What, Exactly, is His Grace Sufficient For?

One of the go-to verses for Christians in pain is 2 Corinthians 12:9. In it God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Of course, the context is important. So bare with me while I rehash that for us.

Corinth was a city of wealth, commerce, and depravity. Sexual immorality was rampant, with prostitution being part of idol worship. Apparently, the Corinthians had a hard time separating themselves from these cultural practices. Paul tried, somewhat in vain it seems, to encourage Corinthian believers to higher standards – godly standards. Second Corinthians was actually his third letter (at least) to the group, after several lengthy personal visits to try to steer the church in the ways of the Lord. To put it mildly, Paul was frustrated and desperately wanted these believers to desire to be the Church – those called out of the world and into the Kingdom.

In chapters 10 and 11, Paul felt the need to answer a question the Corinthians seemed to be asking themselves – why should we listen to Paul?  Paul acknowledged their grumbling, reporting his awareness that “…some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing,'” (2 Corinthians 10:10). The Corinthians were feeling a bit rebellious, and they weren’t afraid to say it… when Paul wasn’t around.

Paul did his best to respond calmly the rest of chapter 10 and the first half of chapter 11, but he eventually decided sarcasm and mockery were the way to go. (Have I mentioned I love him?) He was infuriated the Corinthians were choosing to elevate false apostles’ teaching above the true Gospel he had introduced to them (2 Corinthians 11:5-6).

While defending himself, though, he didn’t want to give the impression the Corinthians should listen to him because there was something special about him. It was important they realized it was not Paul he wanted them to submit to but Christ in Paul. Paul told the story about his infamous thorn to illustrate his humanity and frailty and to emphasize only the existence of an all-powerful God could explain how a man with such a restrictive condition could be so successful.

Within this context, Paul recounted how he asked God to take away his thorn three times (2 Corinthians 12:8). And God had responded this way, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The first part of the sentence intrigues me. “My grace is sufficient for you.” What does that even mean? We Christians are quick to quote it to someone in need, but have we really nailed down what’s going on here? I haven’t.

What, exactly, is God’s grace sufficient for?

I took the verse apart in the Greek last night to try to answer that question, and you’re never going to believe what I found out. What God really means is, “My grace is enough for you.”

If you’re paying attention, you’re realizing I discovered absolutely nothing new. So I took it apart in the English and came up with this.

Grace can mean favor, approval, or blessing, typically unmerited. Enough means occurring in such a quantity as to fully meet a need. So God’s favor and blessing will fully meet our need. The question is begged, our need for what? Some needs? All needs? Specific needs?

Before we can transfer the idea to ourselves, we need to get back in Paul’s shoes to understand the original intent of the Lord.

Paul had some needs.

In the most immediate context, he had a thorn of some sort causing him some agony. God likely would have been intending to communicate His favor was enough to get Paul through that agony. God’s blessing was enough for Paul to live  for a lengthy amount of time in spite of whatever physical, spiritual, or emotional pain he was experiencing.

Zoom out a smidge, and the wider context is that Paul was defending his credibility as an apostle to the Corinthians. In the midst of their doubting his authority to speak on God’s behalf, God tells Paul, “My approval is enough.” The power behind Paul’s ministry resided in God’s approval and favor, not the Corinthians. Nothing else was needed. Even without the Corinthians’ okay, God’s approval was enough for Him to accomplish whatever He willed through Paul.

I’d also like to think the Father-heart of God wanted to remind Paul that He loved Paul. He wanted Paul to feel confident of that love and to find his identity in that love, no matter what others were saying about him. God approved of Paul, even if others didn’t, and knowing that should have fully met Paul’s need to feel secure and valued. 

Step back even farther, and we realize Paul had a nearly impossible task – to take the Gospel to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles also (Acts 13:46). The Jews thought of Paul as a traitor preaching sacrilege and would’ve rather killed him than listen to him try to convince them Jesus was the Messiah they’d been waiting on (Acts 9, 13). The Gentiles didn’t know what to do with Paul. Some were scared of him (Acts 9), some tried to worship him (Acts 14:11), some stoned him (Acts 14:19), some believed his message (Acts 14:20), and some, like the Corinthians, believed Paul initially but got angry when he held them accountable. So when God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” the widest application implies God’s favor was all Paul needed to successfully fulfill his life’s calling to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Eph 3:8).

Back to the original question. For today’s believer, what is God’s grace sufficient for?

God’s grace is sufficient…

1) To survive pain. God’s blessing is enough for us to make it through any kind of physical, spiritual, or emotional pain, no matter how long that pain exists. God’s grace – His favor – is enough, all by itself, to sustain us until He determines that pain should end.

2) To empower us for ministry. God’s Kingdom purposes are accomplished by His endorsement alone, not human approval, ability, or ambition. We all have a ministry, and His grace – His blessing and approval – is enough, all by itself, to make our ministries flourish.

3) To establish our security. We all wonder, to varying degrees, if we are loved, valued, appreciated, accepted, approved of, desired, etc. Too often we look to others to affirm our worth. God’s grace – His approval – is enough, all by itself, to solidify our true worth.

4) To fulfill our life callings. We’re all here for 2 reasons: to know God and to make Him known (Exodus 9:15-16). How we make Him known, and to whom, may vary, but, ultimately, we’re all called to the same thing. And the calling is not for the feint of heart. But, God’s grace – His favor and blessing and approval – is enough, all by itself, to empower us to do what we’re supposed to be doing.

So I guess to put it succinctly (1100+ words later), God’s grace is sufficient for everything.

63 thoughts on “What, Exactly, is His Grace Sufficient For?

    • I have a kind of thorn in my flesh too. I have prayed severally for it to be removed. It is a disease called spondiloarthropathy. A kind of sever pain. But the grace of God has actually kept me going. Thanks for your exegesis once again. It is encouraging and I find more support in it. God bless you

  1. Wow! Thank you for explaining it:) I need to remember this. This would mean putting total absolute trust in Him. Not in ourselves or other people.

  2. This is so Powerful and so needed for my life today. To God Be The Glory !!! Reading this renew my mind and set me free from my thorn. Thank u so much for this post

  3. Kelly I want to say to you, keep letting the LORD use you. There may be days when you feel like giving up on this blog, my sista in Christ, Keep On Doing Gods Will. The messages that God is
    ministering through you, is truly a light in a dark place. Keep being a good and faithful Steward,
    and keep making your Heavenly Father Proud. He could have chosen anyone to do this, but he pick u.
    God Bless You and may the Favor of God be with you daily

  4. Well said. I just stumbled across this verse today and it was an encouragement to me as I seek to discern exactly how God wants me to make His name known. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thanks so much for the post. You are what Christians needs today teachings not preaching, Christians knows the bible. “My grace is sufficient” and “I know the plans I have for you” works together. Because he knows what you are going to go through! what you have is enough to get you through. We must just put all our trust in. Him.

  6. Before I read Jamie’s comment, I was thinking the same thing: “Wow!”
    Had just received this Word from someone and happened to come upon your writing. Love your writing style – truly inspired by the Holy Spirit – Thanks very much!

  7. I came across your blog today as I googled this verse. God used you to say just what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  8. Kelly, thank you so much for this, You certainly have this gift to make people feel wanted, feel loved. Thank you so much. I have this thorn which I am trying to overcome. Certainly i cannot do it on my own and need the Lords love and grace. Your blog answered my questions, wow, as if God lead me directly to this blog.

    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Arvind! And thanks for letting me know 🙂 Praying you will truly feel and understand the sufficiency of His grace in your situation. Blessings. On Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 7:39 PM, Calculating Grace wrote:


  9. What about God’s grace covering repetitive sins? Especially those suffering from addictions, i.e. food, sex, etc. Being a believer and fighting these “Thorns in the flesh” causes one to cry out “What a retched man I am!” Is it possible the apostle Paul was suffering from this type of “thorn?”

    • Interesting question. I would say God’s grace is sufficient to get us through the emotional and physical suffering that results from addictions and from trying to break those addictions. His grace is sufficient to help us fight – to help us break free from – whatever addictions we have, no matter how entangled we are. God certainly doesn’t want us to stay addicted to anything, so I want to make the distinction clear that He is not providing us the grace to stay in our addictions. But it is true that He is not going to abandon us, whether we fight the addiction or indulge it.

      As for Paul, so little is said about his thorn, that we really don’t know if it was physical, emotional, or spiritual. Certainly, addictions can be classified as all three. However, as I said above, God wants to break our addictions – He never wants us addicted to anything other than Christ. So it doesn’t make sense to me that God would not enable Paul to break free from his addiction when Paul was pleading with Him to do so. The Lord’s response to Paul instead was that He was leaving that thorn in place to display the Lord’s power in Paul’s life. I don’t believe that would be the case if the thorn was an addiction.

      • Grace is needed when one is doing or has done something wrong.Further in other readings paul describes not having self control which is struggling with the flesh and doing what he shouldn’t when he wants to do what is right,definitely a type of addiction or bad sinful habit yet not as bad that he should utterly be forsaken.Paul also speaks of how this happens because he was being proud,in that he was saying he can keep the law perfectly to the point God had to humble him lest he would say in his heart he has no need of Christ because he is sinless which we know we are only perfect in Christ.Just like God had power to harden pharaoh he can do the same to believers only to a certain degree where his grace is sufficient when they plead.

    • Get baptized in the Holy Ghost, if u don’t want to struggle so much with the sins of the world, them ask the Holy Spiritto fill u each day.

  10. […] Rescue is imminent! God is with us – He always has been – and He is ready to rescue and redeem the hard parts of our lives – of our souls – when we’re ready for Him to. God has never been insufficient in our pasts, and He isn’t insufficient now! […]

  11. I am really greatful for internet for i can see and google God’s words everywhere anytime. His grace is sufficient for me. thank you for the above article. God bless you.

    • Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I have friends who were missionaries in Kenya and friends who are currently in Ethiopia ministering. Thank you for loving God and Africans enough to reach out to them with the Gospel. Blessings on your ministry!

  12. In a bible discussion the pastor ask who in here is a 100 fold. I raised my hand. He asked me why do I think I am 100 fold. I told him that I live by the word of god I and turned my life over to him and I am sold out to god. He told me no you are not 100 fold you disregard the health laws, talk about me, and told a lie. I did not respond I was wounded so I went home and prayed. God called me by my name and said that His grace was sufficient for me. That’s why I sent my son. Thank God we have a high priest that can’t be touched. I know with in my heart I am in that 100 fold. Bible says as a man think so is he, for me ninety nine in a half will not do I want to make one hundred. God Bless you!

    • That proverb is actually about someone who thinks himself good and humble when their heart is actually further away from God.Look up the proverb and finish the verse.A woman is not perfect till she humbles herself and obeys and understands that teaching is for prudent man.Nevertheless a woman can speak of God when she prophecies but it is dishonorable if her hair is short.You don’t teach you read scripture in a tempting way that those who can’t discern don’t understand.

  13. You’re right in saying “until God decides when ithe pain should end”. Revelatoins 2:10 says “you shall suffer persecution for 10 days”. God is in control. His favour will see us through till He says: enough!

  14. Thank you very much for a well explained biblical riddle. Now its its very clear and it also make me able contribute to that. The Bible talks about the famous fight of David and Goliath. when David went to fight Goliath , tiny he was as compared to Goliath, Goliath was covered in a metal all over but David was not, Goliath was a famous war lord while David had not stood any known physical fight. At face value it was apparently clear that David would not stand a two minutes fight with Goliath, but in that physical weakness of David to stand a fight with Goliath, God’s favour, grace, was sufficient.

    Let me explain the other part which says “My power is made perfect in your weakness”, This then means, if Davis was as strong as Goliath, also covered in iron clothing and with the experience that Goliath had, then there was nothing that was going to be fascinating about this story. The fact that the unexpected happened reveals that it was God backed. So God ‘s power is made popular, is made perfect, is manifested in situations where the physical world, the physical explanations cant explain.

  15. Just as all the other commenters have stated, thank you. I believe God led me to yout blog this morning. It was what I was looking for.

  16. Hello my name is Andrew Patuwai and I’m from Christchurch city in New Zealand and i just wanted to say Awesome Piece you put together and studied it encouraged me and gave me more of a revelation of His Love for me! great to see ‘Daddy’ has more in His army of the Gospel of Grace & Peace! Please feel free to check out “Friends who Love Grace” on facebook! God bless & Shalom to you! 🙂

  17. Wow…what a Word!!! Thank you for your Ministry. Glory be to God for leading me here! So glad I wasn’t the only one who pondered this and my my how deep does His Word go, reaching far and wide into the depths of our being! Gotta give Him praise in the house!!

  18. I’m responding years later to this wonderful post and I just want to say thank you for this. I know it is by God’s grace that he enables you to beautifully explain this. Just as a backdrop to why this help, I’m in my first year of seminary and have found myself dealing with depression and anxiety in my place in ministry and life overall, and wondering, where is God in it? I was reading 2nd Corinthians and got to this verse, and no matter how I tried to open my greek bible and do some exegetical work, i just couldn’t grasp it. This helped tremendously, Thank You and may the Lord continue to use you mightily!

    • Wow, thanks for this, Joseph. I am FINISHING seminary w a master in christian ministry in 9 days (but who is counting?). As a fellow struggler with depression, I just want to encourage you that it IS possible to get the upper hand on this illness, and He WILL use it as part of your ministry. I encourage you to look up my articles about depression. I hope they are helpful.

      Also, for what it is worth, God still hasn’t told me exactly why He had me get this degree. And I’m done in 10 days 🙂 But He is not slow as some perceive slowness. He will show you and I the next step when we need to know it. Meanwhile, enjoy the learning process in school!


  19. I am to share a word of encouragement during Christmas time in our group. The thought that came to my mind was”My Grace Is Sufficient for You” Your thoughts on the subject has greatly helped me to understand his grace. Thank and praise God.

  20. As Paul said in Romans,where sin abounds grace does also more abound.Does not mean we should sin so we have grace but rather understand that if in our weakness we sin it is to prove his power over man,not that he cause man to sin but hardens man,like pharaoh and others who sinned to show his power.In Pauls case God grace and mercy was sufficient to forgive that he should not see death and in struggle with the flesh the time he has no self control gods grace will continue to be with him,till that thorn is removed or affliction and trouble.

  21. This is all I needed to understand what God was doing in my life especially in the past 6 months. Today by your message God revealed His mighty will for me. I can’t thank you enough. This message spoke to me so powerfully that another soul is going to be saved. How wonderful our God is. Jesus is amazing ! His grace is sufficient for me.

    P.s – I was almost going to stop believing in God’s will in my life but He found me through this message. Praise God and thanks a ton!

  22. I am a recovering alcoholic and tobacco addict in Uganda, but desperately trying to embrace the life of the Kingdom. Having addiction issues myself, and a pastor who doesn’t understand that a relapsing addict is not always simply unwilling to change, I certainly needed this. It is most reassuring to realise that God will not abandon me as I fight to overcome this particular thorn, and that in the meantime His grace remains sufficient not only to win the battle against the addiction and yet all the while remain His beloved and favoured child.

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