Suffering and Comfort

Paul is writing again to the Corinthians and he speaks about the comfort that God provides to his people, but he also speaks of suffering that occurs and the reason for it.

Paul tells the Corinthians that he doesn’t want them to be uninformed. This time that they have had in Asia has produced great fruit. Paul is in Ephesus and has been teaching the disciples there, seeing the word of God continue to spread throughout the province, and even seeing new churches begin to pop up throughout the province. This has been a great boon for the Kingdom, but it has also come at a great cost to them in the sense of the pressure that they have faced along the way.

Paul says that the pressure that they had faced was beyond their ability to endure. Think about that. Paul is the same person who tells us that he has been kidnapped (!), threatened, beaten, arrested, accused of legal wrongdoing, stoned, ridiculed, shipwrecked, and more… and here he says that the pressure that they were experiencing there in Ephesus was beyond what they could endure. He even said that he was despairing of life itself. Under these conditions, he didn’t want to go on.

Paul had been suffering, but there was a reason. The work was moving forward. The people were hearing the Gospel. Churches were being started. The Kingdom was on the march.

But the biggest reason was a personal lesson: that they would learn to depend upon God instead of upon themselves.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Our God is a God who raises the dead. And if our God raises the dead, what do we have to fear? We can despair of life. We can live in unbearable conditions. We can even be killed for the work that we do, and yet we have hope. Let me say that again. Even though we can be killed for what we do, we have hope.

Why? Because our God is a God who raises the dead.

We need to be reminded of that at times. We need to be reminded of the significance that Jesus was raised from the dead. We need to understand how important that is, how critical of an understanding it is that, even in death, we can have life. In fact, death must come so that others may live. Jesus spoke of this fact with regard to a seed that is planted in the ground. It is put to death under the ground so that life may grow. Only in this way may we see new life.

Paul also spoke of the comfort that we receive from God. God has not only allowed us to have strife and distress, he has also given us comfort. In fact, Paul says that the distress that he has felt has been for the comfort in the Gospel that the Corinthians would feel. However, at the same time, Paul says that the comfort that he and his team feel is also for their comfort. He desires that they would be comforted in their salvation in Christ. Paul wants them to understand and know the comfort that is from God:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

So yes, there is suffering. But there is also comfort that our heavenly Father gives to us. Paul desires and hopes for the Corinthians to experience the same sufferings but also the same comfort that they themselves, the apostles, experience in their daily work.

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