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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - The Grace to Keep Going

Charles Stanley - The Grace to Keep Going


When the tough times come into your life and you find yourself really down, how do you respond? Well, all of us have ways of responding to difficulty and hardship and pain in our life. And would you say that when troubles and trials and tough times come that you are challenged by them? That you are, you feel the test, but somehow, you're highly motivated, stimulated to be determined to walk through it no matter what. Or are you one of those persons who can get depressed rather quickly and very discouraged and say you just wanna give up and quit and walk away?

Well, all of us are gonna face these things in our life and either we're going to respond with confidence and assurance or we are gonna react with doubt and fear and anxiety and sometimes anger. And all of that depends upon what's on the inside of us. That is, if we're persons of confidence and assurance and our foundation is resting upon the Lord, we can face most anything with a sense of confidence and assurance God is going to bring us through it. But that is not where most people are in their life. And what I wanna talk about in this message is simply that how do we face the tough times and keep going? We don't quit, we don't give up, we don't walk away, and we end up being greatly rewarded as a result of being obedient to God.

So, I want you to turn if you will to Second Corinthians chapter twelve. And in this passage, this is one of those examples of many of the times in which the Apostle Paul was tested, tried, one of the difficulties, one of the many hardships that he had. And in the process, God has been giving him some awesome experiences, great revelations of truth. And he comes to the seventh verse of the twelfth chapter, and this is what he says happened as a result of some difficulty he was facing.

He says, "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations," that is the truths that God had been sending to Him, "for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, getting prideful and unuseful there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored," that is he prayed mightily to God; "I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong".

Now it's real easy to read that passage and think, Well, that's wonderful. Or, to sing about the grace of God, to talk about the grace of God. But when we're going through a time of suffering, uncertainty and doubt and fear, when everything around us is falling apart. When we feel hopeless and helpless, why do we have a tendency, and listen carefully. Why do we have a tendency to give up and quit and to walk away, or to look for some ease, comfort and pleasure? Or what's the easiest, quickest way I can get out of this situation?

Well, first of all, the first thing we have to deal with is this. Our focus is upon the problem, the heartache, the burden, the hurt, the pain, the suffering. Our focus is there rather than on Almighty God. And it's very easy for that to happen. And what happens is we focus, listen, we focus on the thing that's bothering us, the trouble. And the longer we focus what happens is the larger it gets. And it becomes more and more painful, listen. We become more and more discouraged. Sometimes we become more and more angry. Sometimes we feel more and more helpless and hopeless and so when we get our focus on the problem rather than on God, what happens is we have taken a pathway that only leads downward with more discouragement and then finally anger, bitterness, resentment, hostility.

And then what we wanna do, we wanna pour it out on somebody else. These are not the ways we're to handle these circumstances and these difficulties and so we wanna give up. So one of the reasons that we feel that-a-way is because our focus is wrong. Focus on that rather than on God. A second thing is this. We begin to doubt. We begin to doubt that God loves us. I mean, we look at the circumstance and we think, "God, I've been serving You. I've tried to live a good Christian life and be obedient to You and look what's happening to me. Look at the world out there, God. Look how they're living and somehow those folks are livin' like the devil and look like You're prospering them and causing me pain".

God never prospers the wicked and causes you pain. He may allow us to go through pain and suffering and heartache. He's not prospering the wicked, though He allows good things to happen to them for the purpose He says of leading them to repentance. They'll have to give an account for it. But, one of the things is we begin to doubt Him. We doubt, we doubt for example that He loves us. Then we begin to doubt well, you know what? If His love's not what I thought it was then more than likely He's not gonna change my circumstance. And if He doesn't change my circumstance, I'm getting out. Or He may allow this to go on and on and on and on for years and I can't handle that.

So ya get weary, ya get lonely, ya get frustrated, you get anxious, you get angry, you get tired and what happens? You begin to despair and begin to get depressed and you think, "God, where are You"? So, what do you want? You want out. You just wanna step away, just leave. Just say, "That's it. No more, I don't have to take this any longer". Well, now it may be that God may lead you out of some situations and some circumstances in life. I'm not questioning that. But if you walk away from a situation, not because God told you, but for any other reason, you're walking into deeper trouble than you're in already. And it may be that God has allowed something in your life for a purpose that He has that's very good. But if you and I don't respond correctly, what happens is we turn an awesome opportunity into a terrible pit of despair, when what God had in mind was something very, very good.

And so if you listen to the wrong voices, pay attention to the wrong people, you're headed in the wrong direction. Now with that in mind, let's think about this. Paul going through those difficulties and hardship and pain and all that he went through. God makes him a promise and I want us to look at this promise for a moment. Let's read it again for a second. You remember he says that God had given him these great revelations, given him insight into spiritual truth that He'd not given anybody before. And so, Paul says, "And along with that came this thorn in the flesh".

Now what's the thorn in the flesh? Well, everybody'd like to know what that is. You know why God didn't tell us? I can tell ya exactly why He didn't tell us. Well, how do you know He didn't tell us that? Tell ya why He didn't tell us. Because if He'd-a named anything, anyone of us who had that would be saying, "I have the same problem the Apostle Paul had". Hm, hm, hm. And you know what? We'd be boasting about, "Well, you know, I'm going through this trouble, but you know the Apostle Paul and I, praise God. We have the same problem, the same heartache and the same burden". We wouldn't be worth a nickel. So, He didn't tell us.

Now some people think that he had asthma, some people think it was eye trouble, some people think that it was his wife. And I knew you were gonna laugh. But you think about this. Think about this for a moment. This thorn, whatever it was, he said, he cried out to God, cried out to God to take it away. Now more than likely if it had been any one of us, here's what we'd have done. We'd-a prayed; we'd-a prayed, "Now God, I don't know why You're leaving this here but Lord, look, I'm serving You, I'm giving my whole life to You, Lord. Now why don't You get rid of this"? And so, he, in other words, we don't know exactly what Paul's prayer was but if you think Paul just simply prayed, "Now Lord, please just take this out of my life".

You just, you've missed it! He said this thorn in my side. And if you took one of those thorns off of some of these bushes about that long and stuck it in your side, you wouldn't just say, "Oh Lord Jesus, please bless me". That's not what you'd be saying. You'd be saying, "Get this out of me"! This was something he, listen, this was something the scripture says that he implored God for. So it was really bad. Now let's think about this for a moment. Here's God's servant, serving Him, starting churches, evangelizing the world of his day. And what's he doing? Shipwrecked, beaten, rejected, I mean you name it and he experienced it. And so he comes to God and he says, "Take this away". Oh God, please take this away.

And listen to this answer which I am sure he didn't expect. You know what God said to him? "My grace is sufficient for you". What? Did you hear me, God? Did You not hear me tell You how this pain and suffering and hurt? Did You not all You're saying to me is Your grace is sufficient for me. Yes. God offered him no explanation. I'm sure he wanted an explanation. And he wanted deliverance, and he wanted it removed and he wanted to be able to say, "Praise God, hallelujah! Let's have a big prayer meeting, let me give a big testimony of how God has delivered me from this and we wanna sing and let's get the choir and everybody, we're gonna just praise God". No explanation, no promise of deliverance, no promise of change, but that "My grace is sufficient for you".

Now let's face it. That would have been very difficult for all of us. And the truth is all of us more than likely, maybe not all of us. Let's put it this way. Eventually in your life, somewhere along the way you're gonna face a trial, a heartache, a burden, some trouble, some shock, some pain, some helpless, hopeless situation that nobody else can help you. And you're gonna be saying, God, isn't there more? Can't You do something that just helps me through all this? Now God had perfect knowledge of where the Apostle Paul was. And the Apostle Paul, you recall said in Philippians when he wrote to that church, he said he learned something. He learned that His God would "supply all of his needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus".

Isn't it interesting how we can use that verse of scripture when it comes to money and finances, when we have some material need? Then when the bottom drops out and we're hurting and in pain and suffering and feeling helpless and hopeless, somehow that verse doesn't seem to ring. Well, the reason it doesn't ring is because we don't understand grace. That's what I wanna help you understand. What's this grace of God all about? What's this "grace is sufficient" all about? When I'm hurting and You're just telling me that You're just telling me that Your grace is sufficient? Well, I wantcha to look at something here for a moment. Watch this. Look at what God revealed to the Apostle Paul. He only watch this, He only said to him, listen. He only said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness". Period.

Grace is sufficient, power is perfected in weakness. Well God, you know what my weakness is. Where's this power? My power's perfected in weakness. Here's what the Apostle Paul learned. He learned this lesson. That when he was the weakest, this is what he's saying. He says, "When I am the weakest and I feel the most hopeless and the most helpless". When I can't do anything about it and I can't correct anything and I can't change anything, God's in absolute control. I can't do anything about it. Here's what I've discovered, he said. There comes into my life this awesome sense of supernatural power and strength and encouragement. Something so powerful I can't give up. I couldn't quit. I don't wanna walk away.

In fact he says it has, it has so worked in my life, he said, now what I find is this. That when I'm weak, I know what's about to happen. When I am at my weakest moments, I know what's about to happen. I'm not gonna get discouraged, I'm not gonna despair, not giving up, not quittin', not throwing in the towel, not walking away. And here's the reason. Because in those moments, something happens to me on the inside. Something happens to me, this awesome sense of strength and power. This, this experience of overwhelming presence of Almighty God in my life.

Now what happens is it's so awesome now I wanna talk about it. And so this is, this is why he said this. Here's what he said. He said now, for example, "Therefore I am well content". I'm boasting about the power of Christ. I'm content "with weaknesses, insults, distresses, and persecutions". Now let me ask you a question. How many of you are content with insults, persecutions, difficulty, hardship, trial, and pain? Raise your hand. You love that, raise your hand. Absolutely none of us love it and God knows we do not love it and you know what? He doesn't judge us for not loving it. The Apostle Paul said he learned something. He learned that the experience of this awesome awareness of the presence and power and sufficiency and adequacy and completeness of God in His life, in those trying, difficult moments, it was worth the pain.

He said now what? He said now, I just quit asking God to remove it and now what am I doing? He says now, I'm talking about it. I'm boasting about it. I'm praising God, he says, because I've learned what? I've learned contentment. He says I can take insults, weaknesses, persecutions, and difficulties, and He says, "Because here's what I've discovered. When I feel the weakest, that's when God's demonstration of His power is the most evident in my life". Now doesn't that sound just like God? That when we're the weakest and we feel hopeless and helpless, and we can't change our circumstance. When we say, "God, I can't, the only... I'm absolutely totally dependent upon You", what does He do?

Listen to this. He always, without a single exception, comes, listen, comes to our rescue. Anytime, anywhere, any situation, any circumstance, any pain, any hurt, any rejection, any sorrow, any trial, he's always there to do what? My grace is sufficient for ya. That is, to be sufficient for us to enable us in whatever we need at that moment, moment-by-moment. Because you see, grace is God's graciousness and kindness toward us. Without regard to any merit, it's not what we deserve and in spite of what we deserve. On the other hand, we could define it this way. God's grace, listen, is His provision for us at the point and at the moment of our need. How much provision? Sufficient, adequate, complete, overflowing, abounding.

God's not cheap, He's not chinchy. You and I have never been to Him and He gave us, listen, and He gave us almost enough. He says, "My grace is sufficient". That means it's adequate, it's complete, it'll fill you up, it'll satisfy ya, it'll provide everything that you need for the moment at your moment of need. What is the point of need in your life today? If you could just say, "Well, that's the point of my need". Well, you know what? Here's the promise of God, it's a universal promise. It wasn't just to the Apostle Paul. He gave it to him for the church, not just the Corinthian church but for the church which includes us. He never understood, I'm sure, that two thousand years later we'd be talking about one of his experiences and how God spoke to his heart. But the truth is listen, this is a promise given to every single child of God.

And what's the promise? I will meet, I will be sufficient, I'll be adequate, I'll provide exactly what you need at the point of your need at the moment you need it, no longer, listen, no matter how long it lasts, how short it lasts, how great it is, how small it is. No matter what the magnitude is, I will be there at the point of your need and I will make you adequate and sufficient and complete and enabled and empowered to walk through it, not give up, not quit, not walk away, not throw in the towel and throw away your faith. I'll be there for ya.

Now here's what Paul said. He said I all the things I've been through in life, I have learned that what He said was absolutely true. I've learned that in all those difficulties and hardships and the things I've been through, he says, what I, what I've learned it's absolutely true. God will do exactly what He said. He'll do exactly what He says He'll do. Now, all of us want to grow up and be the kind of people God wants us to be, at least I hope we do. You wanna grow up and be a godly person, you wanna be mature in your Christian life. You want your life to count for God, to make an impact in the lives of others, then you can expect to suffer. You can expect to go through hardship and pain and suffering and trial, different kinds.

God doesn't send everybody through the same. He doesn't allow everybody to go through the same, but He's going to allow it because how do we grow up? That's the way we grow up by being tested and tried. You know what? God takes great delight in growing us up. You say, "But what about the pain"? You know what? He knows that's what it takes to grow us up, make us godly. And while you're trying to escape it all, you see, what you're doing is this. You just, listen. All you're doing is making it difficult on yourself when you try to squirm away out of something that God has arranged to make you godly, grow you up. And He knows that there's gonna be a sense of joy and peace and confidence in your life.

When you've gone through enough heartache and troubles and trials and pain and suffering and you name it, what happens? Then some things can come along that used to just absolutely throw you for a loop, does not even phase you anymore. You know why? You've been there, ya watched God work in the past. And oftentimes we forget His faithfulness in the past. And so, the Apostle Paul said you know, in all these things have happened. And what's happened is here's what I've learned. I've learned that I can bear up under them because God is absolutely sufficient every single time, no mat, no matter what the need is.

Then I think about this. I think about the fact that the promise He gave the Apostle Paul is absolutely the very practical, workable solution-promise that you and I have today. Because things haven't really changed. Circumstances may change in nature, but the truth is we'll all still get tested and tried. So how do you respond? Remember what we said in the very beginning? Do you respond with a sense of challenge, courage, determination? It somehow just stirs up something within you to see what God's gonna do in your life. Or do you wanna give up and quit and get despairing and discouraged and you wanna get depressed and say well, you know what?

I don't think I can handle all this. Well, in light of what Paul was promised and in light of the promise that God has given us, there are some things we need to remember. Very specific things we need to remember and one of 'em is this. Watch this carefully. Because God is committed, to meeting, listen, whatever our point of need is, He is committed to meeting that need at that point and at that moment in time. Because that's true, listen carefully, you and I can never justify just giving up and quitting. I don't have to put up with this. God doesn't expect me to put up with this. I'm gone. Throw in the towel, walk away. You can never justify that because God's given us a promise, "I'll meet your need, at the point of your need, whatever it is," here's what He says. He says, "I'm going to meet that need".

Now, in the most difficult, trying times, here's what happens. We learn our greatest lessons. How many spiritual lessons have you learned when you had enough money, a nice house, good clothes, nice car, nice this, security in your job, everybody just loved you to death, how much did you learn? Probably not much. How much did you learn when all of a sudden, the bottom dropped out till you fell on your face before Almighty God crying out to God, asking Him to help you through this and to enable you and to strengthen you, how much did you learn? Here's what happened. You began to learn something about God that you didn't know. You began to learn something about His love for you that maybe you never felt before.

What the Apostle Paul is saying here is this. That he has seen so much of God's experiences in his life to keep him through these very, very difficult times. And remember God didn't give him an explanation. He didn't even promise to, to relieve him of that. He just said, "Paul, My grace is sufficient, no matter what". Here's what God wants, listen. God wants us not to be necessarily delivered. That just does not mean that He won't deliver us from some things. But oftentimes, what I want ya to see is those times when we feel helpless and we can't figure it out and we can't, we can't make it work, make somebody else change, make somebody else do right.

Here's what I want you to see. He says, "I want you to see that this thing that's causing you difficulty is not a tyrant in your life. It can be, but I want you to see it as a slave, as a servant". That God is using this to do something in your life that if you and I respond right, He's gonna reward us greatly. He says, "My grace is sufficient". He says, "I want you to rise," listen, "I don't want you to sink beneath it all. I want you to rise above it". And you know what happens? When a person says, "I quit, I give up, I'm walking away, I don't have to put up with this anymore," what you're doing, you know what you're doing? You are allowing it, you're allowing it to take you down. Or you can get your focus on God and allow it to do what? To raise you above it all and God will absolutely transform your life in the process.

Now, here's something I want ya to think about. We've talked about why we get tempted to give up and quit, how God worked in the Apostle Paul's life. He explained it to him. He didn't give him deliverance at that moment. What I want you to see at this point is this. In a very practical way, how does grace work? It's one thing to say, "Grace that's greater than all of our sins". And we understand probably pretty well what it means that we're saved by grace, His goodness and love and mercy toward us, we don't deserve it, through the cross. But now what about grace on Monday morning? What about grace on Friday? What about grace all the other times? We've already been saved, we've already been through that experience.

That's over, that's a completed act and we're living in that spirit, in that, in that whole issue of God's grace. But now in a very practical way, that I can feel any time of day or night, in a practical way, what does it mean that God's grace is sufficient? Now this is what I want ya to get so be sure to jot this down because this is the issue. In a practical way, what does it mean that God's grace is adequate or sufficient or complete? Well, let's put it this way. The question is how does it work? Okay, I'm saved, I'm going through this very trying time. Somebody I love's walked out on me and my children's done this, I lost my job and, and I'm thirty days, sixty days, ninety days, I still don't have one and things are coming down pretty close to the zero and I don't know what I'm gonna do.

How does grace work? All right, listen carefully. First of all, listen, the grace of God releases within us, the grace of God releases within us this supernatural power and strength that encourages us we can go on. We don't have to quit and our God is gonna supply every need. There is this awesome sense of supernatural power and strength and energy and a confidence that comes to us through grace. The second thing grace does in a practical way is this. Listen, it ignites. It ignites the spirit of confidence in us. That is, grace ignites the spirit of confidence. You know what? I'm gonna trust God, I'm going through this. God's gonna take me through this. God's gonna get me victoriously through this no matter what.

That's, when He says, "My grace is sufficient". He pours out His grace. Listen, He pours out upon us that release of power. He pours out upon us that sense of confidence that we need at that particular time. A third thing that happens is this. That is grace shouts to us that we have a Heavenly Father, listen, a Heavenly Father who is our friend and our supporter, and He's gonna be with us through every, every step of the way. We have this awesome God who is our loving Father, who is going to be with us. He, listen, He comes on as a friend and as a supporter. Grace calls out to us, shouts to us, He is going to walk with you through this. Listen, He is going to be there as a friend and as a supporter.

So we're not just talking about something, Well, yes my, His grace is sufficient, in a practical way. Listen, the grace of God is at work. Something's going on inside of us. Then likewise, grace keeps pointing us to the Father. Get your eyes off the trouble, the heartache, the problem, the bur, get your eyes on Him. He is the sovereign God of this universe. Grace, grace is always doing what? Keeps pointing us to God, that He listen, that He has a reason and a purpose and a plan for allowing at, this in our life.

You say, "But you don't know what I've been through". I'm sure I don't. And I'm sure that I have not been through anything to ever compare with what many of you have been through in life. But I can say this. I've lived long enough, been through enough to know that what He says is true. That you name it and if He's promised it, it's going to be true. He doesn't just spout off things in the Word to give us a little encouragement. Practical, listen, down-to-earth, Monday morning, you name it, it works no matter when, where, what, why, and who. It works. This is grace at work in our life. Also, listen, grace, listen, how does it work?

Grace is there to remind us that God is going to bring us through this. He's gonna take you through this. This sovereign God's gonna take you through this and you're gonna come out with a greater sense of empathy, listen, of empathy with him, a greater sense of intimacy with Him, and a greater sense of faith. That is, your faith's gonna be stronger. Your intimacy with Him is gonna be deeper than ever before. Grace is practically working all during these difficulties, hardships, and trials. When we get our focus on Him, what's happening? God is working. And so when we say, "grace is sufficient," sufficient to do what? To release this power, encourage our heart, remind us, recall to us those things that are so essential that you and I believe and understand.

Likewise, grace, it's like grace just embraces us. Listen, embraces us with the assurance, listen, that God is sovereign and that He is only going to allow so much pain, so much heartache, so many burdens. He's only going to allow what He knows you and I can bear up under with, listen, with His grace, with His strength and dependence upon Him. It's like grace embraces us. That is, just absolutely covers us with the assurance there's a limit to this. I'm not going to allow more than you can bear. I'm not gonna allow a trial that I won't bring you through. You don't have to give up and quit. You're gonna make it. It's gonna be okay. He embraces us with that grace.

And then I would think about it when I think about how we've been through these things in life, I think about what happens is that grace, listen, grace awakens in us. Because when you get down, you get down. Grace awakens in us, listen, God is going to turn this for my good. I know He is. He's going to turn this out for my good. What would normally destroy some people will develop you. So when we say that "My grace is sufficient," all of those seven things, that's what grace is doing. Grace on the inside of you is working. Working all of that for your good. So that you don't have to quit, you don't have to give up, you don't have to get discouraged.

You may have moments of discouragement, but then what happens? You get your focus upon Him, relying upon Him and you have the awesome promise of a sovereign God who's in absolute control of every single circumstance, every event in life. Not one single person can keep Him from accomplishing His purpose. He's going to work in your life if you're one of His children, you trusted Jesus as your Savior. You know what? You're going to be victorious. You can be, you will be if you'll trust Him and let grace work in your life. The very nature of grace is to cause you to be triumphant and victorious no matter what you face in life.
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