There are two kinds of grace:
(1) Saving grace. The moment you place your trust in Christ, God wipes clean the entire record of your sin.
(2) Sustaining grace. Paul writes: ‘I was given a thorn in my flesh… Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”’ (2 Corinthians 12:7–9 NIV)
Such vivid imagery! A thorn pierces the soft skin and lodges beneath the surface. Every step is a reminder of it: The child in the rehab centre. The debt on your bank statement. The criminal record. The desire for alcohol in the middle of the day. The tears in the middle of the night. ‘Lord, take it away…’ But what you hear is this: ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ Sustaining grace doesn’t promise us the absence of struggle, rather the strengthening presence of God.
John Newton, the Anglican clergyman and former slave-trader who wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, found that God’s grace was sufficient. On the day his beloved wife, Mary, died, he found the strength to preach a Sunday sermon. The next day he visited church members, and later on led her funeral service. Looking back he wrote: ‘The Bank of England is too poor to compensate for such a loss as mine. But the Lord, all-sufficient God, speaks, and it is done. Let those who know Him, and trust Him, be of good courage. He can give them strength according to their day. He can increase their strength as their trials increase… And what He can do, He has promised He will do.’