Reading: II Corinthians 12:9 “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.”
When Paul prayed for the removal of the “thorn in the flesh” (a figure of speech denoting affliction, pain and trouble) he received an answer that he did not want to hear, but one that he came to appreciate and rejoice in (II Corinthians 12:9). Paul came to realize that the “thorn in the flesh” was God’s gift to him.
The answer Paul received; “my grace is sufficient for thee” is the culmination of a thread of thought running throughout the second letter to the Corinthian Church. In 1:8 Paul writes “we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.” Later in 4:7 he testifies that the gospel is contained “in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” and in 12:9 he discloses the Lord’s answer to his prayer; “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” All of this weakness and despair bound up in earthen vessels has purpose for the Christian; to prove the power of divine grace.
The connection between the grace of God and the power of God here is the focus of the parallelism in Vs. 9. “My grace” corresponds with “my strength,” as grace given “for thee” corresponds to “weakness” in this parallelism. Grace is not given merely to endure the struggle or resign ourselves to it passively, but grace is given to display the power of God throughout the trial and actively submit to God. The power of God is displayed in the grace given. The power of God becomes a reality (“perfected”) in the weakness of man and the weakness of man is exemplified in the trials of life; “thorn in the flesh.”
The verb tenses of the verse are particularly significant; Paul says in the aorist tense “there was given a thorn…I prayed…” and then in the perfect tense the Lord “said” and what he said continues to hold good. This perfect tense implies an action the influence of which continues. In other words, the Lord told Paul, no matter the circumstance, whether the present thorn or when that passes, a future thorn my grace continues to be sufficient. God’s grace is sufficient in times of extremity. The power of God accomplishes its end in us when we are at an end of ourselves and apply to God for grace at the appointed means; God gives thorns to prove the power of grace.