Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 3, Lesson 10

Lesson Ten

Surrendering to Grace

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

One of the most challenging, difficult acts of surrender for the typical American Christian is surrendering to grace. Surrendering to grace defies every cultural declaration of the individual's inherent worth. The way to destroy the feelings of inferiority in individuals of an ethnic minority is to replace feelings of inferiority with feelings of pride. The way to destroy destructive stereotypes of inferiority in female individuals is to develop convictions of superiority. The way to destroy the self-concept of inferiority in those who suffer physical or mental restrictions is to change America's vocabulary. A person does not have a disability; he or she has a challenge.

Inferiority does not and cannot exist. Why? Every person has value and worth simply by existing. Each person must have a sense of self-worth. Each person must function in a sense of pride. Each person must have awareness of "what I can do," "what I can achieve," "what I can accomplish," and "how others need me." Everyone is a "somebody;" no one is a "nobody." "I know my worth! Respect my worth! Treat me on the basis of my perception of my worth!"

In no way does this lesson suggest that any person [regardless of situation, circumstances, or heritage] should be denied respect, kindness, and consideration. "Loving others as you love yourself" is a foundation truth of Christ-like existence. Christians must view all people with dignity and treat them with respect and consideration if we are Jesus' disciples.

The heart of this lesson centers in the struggle of self-perceptions. Typically, a person wants to be accepted on the basis of the merit of "being" and personal achievement. Our common conviction: "I merit your consideration. I earned your respect. I deserve opportunity." A problem is born when we use the self-perception of inherent personal worth to destroy the self-perception of inferiority. The problem: we replace the sense of inferiority with the sense of superiority. Perceptions of inferiority are destructive, but so are perceptions of superiority. The feeling of inferiority makes us dangerous to ourselves. The feeling of superiority makes us dangerous to others.

Personal attitudes of worth, merit, and deservedness that are commonly imposed on people are easily imposed on God. We "want to make a deal" with God, or "bargain with" God, or "earn" salvation. We want to reduce relationship with God to a religious system. We want to create a checklist of necessary acts that [when performed] obligate God. We do not want to be saved by grace! We say to ourselves, "Because of what I do for God, God owes me." That is a short step away from this deceitful lie: "God does not take care of me; I take care of God."

The Corinthian Christians and Paul:

Some Corinthian Christians had no respect for Paul. Some did not respect his status as a missionary and preacher (consider their attitude in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and 4:1-5); regarded themselves as superior to Paul (see 1 Corinthians 4:6-13); said Paul was deceitful (see 2 Corinthians 1:15-18, 23, 24); said Paul exalted himself (see 2 Corinthians 3:1-5); and said Paul's letters were great, but in person he was unimpressive, and he was a terrible speaker (2 Corinthians 10:10).

Their attitudes created pressures that forced Paul to defend himself (see 2 Corinthians 6:1-10). In fact, it was necessary for Paul to reveal things about himself that he did not wish to discuss (see 2 Corinthians 11).

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.

  1. Some of the Corinthian Christians used claims of visions and revelations to declare their spiritual superiority. Paul said what was necessary but not profitable (verse 1)?

  2. Paul discussed an experience that he preferred not to discuss. The situation (their claim of superiority because of visions and revelations) made it necessary. When (in regard to time, not incident) did this experience happen (verse 2)? What happened?

  3. Where did Paul go and what did he hear (verse 4)?

  4. Some Corinthian Christians would have paraded such an experience. What was Paul's attitude regarding his experience (verse 5, 6)?

  5. This was an unusual, incredible, unique experience. To protect Paul from the temptation of exalting himself, what happened to Paul (verse 7)?

  6. What was Paul's reaction (verse 8)?

  7. How did the Lord answer Paul (verse 9)?

  8. When Paul understood why he experienced the weakness, what was his attitude (verses 9, 10)? Why?

  9. What was "sufficient" for Paul (verse 9)? Explain what that means.

  10. How is the Lord's power perfected [made complete in a person's life] (verse 9)?

God is powerful in us when we are 100% dependent on God. God has enough grace to care for every need we have. No weakness exceeds his grace. No sin [that we repent of] exceeds his grace. No personal flaw is too great for His grace. No failure [that we turn from] is beyond His grace. No struggle is too needy for His grace.

God's promise is simple: "Trust me, and I will take care of you. Trust me, and I will hold you up and keep you from falling. Trust me, and Satan cannot defeat you. Trust me, and realize that My power is of greatest effectiveness when you are so weak that all you can do is ... trust me."

We fear being 100% at the mercy of anyone. We would never advise anyone to place themselves in that situation. We always regard such situations as extremely dangerous. When we consider a human to human relationship, 100% dependence on mercy is dangerous.

However, we are 100% dependent on God's mercy. We can depend on God's mercy for two reasons: (1) It is impossible for God to lie; (2) God keeps His agreements and promises (see Hebrews 6:17,18). Spiritual maturity occurs to the extent we place confidence in God's goodness.

We resist putting 100% trust in God's grace. We prefer that God be at least a little obligated to us. However, we have never existed as servants. Servants surrender to their master's grace.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 3, Lesson 10

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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