My Grace is Sufficient For You
(This is an update of an article I first published in 1999. Iíve
received several emails lately questioning the views I expressed in my study
entitled ďO You Of Little Faith.Ē In each of them a misinterpretation of
Paulís ďthorn in the fleshĒ was used to support the theory that God sometimes
refuses to heal us when we ask. Sadly, this misinterpretation is all
too common among Christians today. Iíve updated and expanded the article
and offer it in response to these questions. Be blessed.)
My Grace Is Sufficient For You
For years the Lord has been done a terrible disservice over the issue of
Paulís complaint about the thorn in his flesh, and itís time to set the record
straight. If youíve been taught that ďMy Grace is sufficient for youĒ was the
Lordís excuse for not healing Paul, then pay close attention. If you donít know
what Iím talking about, then get ready for a great example of how folks distort
the meaning of scripture either to satisfy their pre-conceived notions or
justify their lack of faith.
To get the context, letís read Paulís words from 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great
revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to
torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he
said to me, ďMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in
Before we look at the problem, letís review the popular interpretation.
According to some, Paulís eyesight was permanently damaged when he was blinded
on the Damascus Road.
Supposedly, this caused a disease of the eye common to the day especially around
Damascus. Its name was opthalmia and the visible symptom
was a stream of pus running out of the eyes and down the face. It was nearly as
repugnant as leprosy. The popular interpretation holds that this is the thorn in
his flesh Paul was referring to when he asked the Lord for healing three times
and was refused.
The ďlessonĒ of this interpretation is that even the great Paul wasnít healed
when he asked and that the Lord had actually given him this disease to help him
overcome his pride. Weíre to understand that God gives us disease (and
misfortune as well) to help us overcome our sins, and that we shouldnít ask for
healing from something the Lord gave us for that purpose. If we do ask and donít
get healed, itís because the Lord is dealing with us. All this is wrapped
up in the Fatherís love, saying that Heís working for our good in spite of our
So whatís wrong with that view? Well, aside from the fact that the Lord
handled our sin problem at the cross and now sees us as being with out any
imperfection (2 Cor. 5:21), and that it comes perilously close
to the Eastern notion of karma, the context makes it ridiculous and the
translation is flawed.
Whatís The Context?
Just imagine youíre the Creator of the universe. Out of your boundless love,
youíve given the life of your son to redeem your creation from its bondage to
sin, and youíve gone to great lengths to recruit someone to go around telling
people about it so they can be saved. You want this person to prove that youíre
much greater than all their pagan gods so you bring him right up to your very
throne and show him things no other man has ever seen so He can speak with
authority. (2 Cor. 12:2-4) And you empower him to heal them
from their diseases (Acts 19:11-12) and even raise some of them
from the dead (Acts 20:7-12).
But every time he speaks of your wonderful love and miraculous power, he has
to stand there with pus running out of both eyes and explain that you gave him
this disease and wonít heal him because youíre afraid heíll become too proud.
Would he have a credibility problem? Iíd say so.
Now letís learn what the passage really says. The word for thorn literally
means a pointed stake, and recalls a situation in Judges 2 when
the Israelites failed to rid the land of all its previous inhabitants as God had
commanded (Deut. 20:16-18). Because of their failure to
obey Him, The Angel of the Lord declared that these people would become
perpetual enemies to oppose the Israelites physically and distract them
spiritually. He then coined the phrase ďthorn in your sidesĒ to symbolize
their physical and spiritual opposition. From that day to this, these
people have inflicted incredible physical abuse upon Godís people.
The word torment actually means to rap with the fist, or buffet. It also
comes from a root meaning to physically punish.
In both these words thereís a clear implication of physical attack. So the
real story of Paulís thorn in the flesh goes more like this. Everywhere Paul
went he was physically abused. Hear his own account from 2 Cor.
ďI have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged
more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received
from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods,
once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in
the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from
rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from
Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and
in danger from false brothers.Ē
Is He Dead Yet?
I urge you to study these events carefully in Acts. For example, in Philippi
Paul and Silas were stripped and severely beaten with rods. The flesh on their
backs was bruised and bleeding, and the pain was incredible, but they were taken
to prison without medical attention, their hands and feet secured in stocks,
forcing them to sit in an upright position, making sleep virtually impossible
even if the pain would have allowed it.
But at midnight they were heard singing hymns of praise and the doors of the
prison broke open, freeing them. They went to the home of the jailer, who washed
and fed them. The miracles he had seen caused his whole family to be saved that
night. The next morning when they were officially released, they walked 30 miles
to Amphipolis having received no medical treatment and having had no recovery
time, not even a nightís sleep. (Acts 16:22-40) The Lord had
But an earlier incident in Lystra is perhaps the most dramatic A group
of angry Jews from Antioch
and Iconium had followed Paul to Lystra. When they caught up with him they took
up stones and stoned him. (Acts 14:19-20) Remember,
stoning was the Jewish method of execution. It consisted of immobilizing a
person, sometimes by burying him up to his waist, and then hurling rocks at his
head and upper body until he died.
Believing they had been successful and that Paul was dead, they dragged his
body out side the city and left it there for the wild dogs to eat. But the
believers gathered around him and prayed. Paul got up and went back into
the city with them. The next day he walked 25 miles to Derbe. Itís like
walking home from your execution; it just doesnít happen.
These are incredible examples of Godís miraculous power. Contrary to the
popular interpretation, Paul was physically healed by the grace of God over and
over again. He was rescued from the open sea and even raised from the
dead. It was a great testimony of Godís strength perfected in Paulís
The idea that God doesnít heal people any more canít be supported by this or
any other scripture. The real lesson here is that while God refused to
eliminate the resistance to Paulís ministry, He promised to see him through it
successfully if Paul would walk in faith down the path God had set before him.
And can you imagine the faith Paul must have had, going into those towns knowing
his enemies were waiting and would try to stop him again. But each time it
happened, and each time God healed him, his faith was strengthened, Godís glory
was increased, and the Gospel was spread.
In the conquest of the Promised Land, God could have simply struck all of Israelís enemies dead, but instead He required Israel to fight,
telling them in advance that they would achieve victory. The only defeat
they suffered was when they disobeyed, and as soon as they confessed He gave
them that victory too. (Joshua 7-8)
Jesus said that in his world we will have trials, but to take heart because
He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) What He meant by
that is He may not choose to deliver you from the trials you face in this world,
but He will never leave you or forsake you as you go through them, and given the
chance He will miraculously restore you to show forth His glory. The
only reason Paul performed greater miracles than we do is because he had bigger
faith. The only reason he had bigger faith is because he fought bigger
battles. Selah 10-18-08