In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he begins his work with a word of encouragement to the believers there who were suffering for their faith in the Lord while in the midst of their blessing from the Lord. While it’s true that God wants to bless us and show Himself strong in our lives, it’s equally true that He is more concerned about our character than He is our comfort. This being said and understood, let’s take a closer look at this read.
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:1,2
In this greeting we can see that Paul is the author and he is not alone, young Timothy is with him, being trained by the great apostle no doubt and mentored for a future, great work. The target audience is Corinth, a metropolis of the day in Asia minor with seaports, industry, commerce, and a lot of paganism. What a great place to plant a church, right in the middle of the greatest distraction the devil could offer for that area in that day.
To ‘Corinthianize’ meant to ‘modernize’ one’s faith to fit the culture of the day, even if it meant to ‘compromise,’ which was part of the struggle many of the believers in this church had. Sometimes it’s the trial that causes us to compromise, other times that same trial can refine a believer’s faith. It all depends on how the user decides to live out their faith.
Comfort in Suffering:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble (tribulation), with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation (comfort) also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.” – (vs.3-7)
- The idea of growing through our sufferings in Christ so that we will later be able to help others to endure their season or circumstance of suffering is part of God’s plan for body ministry. Just think of times you may have been comforted by someone who had experienced something that you were currently going through. Their experience of suffering better qualified them to minister to you because they had been through it. Their willingness to help and support you as you suffered through your trial was a comfort to you because you knew they had already been through it also.
God is a good God, a loving, heavenly Father. He desires to bless His children with good things and comfort them as any loving parent would do for their hurting child. This is the heart of the Father, to love, to comfort, to be with us through our trials and tribulations that we will endure in this life.
NOTE: The word tribulation (Greek: thlipsis) used here doesn’t infer to the seven-year tribulation of the last days; rather, it references a season of trials that people will suffer in this life from time to time. By God’s grace we are given more good days than bad days; more comfort than suffering.
While in that season of suffering, God comforts and consoles us as we look to Him to get through. If we are the cause of our suffering (and many times we are), then His Spirit of conviction and correction will be our portion so we can learn the lesson. If the trial is imposed upon us then we must grow in the process of recovery and maturity in our faith in Jesus. Sometimes bad things happen in life; we must trust in the Lord through it all.
They say that ‘misery loves company,’ if this is true, then getting through the rough spots in life with someone who has also endured can be a real comfort because nobody wants to go through their ‘flipsis’ alone. Thank God that the Lord is always with us, especially during the trials.
Delivered from Suffering:
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble (tribulation) which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does (shall) deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, 11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our (your) behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” – (vs.8-11)
- A chief characteristic of Paul’s writing is the phrase, ‘I do not want you to be ignorant.’ This was the great apostle’s way of telling his flock that they needed to be studied up, aware of their surroundings, and discerning of the times and seasons they were living in. How true this is for us today, we also must be good stewards of our faith and intellect in our study of God’s Word.
Paul referenced his thlipsis in Asia and the burdens that presented themselves to him and his team. He mentions how the burdens were beyond their own strength to bear so that they thought they would die. He doesn’t mention in this passage what those burdens were, only that they almost killed him. Their faith was not in their own strength or ability, but in the Lord who raises the dead. They were delivered from this thlipsis because that was God does, He delivers us from our trials or He goes through them with us, giving us the strength and resolve to endure to the other side.
Paul also expresses his appreciation for the prayers and support for the ministry that the Corinthians gave to support his missionary journeys. His devotion to the work of the Lord is obvious and his stamina for staying the course is inspirational to those who read his letter and are also overcoming their personal flipsis. Paul never glories in the pain and suffering of ministry, only in the Lord who give him the strength to get him through.
“For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity (the opposite of duplicity) and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. 13 For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end 14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.” – (vs.12-14)
- The message of the gospel was never meant to be complicated or difficult to understand. It’s a simple truth that is supported by the Holy Spirit of God Himself. If we get it wrong, the Holy Spirit will direct us accordingly. When we get it right, He will confirm it in our spirit and in God’s Word.
Paul expressed how proud (boast) he is of the believers in Corinth and how he hoped they were proud (boast) of him also. Paul is very sincere in his words here and his love for the Corinthian believes is obvious, as well as all those who have called upon the name of Jesus. Our love for the local church should be manifest in how we interact with the various people who are part of that fellowship. We are to show Christ’ love to all we encounter at church and in our community at large. This is how we express our faith in Jesus and proclaim His holy name to others. Loving God’s Word is akin to loving God’s people and we need to love them all the time.
Sparing the Church:
“And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit— 16 to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea. 17 Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? 18 But as God is faithful, our word (message) to you was not Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” – (vs.15-22)
- Here Paul is expressing how he put a lot of thought into his missionary journey and the planned route that he would take. His goal was to preach the gospel and take up a collection along the way to Judea via Macedonia. He put a lot of thought, planning, and prayer into his decision and choice of route.
Paul shows how we also need to be just as intentional and specific in our decision making by letting our ‘yes be yes and our no be no.’ These were also the words of Jesus to His disciples and followers. God is faithful, more faithful to us than we are fearful at times. In Christ are the promises of God to us and they are all yes and amen. The Lord has established us in Christ; we have each other for support and encouragement. We are anointed by God and sealed by His Spirit which is our guarantee of a greater glory that awaits us on the other side of here.
“Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. 24 Not that we have dominion (rule) over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.” – (vs.23,24)
- Paul writes to the Corinthians, telling them that he would not be passing by on this trip. He wasn’t trying to lord it over on the believers there, but considered them to be his fellow workers for the Lord. The joy we have, the joy they had, was consistent with their faith in God to stand in the day of flipsis and to press through their season of suffering.
Today’s thlipsis may be not as bad as tomorrow’s, and vice versa. Other people’s thlipsis may not be as bad as ours. The idea of suffering and getting through is all part and parcel to the whole ‘living by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.’ The Lord never told us that we wouldn’t have difficult times, only that He would be with us as we endure them and that in the end, it would be worth it. While I am comfortable with the temporary arrangement that I am in, I am equally confident that it is a temporary arrangement. I have been experiencing some spiritual warfare in the past few days that is significant enough for me to pull back and focus on the Lord and where He is taking me right now. While I am praying for a good job, I am also wanting God’s perfect will for my life to be manifest; even if that means not having a job for a season.
Yes, this may be a season of suffering, but in the end, the Lord will show Himself strong. We have this promise, this first chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Christians in Corinth, and to all of us who have received Jesus and made this letter their own. I sense the Lord telling me, ‘I will place no other burden on you’ and for this I am grateful. He has given me a mind to work and a heart that is joyful for His many blessings in and on my life. I am so thankful for my health and ability to do this He has tasked me with. I will praise the Lord in this storm!