“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (II Corinthians 12:9)
The Apostle Paul had to learn a valuable lesson. Most people read this verse and believe that Jesus was saying “no” to Paul, when he had asked Him to remove the “thorn” (the demonic spirit that was harassing him). Of course God was not going to come along and simply “remove” the devil in Paul’s life, any more than He would do that for any mature believer today. Every believer must resist the devil for themselves. God’s not going to exempt anyone from having to do this (the devil has a legal right to be in the earth for the time being). God has deputized us, armed us, and left us here to “occupy” until he comes (Luke 19:13). We have the privilege and responsibility of resisting the devil and casting him out. Jesus demonstrated this and taught us how to do it, and was simply telling Paul to do what he was supposed to be doing anyway. There was sufficient grace available for Paul to overcome, and to do all that God had called him to do, and that very same grace is available to you and me today.
When I was in college, having to work full time and also tend to needs of the family, write ministry letters, pray, preach and study the Word, things could get quite “hectic.” It was difficult to even comprehend how I was going to get that ten-page report done for class within the seven-day time frame that I was given. I would sit down and attempt to write and nothing inspiring would come forth. It was horrible at times, but through it all the Holy Spirit was teaching me how to access the grace of God and bring it into my life in a greater measure.
God wants to orchestrate our lives perfectly, so that everything “works” according to His pre-determined, divine order (Ephesians 2:10). When things are done according to God’s order, our lives can be arranged in such a way that can be fulfilling, joyous, and bear lasting fruit; the only stipulation is that it must be done by the Spirit, through faith, and not by the arm of the flesh (II Chronicles 32:8, Jeremiah 17:5).
Sometimes God tells us to do something, and we get under pressure concerning what He has told us to do. The devil will whisper, “You’d better do something now, or nothing’s going to get done!” but God doesn’t expect us to “do” the works through our own natural efforts (Hebrews 4:10). Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, Ephesians 6:10). The reason why we struggle much of the time is because we have not taken His yoke upon ourselves, but rather we carry our own yoke, and the devil comes along and adds more baggage to it.
When I was in school and had an important paper to do, I would sit down to study and write, and then get frustrated. I would say, “Lord, I have to do this!” “It’s due Monday, and I have ten pages to write!” But then He would tell me that it was Friday night, and that I should relax and watch a movie, and spend time with the family, or do something else (God wants to be involved in even the simplest aspects of our lives). This was hard for me to do, but I learned to enter into His rest and enjoy the season that I was in.
We can learn to enjoy whatever season that we are in, even if it’s something that we don’t particularly like at the time. I would “cast the care” of the school project over on the Lord, and sit down and watch the movie; usually God would speak to me throughout the movie, and I would enjoy it, and then sometime over the weekend there would come strength and inspiration from the Holy Spirit for the project that I needed to do. I knew when it was the right time to sit down and write, and when I did, I would accomplish in two or three hours what would normally have taken a week. I had accessed the grace of God, and when I put my hand diligently to the project at the proper time, it all just came together (Romans 5:2).
Jesus commanded us to go into all of the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). His command is for every believer, but most of the time we visit extremes. We either don’t do anything at all, or we come up with all kinds of “ideas” and programs that bear no lasting fruit. God isn’t looking for us to do wonderful works for Him, but rather He is looking for our willingness and availability. If we are willing, and we make ourselves available to Him, then He will open the doors and strengthen us; He will give us wisdom and boldness to do it. He doesn’t expect us to do what he asks us to do in our own strength (Acts 1:8).
Jesus walked by the Spirit throughout His entire earthly ministry, and submitted Himself to the will of the Father. When Jesus had heard that Lazarus was sick, instead of rushing to his side, He stayed right where He was for two more days (John 11:6). He was not afraid of what men thought, nor did He yield to their pressure. What was He doing? He was listening to the Holy Spirit. He told His disciples, “Walk while it is yet day, while you have the light” (John 11:9-10, 12:35). He was telling them that it was important to walk while the light is present, at the proper time, and not according to natural reasoning, circumstances or pressure.
The devil will attempt to use all types of pressure in order to disrupt this process and get us out of God’s order, timing and will (Mark 4:14-20). King Saul, who had been fighting with the Philistines, had been instructed to wait for Samuel, but instead, the pressure of the battle and of the people got to Him, and he forced himself to offer the sacrifice himself, before it was time. This action, among other acts of disobedience, cost him the kingdom (I Samuel 13:8-14).
In the wilderness, God had told the children of Israel to gather the amount of manna that they needed for each particular day; if they gathered more, it would rot. God gives sufficient grace in order to deal with the challenges at hand today; He’s not going to join us in worrying about tomorrow, because there will be sufficient grace for tomorrow when tomorrow comes. We get into trouble when we try to solve tomorrow’s problems today (Matthew 6:34).
God has an order by which He wants our lives to function, and entering into His rest (even though it’s a place of perfect peace, contentment, and assured victory) seems to be the area of greatest struggle for many of us. The reason for this is that we, by nature, like to be in control. But in order to enter into God’s rest, we must relinquish control. The Holy Spirit once told me, “Many of my people are out there working for me, but few of them are working with me.” We must allow God to work through us, by getting His plan, and then obeying His promptings and leadings.
The degree in which we’re able to surrender will determine to what degree that we experience true and lasting victory, peace and joy, and will also determine the degree in which we are effective for the Kingdom of God.