What do we typically glory in? What parts of our lives do we celebrate most? We usually have a selective memory and promote and celebrate the good moments or the successes in our lives.
Today we are going to be looking at 2 Corinthians and we are going to look at the reality of suffering in our lives. Paul chose to celebrate the moments of suffering, the moments of loss, or the moments of hurt, now the question is why? Well I believe that the simple reason is that it is in these moments of suffering, loss or hurt that Christ shines brightest in our lives!
2 Corinthians 11:30 (KJV) 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
Paul had founded the church at Corinth and had ministered there for a year and a half (Acts 18:1-18). When serious problems arose in the church after his departure, he sent Timothy to deal with them (1 Cor. 4:17) and then wrote the letter that we call 1 Corinthians.
Unfortunately, matters grew worse and Paul had to make a "painful visit" to Corinth to confront the troublemakers (2 Cor. 2:1ff). Still, no solution. He then wrote "a severe letter" which was delivered by his associate, Titus (2 Cor. 2:4-9; 7:8-12). After a great deal of distress, Paul finally met Titus and got the good report that the problem had been solved.
It was then that he wrote the letter we call 2 Corinthians.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series)
His opponents hinted at his cowardice in not coming;
his insincerity in changing his mind;
the meanness of his aspect;
the baldness and simplicity of his speech;
the fact that he had no commendatory letters from Jerusalem;
his dubious position as regards the Law.
They insinuated doubts about his perfect honesty.
They charged him with underhand guile, and fraudulent or self-interested designs with reference to the collection.
They even ventured to hint their doubt as to his perfect sanity.
Pulpit Commentary, The
One of the great truths that run throughout 2 Corinthians that is relevant today as it was then as it was in that portion of human history and as it will be in any portion of human history and that is
simply that people suffer.
Now the great question then becomes why?
I have been asked that questions by many of you, I have been asked that questions by strangers who learn of my profession.
Let me start by addressing some wrong answers to the question, why?
One wrong answer is that it is a failure on God's part. I hurt because God is not caring, God is not powerful, God is not compassionate, God is not this or God is not that!
Ephesians 2:4 (KJV)4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Jeremiah 31:3 — The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an
everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Another thing that we do is blame ourselves or in all honesty we look at other people and their trouble and say well it happened because of what they have done.
John 9:1-3 (KJV)1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Some would argue that some of these bad things happen because of a lack of faith.
Some would argue that it is because of a lack of discipline.
If you are going through something in your life, some great tragedy, some great hardship, some great disappointment and you begin in your heart, in your mind, in your life to raise questions to God, I dare you to open your Bible to 2 Corinthians and begin reading!
Think about Paul?
2 Corinthians 11:21-33 (KJV) 21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak.
Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in
perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
Did these things happen to Paul because God failed him?
Did these things happen to Paul because Paul was a sinner, a failure, had the wrong kind of faith or not disciplined enough.
I want to, in our time together in 2 Corinthians I want to look at glimpse of the suffering of Paul and how he explains it in his life.
One thing we always have to be careful when we are talking about suffering, is having all the answers.
What I want us to do is look a little at the heart of Paul in the matter of suffering.
One purpose is so that we can help one another face the trials of life.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV) 3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
This is one point I want to be careful about, the sole reason for our suffering is not to help others. But it is a reason.
It is part of the reason for church, for fellowship, for Christians coming together.
Romans 12:15 (KJV)15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
It is not the sole reason, but it is a reason.
My wife and I were expecting our fourth child. One Friday she calls from her Dr.'s appointed and there is a problem, they cannot find a heart-beat for our child. Danette is so far along at this point they have to induce her and she must go through the birthing process. It is a devastating moment for our family. As pastor, after we have called and informed our family, I immediately begin to think about my responsibilities at church Sunday and try to find someone to preach for our congregation. It is Friday afternoon and so many of my friends are already speaking at other churches. I finally find a pastor friend that can go and preach for me, him and his wife have 5 beautiful kids. What I did not know at the time, and had I known I would have never asked him to preach in this situation, was that he and his wife had experienced the loss of two babies and they had a third that was born and lived for 8 days.
That family was able to help my family and my church family go through a very difficult time in our lives. Now I want to be clear, that family did not suffer that great loss solely to minister to my
family one day but God used their pain, their suffering, their loss to help us in our loss.
A second purpose is that we will trust in the Lord!
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (KJV) 8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
What happens when life gets out of hand, we cry out to the Lord.
Even the once a year Christian will call upon the Lord when they finally figure out they don't have it under control.
A watching nation was shocked on July 16, 1999 when another member of the Kennedy family met a tragic end. Young John Kennedy, Jr. had become a celebrate in his own right when at the age of thirty-eight years the small private plane he was piloting crashed into the waters off the coast of Massachusetts. His wife and sister both died in the crash as well.
Investigators finally concluded that while Kennedy was not necessarily at fault, he did fly into a situation for which he was not prepared or trained. Kennedy was a qualified pilot but only according VFR (visual flight regulations). He was not qualified to fly by instruments (IFR--instrument flight regulations). All was well when he took off, but as he flew along the Atlantic Coast, he was gradually surrounded by fog. Only an IFR trained pilot would be prepared to navigate his way through the confusing haze.
A professional pilot friend of mine that I flew with on occasions explained the phenomena to me. He explained that when a pilot flies into fog or through clouds blocking any visual reference points. As strange as it seems, the pilot soon looses all sense of direction, even up and down. Without a horizon or at least lights in the distance, the pilot doesn't know what direction he is heading or if he flying straight into the ground or even upside down. The only way to safely fly in such conditions, he insisted, was to keep your eye on your instruments. The electronics on a plane provide an artificial horizon, height, air speed, and whether the plane is climbing or descending. The instruments can keep things straight even when the fog blinds the eyes and brain of the pilot.
The toughest part of earning IFR certification, according to seasoned pilots, is learning to have unquestioning faith in the instruments. Even when your eyes and your head say one thing and the instruments tell you another, you must trust the instruments or face disaster. Even those of us who will never pilot a plane must learn the same lesson.
We have all been there. The fog of grief and sorrow, doubt or disappointment can throw us into a tailspin. A loved one dies. We loose our job. A friend hurts or betrays us. Sickness or an accident knocks us off our feet. We all know the experience of confusion and spiritual disorientation that come with such experiences. Sometimes God uses these moments in our lives to cause us to let go of all of this world and focus on Him!
The third purpose is that God may desire to make you a miracle!
2 Corinthians 8:1-3 (KJV) 1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
By these we are to understand the Churches at Thessalonica, Philippi, and Beroea.
The Pulpit Commentary
The apostle told the Corinthian believers that Macedonian churches had given an offering for needy brethren in Jerusalem. They did this in spite of the great trial of affliction they themselves had
Zahniser wrote, "This region had suffered the ravages of civil war between
Caesar and Pompey,
between Brutus and Cassius
finally between Augustus and Antonius.
They actually made a petition for a surcease of their burdens of taxation in the reign of Tiberius and were granted the favor as a depleted area" (The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, 5:298).
Yet they had abundant joy despite their need. Their abundant liberality or generosity matched their joy. In their giving they followed the example of the widow who gave out of her poverty while others gave of their surplus (Mark 12:43, 44).
Complete Biblical Library Commentary
They became a testimony.
We pray God give us a miracle, when what God does is so much greater than sending us a miracle, he makes us a miracle, so that people point to us and say wow, how could that happen, which gives to us a great opportunity to point to Him and say Him.
The reality is God gives us great promises about suffering, about their purpose and about His help while we are facing them. One thing we have to remember is that those promises are for Christians. If you are not a Child of God the one promise you have is that if you beleive that Jesus is God's Son and repent of your sins and turn away from your wickedness, He will i