2 Corinthians 12:8-9
For this thing I sought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.…
"And He said." The Greek tense, here, by a beautiful delicacy of the language, signifies "He has said! He is saying it now! "That one assurance was vocal for every day of Paul's life, and over every step of his heavenward road. So that by the very principle of the text it becomes ours. Let us describe some of our necessities, showing how they may all be met and fully supplied by the Saviour's all-sufficient grace.
I. SOMETIMES THERE IS A GREAT CONSCIOUS NEED JUST AT THE BEGINNING OF A CHRISTIAN CAREER. "The Lord knoweth," not only "them that are His," but also those who are becoming His. And amid all the changes and uncertainties of such a time, He holds in nearness, and offers sufficient grace.
II. THINK OF THE TRANSITION AS MADE. After the fervours of the first love are somewhat abated, and after the sweet freshness has passed from the actings of the newborn soul — then comes a coldness and a pause. The young soul, new to the ways of grace, is in danger of falling into a practical unbelief. "Is it so soon thus with me, while I have yet so far to travel, and so much to do? Ah, what must I do in such a strait as this? Were it not better to return as best I may with the burden of this disappointment into the world again? Better profess nothing than profess and fail." And that feeling would not be at all unreasonable on the naturalistic view of human life. Israel in the wilderness reasoned well from their own point of view. Egypt was far better than the wilderness as a place to live in; and if they had been out in that wilderness on some chance journey, the murmurers would have been the wise men, and Moses and Aaron the foolish ones. But what is that small white thing on the ground every morning? How comes that hard rock to yield the gushing stream? Who is lighting up that pillar of fire for the night? Whence comes that rich glory which shines above the door of the tabernacle? Ah, how do these things change the wilderness state! Even so, we say to every young discouraged soul, if the Lord has brought you out of Egypt, and left you in the wilderness; if He has just come down to convert you and then gone up again to heaven, leaving you to plod earth's weary way alone — why, then you may as well go back to Egypt. But how is the whole case changed, when you hear the text sounding over your present life! "The Lord is saying now, My grace is sufficient for thee." The reference is not to a dead grace which was sufficient, but to a living grace which is. "As thy day, so shall thy strength be."
III. A LITTLE FARTHER ON WE MEET WITH ONE ON WHOM WHEN HE OUGHT TO BE FEELING THE FULL POWERS OF SPIRITUAL MANHOOD, THERE HAS COME A CHILLING AND WEAKENING CHANGE. Like Job, he takes up his parable and says, "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me!" etc. And this change has come he knows not how. Not by any known declensions. Not by any wilful sins. You are omitting no social duty; you are still bowing the knee in prayer; but the sweet experiences are gone. Now there may be many ways of recovery. You might, for example, search out that secret sin which has been working at the roots of your life. Or, conscious that you have been too ready to yield your whole nature to the mood of the moment, you might lift yourself by a purely intellectual effort above too much dependence on your own ever-varying feelings. Or, you might, under the conviction that all has gone wrong, seek for a second conversion — a thing which many Christian men greatly need. But quicker and better way is the way of the text. Take fast hold of that, and the roots of your faith will grip the soil again; and through all the inner channels of your life the nourishing stream will flow; and your "leaf" will grow green; and your fruit will colour and ripen to its "season."
IV. ANOTHER STANDS OUT STRONG AND DARK TO OUR VIEW, AS IF THE SHADOW OF A COMING CALAMITY LAY OVER HIS LIFE. He has run well, and is not without hope that he may run again. Meantime he can hardly stir. Within him are the strugglings of a tempted soul. He would flee, but he cannot. He must go through or fall, unless God shall make a way of escape. And you hear him ask, "What shall I do? How shall safety and deliverance come to me here?" They will come out of the text. Otherwise God's providence would be stronger than His grace. He would be leading men into states and perils from which He would know there could be no deliverance. When a temptation comes purely in God's providence, it will very often be found that "with the temptation" comes the way of escape. God is faithful. Call upon Him, and He will deliver thee.
V. SEE HOW THE SOFTENING SHADOW OF THE TEXT WILL COME OVER THE SOUL THAT IS IN TROUBLE. But what picture shall we take from among the children and the scenes of sorrow? Shall we take the man with the sunny face, the helpful hand, who yet at times has a sorrow like death weighing on his heart; or the physical sufferer; or the widow? We had better not select. Let every sufferer hear for himself; then let him apply the sure word of promise; then let him carry it home to all whom it may concern, as the word of a God who cannot lie. Conclusion:
1. "For thee." If you lose the personal application, you lose all. This text is not for a world, but for a man. "Sufficient for thee," young pilgrim, wearied runner, tempted spirit, etc.
2. "For thee." It is for thee now to change the pronoun and say, with a wondering grateful heart, "To-day, and every day, from this time forth, and even for evermore, His grace is sufficient for me."
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.