Fairmeadow Community Church of The Nazarene
August 22, 2021
  • How Great Thou Art
  • 2 Corinthians 12:6–10 NRSV
    6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
    Situation This journey of grace has been all-encompassing for us over the last several weeks. We’ve come to recognize it is a journey. It’s an invitation to get close to Jesus, to walk with him, grow, be transformed, and be commissioned to serve him in this world. We’ve talked about prevenient grace that goes before us, making a way for us. We’ve talked about the saving grace of God that holistically changes us. Even when our best efforts and good intentions seemingly fail us, we’ve talked about the sanctifying grace of God can empower us to live faithfully. We’ve talked about sustaining grace, the grace that keeps us moving forward on the path we’ve been called to so that our life of faith isn’t a sprint but a marathon. We need to celebrate how amazing God’s grace is! Grace gives us much to celebrate. It’s the gift of God’s favor toward us. It’s the gift that changes everything. Paul suggests in Philippians that we shine like stars and in Romans that we are more than conquerors. Paul has a lot to say about how grace enables us to overcome, to rise above sin, to transform us into the new creation. Grace makes all things new.
    Complication But making all things new is not always quick or easy. The Bible is realistic about the fault lines of real life. We should pay attention to the details. Too many preachers and church people pick out a few verses that make life sound too easy. If we aren’t careful, we can translate grace into a form of spiritual invincibility, or turn suffering in this world into something trivial—or, worse yet, start to assume that if we’re living in grace then whatever suffering we encounter, we can just pray it away.
    But what happens when that doesn’t work? Life can be rough and tumble. Rarely is it black and white. Sometimes life leaves an enduring mark. Sometimes our jar of clay gets cracked. It’s fragile. Sometimes we end up like Paul, with a thorn that we can’t pray away.
    Paul seemed to beg God for the removal of the thorn. But what happens when the thorn doesn’t go away? When the mental health crisis persists? When the person we prayed for dies? When we still lose our job? What happens then?
    Resolution What happens then is grace that isn’t merely a fix-it for every issue. Instead, grace is found—discovered amid the fragile, cracked jars and persistent thorns. Paul discusses the strength of God made perfect in our weakness. What does grace do and not do?

    Grace doesn’t remove the memories. Grace doesn’t exempt us from the damage

    Grace doesn’t extract the sorrow. Grace doesn’t resolve our fragility.

    God will help us cope with the memories instead. This is the fine line between sufficient grace and sustaining grace. We do have to face some things from the past in order to move forward. We can choose to stay stuck in the past, holding on to hurt and anger and disappointment. But it won’t really help us. If we hold out until there’s no more pain or no more memory of loss we will never get to healing. Paul’s thorn in the flesh didn’t force him to remain isolated and he didn’t do so. He had also been through many painful experiences of love and loss in life. It was painful to move forward but he knew the only way to go was forward, memories and all. He found that God’s grace was sufficient for him. He wrote freely about those who had abandoned him or doubted him or literally condemned him. He could remember painful events but now with a holy perspective.
    it still hurts. We still have physical scars. Even Jesus’ resurrected body had the scars from his crucifixion. Why should we expect any different? Our defenses may be up because of past betrayals. But there is a line between being a little shy and vowing never to trust anyone new again. When we experience trauma and loss life may be different but God can restore us so we move forward into healing.
    We are fragile jars of clay. Grace doesn’t make us invincible... But there are amazing things grace does for us...

    Grace does reframe our stories.

    People would often come to Jesus with questions and puzzles and requests. But these people were often stuck in a broken way of seeing the world. So they were asking in the wrong way, or asking for the wrong thing. Jesus did not hesitate to reframe their story. The man born blind was accused by everyone of being especially sinful. Jesus made sure the man and everyone in town knew that sin wasn’t the cause of his suffering.
    The disciples asked who is the greatest. But Jesus told them to be willing to be the least if they wanted to have a great impact. Grace does work in the cracks. God’s love is the glue that puts us back together. You can still see where the crack existed, but now it can be healed, a forever sign of grace.

    Grace does deepen intimacy.

    I don’t think this is the purpose or the reason why we suffer. But one positive outcome for those who courageously face their pain and seek to move beyond it with God’s help, is they get to know the heart of God.
    For me the story of Joseph makes this so very clear.
    Genesis 39:21 NRSV
    21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.
    The Lord showed him steadfast love or tender compassion is another way to translate it. God came near at the darkest moment of Joseph’s life. Others intended it for evil, but God turned it around for good.
    2 Corinthians 12:9 NRSV
    9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
    Paul learned the secret. We should still work to alleviate suffering. We should never think that God wants people hurting. But we can trust that in our moments of suffering God. Is. Near. Amen? If we don’t close our heart we may be able to experience it in powerful ways. I’ve heard many people testify to God being near to them and comforting them in their hour of trial. Others have said it was still hard and they didn’t feel any special feelings but they had a strength they didn’t understand that helped them overcome. Others said they had a deep peace that kept them calm and whole while the world caved in around them. These things can bring us closer to the heart of God. Jesus suffered like we do so he can relate like no other.

    Grace does reveal its source.

    Here is the most important thing. God is the source of all the true healing in our lives. We can look to doctors and counselors and we should when we have physical, emotional or mental health issues. But for the Christian we know that in and through and beyond these good things, the grace of God is at work. The love of God is restoring and healing. The peace of God is going beyond our ability to understand. The power of God is at work.
    His power made perfect in our weakness.
    2 Corinthians 12:10 NRSV
    10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
    I’m a man. I like being able to fix things and solve problems and puzzles. I know God’s word can teach us so many things that fix so many issues in our lives. But I’m human. I’ve had to learn and accept my own limitations in life. Underneath it all is the strength and power that only God can provide. Let me tell you, you can trust him. If your health is puzzle you can’t solve, his grace is enough. If there’s too much month at the end of the money, his power is made perfect. If your family relationships are broken, be reconciled to God. If you’re feeling abandoned let him be a father to you. If you miss your mom, I can relate. If your closest friend is no longer there, find in him the friend of all friends. Let the relationship grow deeper as you trust God more and lean on the power God would give you...
    I can testify that his grace is more than sufficient. Sometimes grace is the big bold powerful answer to our problem. Sometimes grace is found in the daily journey of living God’s way—acts of piety and acts of mercy. But sometimes grace is the only thing we have left to hold on to… Sometimes life can feel like a video game where you’re stuck in a room and it seems there is no way out. The best video games force you to admit that you need help, to stop and rest and pray and find strength for the journey. Real life is the same way. On the journey of following Jesus there is a grace that can reach you where you are. Suddenly there is a power that you know didn’t come from you. You can press on.
    Celebration Reflect on your life in this moment. First of all, you’re not alone. We are with you. The Bible says in fact we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. And you know God is with you. If we have confessed our sins and confessed our faith in Jesus as Lord then we are never again alone. As long as we don’t shut the door on God completely, he will never shut the door on us. Jesus will never stop loving us.
    Romans 5:2 NRSV
    2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
    Stand with me if you will. Straighten those creaky bones this morning. Today we stand in the grace of God, amen? This day we know all of us together that we are held in the everlasting arms. Today we boast in our weakness because it lets the strength and beauty of Jesus be seen in us. Today we board of our hope of sharing in the glory of God.
    God’s grace is sufficient for you in all your trials and all the unanswered questions and difficult prayers. Let him be your all in all.
    Bow your heads, close your eyes, open your palms toward heaven. Father bless these your people. Fill their lives with more of you today, Father… So now all of us let the healing all sufficient grace of God all the way into your cracked jar of clay. And hold onto this treasure for all you’re worth. Don’t let anyone, don’t let any thing, certainly don’t let the devil take it away from you with his tricks and schemes.
    Listen to the voice of God today: my grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness. Then be like Paul and say, when I am weak, then I am strong.
    In Jesus’ name, amen.
    Go, in the grace of God, walk in a power not your own, boast not in your strength but in his. Amen. You are dismissed.
      • 2 Corinthians 12:6–10NRSV

      • Genesis 39:21NRSV

      • 2 Corinthians 12:9NRSV

      • 2 Corinthians 12:10NRSV

      • Romans 5:2NRSV

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