************ Funeral Sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 9, 2017
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
2 Corinthians 12:9
"My Grace is Sufficient for You"
Funeral Sermon for Geri Prys
Months ago I visited with Geri just after she got home from a stay in the hospital. We talked about the cancer. We talked about her kids and her wish to see her grandchildren. We talked about death and dying and being ready to meet the Lord. In the middle of all this she directed me to what she had written in the back of her Bible: a list of songs and Bible verses she hoped I would use at her funeral. I snapped a picture with my cell phone and printed it a couple of days later.
It shouldn't surprise you that our text today is one of the verses Geri had hand-written at the back of her Bible: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
When I met with Bob this week I asked him for a characteristic or two which sums up Geri. The first thing he said was "compassionate" -- especially towards those with mental disabilities. Another thing he said was "Take charge" -- if there was a crisis at work she would take charge and handle it. Another thing he said: "well respected" -- by those she worked with. When I met with Geri's parents, her mom said she was a "fighter" and she was that way already the day she came out of the womb.
I saw all of these characteristics. But the one I especially saw was Geri the fighter. Geri was a fighter. She wasn't one to give in or give up or quit. She didn't let anyone walk over her. She was no pushover on anything. One of the first times I met her she buttonholed me about the abortion issue. She wanted to make sure I was on the exact same page as she was when it comes to this horrible sin.
Geri was a fighter. So she fought the cancer. Boy did she fight the cancer. For seven years she fought the cancer. She had surgeries. She did all the recommended treatments. She wasn't going down without a fight.
Geri was a fighter. So she prayed. And her family and friends and coworkers prayed. And our church family prayed. And her and I prayed. We prayed for healing. We prayed she would beat the cancer. We prayed for a long life. We prayed she would see her kids get married. We prayed she would meet her grandkids.
Geri was a fighter. So her favorite book of the Bible was Job. Geri identified with Job and his struggles. Job lost everything but God. He lost his sons and daughters, his camels, his flocks and herds, his servants, his health. Job's friends accused him of unconfessed sin. Job's friends accused him of not having the right kind of faith. But Job kept his faith and trust in God. And, in her struggles and trials, Geri kept her faith and trust in God as well.
Geri was a fighter. How it hurt her when someone gave her a book that suggested her cancer was a sign she didn't have faith, or didn't have sufficient faith. Whoever gave her that book was like Job's awful friends. The book made her disgusted and mad. It made her fighting mad. I remember thinking at the time, "Boy, I don't ever want her mad at me." But then the compassionate Geri came out and she put the book and her anger to the side.
The Apostle Paul, the human author of our Bible reading, was also a fighter. Paul started off fighting against the Christian faith. In his zeal, he left no stone unturned. He gave approval to the stoning death of Stephen. Going from house to house, he dragged off Christian men and women and put them in prison. He even got permission to go to Damascus and take Christians from there as prisoners.
After his conversion to the Christian faith Paul continued to fight. In our Scripture reading Paul states he experienced insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties. The Christian life was a fight. A hard fight. An all out boxing match.
Paul, the fighter, needed to learn something. Paul, the fighter, needed to learn that it wasn't up to him. Paul, the fighter, needed to learn to depend on the grace of God. Paul, the fighter, needed to learn the words of our text: "My grace is sufficient for you ..."
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." God said this to Paul after Paul asked the Lord to remove a thorn in his flesh. We don't know what the thorn was. The word translated "thorn" means "a sharp stake." It was an affliction of some kind that brought pain and distress to Paul. Some Bible students think that Paul had an eye affliction (see Gal 6:11); others say it was epilepsy; still others say it was a strong temptation in his life. For Geri, the thorn was her cancer.
God permitted Satan to "torment" Paul, just as He permitted Satan to torment Job (see Job 1-2). The word "torment" means "to beat, to strike with the fist." Paul's pain was constant and recurring. Paul had letters to write, trips to take, sermons to preach, churches to visit, and dangers to face so the thorn was a serious matter. No wonder Paul prayed three times that the affliction might be removed from him.
When God permits suffering to come to our lives, there are several ways we can deal with it. Some people become bitter. Others give up. Still others, like Paul and Geri, come out fighting. Or maybe I should say they come out fighting and praying.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." That is God's response to Paul. That is God's response to Geri. "My grace is sufficient for you ..." The thorn in the flesh was Satan's message to Paul and Geri, but God had another message for them, a message of grace.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." What is grace? It is God's provision for our every need in Christ.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." Notice, God's message was a message of "sufficient" grace. There is never a shortage of grace. His grace is sufficient for doing His work in the church and kingdom (2 Cor 3:4-6). His grace is sufficient for our material needs (2 Cor 9:8). His grace is sufficient to save us from our sins. His grace is sufficient to keep us and strengthen us in our times of suffering -- as was the case with Geri. His grace is sufficient to comfort Bob and Marielle and Luke and Calvin and all of us gathered together here to day.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." This was also a message of strengthening grace. Notice the last part of our text: "For my power is made perfect in weakness." When we fight, as Geri did, we are at our strongest when we are weak. And the reverse is also true: we are at our weakest when we are strong. As Paul puts it in verse 10: "For when I am weak, then I am strong." When we rely on our own might, our own power, our own strength, we will fall. But when we rely on God, His power, His strength, His grace, then we are strong.
In this light think of the cross and grave of Christ. What could possibly be weaker than a man nailed to the tree? What could possibly be weaker than a man losing his lifeblood drop-by-drop? What could possibly be weaker than the parched lips of a man crying, "I thirst"? What could possibly be weaker than a man suffering and dying one of the most horrible of deaths? What could possibly be weaker than a man being laid in a grave? Yet, at the cross and grave God's power was made perfect in weakness. Because at the cross and grave, Satan and sin and death were defeated.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." When Paul prayed three times for the removal of his pain, he was asking God for a substitution: "Give me health instead of sickness, deliverance instead of pain and weakness." We prayed this for Geri. Geri prayed this for herself. Sometimes God does make a substitution. But other times He does not remove the affliction; rather, He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." So what does grace do when we have a thorn in the flesh? What does grace do when we have cancer? What does grace do when we feel sick and nauseous from the cancer medicine and have migraines from the cancer? What does grace do when we are hurting because a loved one has died?
Let me tell you what grace does NOT do. God does not give us His grace so that we might simply endure our sufferings. God does not give us grace so we are long-suffering. Even unconverted people can show great endurance. Rather, God's grace enables us to rise above our circumstances and feelings. God's grace builds our character so we are more like Jesus.
Paul ends our text with a wonderful image. He says, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Cor 12:9). The image is of the tent of meeting in the wilderness. The image is of the glory and power and presence of God resting upon the Tent of Meeting so that it was transformed into a holy tabernacle. So what is Paul saying? Paul is saying his body is an earthly tent, a frail structure, that is easily destroyed. But by the power and grace of God he was transformed into a holy tabernacle.
That's what grace does: it transforms us, it lifts us above our human frailties, it makes us glory in the strength and holiness of Christ. We see this in the life of Paul. I saw this in Geri's life. What God does in developing our Christian character is far more valuable than physical healing without character.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." As I said, this text is written in Geri's Bible. Geri, the fighter, learned to depend upon the strength of Jesus. Geri, the fighter, learned that God's power is made perfect in weakness. Geri, the fighter, learned that she was strong only in the Lord. So she came to accept her death. She forgave any who hurt her. She looked forward to being with Jesus and a life without pain. She held on to the promises of the resurrection of the body and a new heaven and new earth.
"My grace is sufficient for you ..." Can you say this? As you go through trials and hardships, have you experienced the grace of Jesus in your life? As you face death or mourning or crying or pain, have you experienced the grace of Jesus?
In one of his devotions, Charles Spurgeon has this to say about our text:
When we find the wanderer who has no where to lay his head, who yet can say, “Still will I trust in the Lord;” when we see the pauper starving on bread and water, who still glories in Jesus; when we see the bereaved widow overwhelmed in affliction, and yet having faith in Christ, oh! what honour it reflects on the gospel. God’s grace is illustrated and magnified in the poverty and trials of believers.
I end by inviting every person here to come to Jesus. I invite every person here to experience His grace. Let me tell you something: a healthy and wealthy person who is rebelling against God is in worse shape than the suffering person who is submitting to God and enjoying God's grace. Why do I say this? Because if you are not in the grace of God, then what awaits you is the judgment of God. Because if you are not in the grace of God, then what awaits you is hell. Because if you are not in the grace of God, then you will never arise above the pain and sorrow and afflictions in your life. But if you are in the grace of God -- as was Paul, as was Geri -- then you have learned His grace is sufficient for you. You have learned His grace is all you need.
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