. And there was much need.”
We are indeed in much need. Daily surely. But there come periods of trial and struggle from the Lord where our need is felt more sharply and we cry out more deeply, “Abba, Father, help me please!” And then comes his help, his grace, his power.
Paul admits his weaknesses for it is in the confessing of our limits that we are seeking God’s limitless grace. If we seek to stand in our own strength, he may well leave us to it! But if we want his power to rest upon us—and what believer does not want his power—then we had best grow accustomed to thinking of ourselves as weak, for so we are.
Here lies real power, for God’s grace is not only an attitude in him toward us, but also his power released in us, real power.
John Calvin comments: “The term grace, does not mean here, as it does elsewhere, the favor of God, but by metonymy, the aid of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us from the unmerited favor of God; and it ought to be sufficient for the pious, inasmuch as it is a sure and invincible support against their ever giving way.”
God’s grace is power in our lives, Holy-Spirit-quickened power that is an “invincible support” against collapse.
There are two ways to live, relying on our strength or God’s grace. Trusting in our own righteousness, or his grace. Boasting in our strength or boasting in our weaknesses, and his grace.
“May I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). Let us learn to live by grace, to boast in our weakness, and therefore in God’s grace.