Sufficient Grace: Fish in the Ocean or Running on Fumes?

sufficient grace

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

-God, to Paul

Is Sufficient Enough?

Sufficient.

Do you like that word? How does it sound in your ear? Does it sound sort of meager, barely enough, and just scraping by? We prefer different words—words like abundant and lavish and great—to describe grace. Thankfully, there is biblical warrant for all three.

But sufficient is a grace word. And as such, a word we embrace. But outside of that one phrase in that one verse, who cites sufficient?

If I do, it’s only as a concession. Because I’m hungry for more. I prefer excess. If a 220 thread count percale is good, a 500 thread count sateen is better. If one scoop of ice cream is good, two scoops are better. And a three bedroom ranch is good, a split four bedroom must be better. If two kids are good, three or four are absolutely better.

Lavish, abundant, great—but most of us don’t want sufficient. We want better. We want more than enough.

But when God answered Paul’s thrice-repeated plea to remove his thorn in the flesh (see 2 Corinthians 12) the word the Word chose—of all the possible words and he knows all of the words—the word he chose was sufficient.

Sufficient for the Day?

In Greek, the word for this kind of grace is ἀρκέω. It’s used only eight times in the Bible and it’s always translated as one of three English words: sufficient, content, or enough.

These are three examples of how ἀρκέω (arkeo) is used:

  • Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” (John 6:7)
  • But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:8)
  • But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

Sufficient. Content. Enough.

A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next 6 months, D.L. Moody said, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God’s store of grace from day to day as we need it.

As we breathe it in, God’s grace sustains us, day by day. Grace enough like manna, like mercy to match tomorrow’s trouble.

But sometimes it feels like fumes.

Even When It Feels Like Running On Fumes

Fumes were enough to get Dad’s little yellow Chevy Luv truck through the intersection and into the gas station lot. That was a white-knuckle, “Will we make it there?” trauma, running on fumes. At least to the ten-year old daughter riding shotgun.

But fumes were enough. They were sufficient to get us to the pump and fill up the Luv tank.

And they were enough this week when our plans got highjacked by serious sickness in a son.

I really don’t feel good. My stomach hurts and I am sweating really bad. I want to go home, the first text said.

This, after a day home from school, a pick up at school after 90 minutes there and a call from the nurse, and then a third day at home.

It’s horrible. A cramp in my lower gut, I am sweating really bad. And on and on, five days like this with a sick boy weaker and weaker.

But He gives more grace. I breathed it in. God provided help and helpers. We adjusted our plans.

Isn’t that what this life is? Trusting God to power us through trials? To fill us with His strength when we are running on empty?

We’ll Never Drink Grace Dry

But I could be all wrong about sufficient grace like running on fumes. It could be that the Lord is massively understating.

British author Alan Redpath thought so, As if a little fish could swim in the ocean and fear lest it might drink it dry! The grace of our crucified, risen, exalted, triumphant Saviour, the Lord of all glory, is surely sufficient for me! Do you not think it is rather modest of the Lord to say sufficient?

The God of all grace may have been rather modest when he told Paul his grace was sufficient. I don’t know.

But I do know that until we meet Him face to face, our trials will endure and his sufficient grace will endure.

Until then, enough is as good as a feast. Whether it feels like drinking the ocean or running on fumes.

This sufficiency is declared without any limiting words, and therefore I understand the passage to mean that the grace of our Lord Jesus is sufficient to uphold thee, sufficient to strengthen thee, sufficient to comfort thee, sufficient to make thy trouble useful to thee, sufficient to enable thee to triumph over it, sufficient to bring thee out of it, sufficient to bring thee out of ten thousand like it, sufficient to bring thee home to heaven… 

-C.H. Spurgeon, on 2 Corinthians 12:9