I am here at the ACBC Conference in Indianapolis. The opening plenary session was by Heath Lambert. He spoke on 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 and discussed grace and necessity of biblical counseling. He entitled the message “The Sufficiency of God’s Grace for Counseling”.
He began by speaking of the defining element of Biblical Counseling. While sufficiency of Scripture is a fundamental aspect Biblical Counseling, he suggested that the sufficiency of God’s grace was The Fundamental Element of Biblical Counseling.
We do not know the precise nature of the “thorn” Paul suffered. And even though we don’t know the nature of the thorn, we do know the reason, to prevent pride, to keep Paul humble. We indeed will all suffer pain, we will all suffer thorns: “Life is thorny”.
Paul has received this particular thorn (along with a great many other graces”).
Paul prays relief from the pain. God responds by providing Paul grace. God’s grace included leaving Paul in sorrow.
What then is grace? It is unmerited favor, but it is is more.
I. Grace is not the removal of pain.
Three times Paul pled for the removal of the thorn, and three times God refused. Three times I pled, BUT God ….
Sometimes problems remain broken; sometimes problems do not resolve. If we do not understand 2 Corinthians 12 we can wrongly conclude that God is not gracious.
II. Grace is received in the midst of pain.
God gave Paul the power to endure the pain Sometimes we desire pain relief more than grace. But grace is what we experience we feel we cannot take another step.
III. You only know this grace when you are weak AND you admit that you are weak.
We easily and often believe relief is more important than righteousness. Our trouble is that we are beset with self-righteousness. Self-righteousness can only be shattered by afflictions.
We receive the necessary grace only when we both suffer & boast in our weakness, “I will boast of nothing but my weakness.”
IV. None of this is about me; it is all and only about Christ
True grace makes me concern only about Christ.
It is better to be conformed to Christ than to be at ease. My response to affliction depends upon whether I wish to be first.
This leads to a true test of whether I am a Christian: What do I do when faced with suffering? I cannot know whether I am a Christian until I am afflicted. One may love the gift more than the giver: since all good things come ultimately from God, I may love God only because I love what he gives.
Grace takes place when God in his favors leads one into a season of pain then sustains one in it.
God’s grace is sufficient for counseling, because it is sufficient for our pain.
There is a criticism of Biblical Counseling: That we withhold help from people in need. Often this criticism lies that we refuse medical help. That is never true: Biblical Counseling is never contrary to medical help (nor medicine. ACBC only speaks poorly of medicine when the trouble is not medical.)
One problem with this criticism is the implicit belief that grace always equals relief. This is not so.
First, all non-biblical methods must fail. Despite the greatest medical care, one will eventually die. The greatest counsel of any sort (even biblical) may not bring about relief (and all relief will be short term).
But grace is guaranteed. Even when everything fails, grace is sufficient and guaranteed.
How do we receive grace? Paul receive a word. God’s grace is sufficient. Paul didn’t know how to receive this grace until he received this word. The Scripture is sufficient for counseling, because the Scripture permits us access to grace.