Part I of II
“It is the disposition of God’s children, after they have tasted the sweet mercy and comfort and love of God, to break forth into the praising of God and to thanksgiving.”
—Richard Sibbes (Exposition of 2 Cor. Chapter 1)
Sibbes’ exposition on this passage may be second to none! He describes the mercy, comfort, and love experienced from God to the individual during the time of suffering. Notice the resulting actions by the individual, “praising of God and thanksgiving.” What a sweet idea for us as God’s children to gather in the midst of our trying times.
There has been a significant amount of writing concerning the ideas of suffering. We live during a time of widespread suffering: everything from natural disasters, tragic loss of life, cancer, and the list could go on. None of mankind are exempt from the tragedies and horrific circumstances of life. Being a believer does not provide a “get out of jail free card.” There is a plethora of questions concerning the purpose, origin, and removal of suffering. It is not something we like or seek after, but it also is not new to our time in history!
As tragedies come and go, there is often great burden and concern left on hearts and minds. The abundance of suffering that takes place today may raise the question of, “has there always been suffering?” The answer is YES, and the Scripture displays that truth. The setting, events, circumstances may be drastically different, but the end result of hurt and confusion still exist. Paul penned 2 Cor. 1:3-11 as a testimony to his suffering. He detailed the accounts concerning much of his suffering. Even in the midst of the most horrific circumstances, one’s focus must be positioned upon Him.
What are some truths we can gather from this passage? Below are some ideas from a message I preached on this passage. This is a raw outline, but I hope it will provide comfort to some who may be in the midst of a tragic or difficult situation.
v. 3 All Mercy and Comfort are from God
Our Heavenly Father, as described by Paul, is The Father of mercies and God of all comfort. He is the most merciful Father, that comforts/consoles His own in all their circumstances. Suffering in the life of each individual believer varies. What one person faces is often completely different from another. He is not only interested in in the outward circumstance but also the inward emotion. The Father desires to reach into the depths of the inner emotion of His children and comfort them in ways known and unknown. I wonder at times if He is providing comfort in the midst of the most tragic and horrific situations, even when it is not visible?
V. 4 Purpose of God in the Comfort
Why would God allow this to happen to a believer? What purpose or good could come from God allowing this? V. 4 tells us, “So that…,” we will be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction. The situation you faced may not be the exact circumstance, but the God involved in allowing/bringing both, is the same. All of a sudden the comfort you received during a difficult situation demands your return investment in another. This idea is not a burden but a distinct privilege to comfort others with the same comfort we have received. As believers, we should take on the responsibility to pursue those who are suffering and shower them with mercy and comfort.
Charles Hodge said, “A life of ease is commonly stagnated, but those who suffer much and experience the Holy Ghost much, love much.”
We allow ourselves to be intentional about pursuing others, and look for strategic opportunities to pour comfort and mercy upon the hurting. We take the focus off ourselves and place it on others. Laying aside our pride, we have the textbook occasion to engage in the very work of God through Christ to comfort another.
V. 5 The Abundance of God in our Affliction and Comfort
In verse 5 Paul discusses the sufferings of Christ, and how they are ours in abundance. Stop and think about the things Christ went through… Those afflictions were great, and nearly unbearable. Many fulfilled OT prophecies concerning the Messiah. Although passages like Philippians 1:30, 3:10, 1 Peter 2:24 provide great encouragement, handling these situations does not become any easier. They are not because of Christ but such distresses as Christ endured; that is, the very afflictions He faced. Suddenly our unique privilege may not seem so desired!
However, our comfort is also abundant. Our afflictions are met and matched by comfort THROUGH CHRIST. The equal measure of enduring Christ’s travails is met with the consolation/comfort of the one who experienced the most horrific suffering. He shall never leave you stranded in the center of suffering.
V. 6-7 The Intertwining of our Affliction and Comfort
These verses are related to verse 4. Verse 6 shows the tight bond between Paul and the Corinthian church. “If we are afflicted…” is like James saying “when” you face trials; it is going to happen. In fact, the joy in the affliction is CHRIST being our comfort while He is perfecting our faith. The perfecting of our faith is a by-product of being allowed to focus on Christ and then toward others.
Therefore, we begin to understand that our affliction is not all about us… Paul says it is “for your comfort and salvation.” Have you ever thought that your suffering or affliction was actually for someone else? Not just for anything but for another believer’s comfort as well. As we look further, it may be so that someone who is lost comes to repentance toward God and faith toward Christ! This is producing patient endurance in the midst of afflictions. Verse 7- Their hope for the Corinthians was grounded in “purpose and person,” sharers of the affliction and comfort.
Spurgeon said: “I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit and it is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.”
We have the unique privilege to suffer! It is not a “bad” thing to suffer, it is not a “demeaning” thing to suffer. It is a God honoring, Christ centered, Holy Spirit-lead opportunity to grow in our faith! Let us take a new perspective on our suffering and see what happens!