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“Comforting others with our comfort” 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Story of Cat and detergent – I wanted to call this message “Life in the Spin cycle”

Introduction - 1:1-2:

  1. Suffering prepares us to comfort others – 1:3-7

    1. Focus on who God is –

                                                              i.      He is God – Creator, powerful one and in control.

                                                            ii.      He is the Father of our Lord Jesus - It is because of Jesus Christ that we can call God “Father” and even approach Him as His children.

                                                          iii.      He is the Father of Mercies - God’s mercy is manifold (Neh. 9:19), tender (Ps. 25:6), and great (Num. 14:19). The Bible frequently speaks of the “multitude of God’s mercies” so inexhaustible is the supply (Pss. 5:7; 51:1; 69:13, 16; 106:7, 45; Lam. 3:32).

                                                          iv.      He is the God of all comfort – “Comfort” (Gr. paraklesis) is the key word in this section (vv. 3–7) occurring 10 times as a noun or a verb. It communicates the idea of one person standing alongside another to encourage and support his friend. The same word describes the Holy Spirit (“Paraclete”) who strengthens and guides us (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

We must never think that trouble is an accident. For the believer, everything is a divine appointment. There are only three possible outlooks a person can take when it comes to the trials of life. If our trials are the products of “fate” or “chance,” then our only recourse is to give up. Nobody can control fate or chance. If we have to control everything ourselves, then the situation is equally as hopeless. But if God is in control, and we trust Him, then we can overcome circumstances with His help.

    1. Focus on what God wants to do through us #. Observations

·         Our comfort from God is not self-serving

·         Note verse 4 “So that” = Purpose – The comfort we have received from God enables us as believers to comfort others

·          We minister out of overflow of relationship to Christ and in overflow – v:5 “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

·         God’s comfort is channeled through His people – Look at 2 Corinthians 7:6-7

6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

·         Look also at Acts 9:10-19

·         Comfort is experienced when we patiently endure v:8

·         Comfort is experienced when we have someone who believes in us.

2 Greats:

Soviet dissident author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - endured the injustice of Stalin’s gulag and the persecution of an atheist communist regime

Quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada - has spent the last forty or so years in a wheel chair.

Yet their endurance and joy and resolute commitment to Christ have inspired millions, myself included.

There’s a sense in which they’ve been conduits of divine comfort, middle men, so to speak, “between producer and consumers”.  

Solzhenitsyn and Tada, again like Paul, have each undoubtedly felt the pressure to yield to self-pity and bitterness. After all, few things have the power to turn us in upon ourselves as do affliction and inexplicable suffering. When we hurt, we rarely think of others. We expect them to think of us.

Both Solzhenitsyn and Tada openly confess to their initial, indeed recurring, struggles with suffering. There have been times when they both prayed for death, wanting only to be delivered from an anguish that at times seemed senseless and unjust. I suppose some today would consider them failures, decidedly lacking in faith. How else, after all, does one explain their pain and constant battles? Surely this couldn’t be “God’s will”, or could it?

Reflect for a moment on your own seasons of suffering and consider the two most likely questions that came to mind: “Why me?” and “Doesn’t anyone care?” The first is directed at God and implicitly accuses him of injustice. The second is aimed at others and explicitly charges them with insensitivity. But as I read this paragraph in 2 Corinthians 1, I hear Paul saying that there are two quite different questions that ought immediately to cross our lips: “Who else?” and “What for?”

  1. Suffering keeps us from trusting in ourselves – 1:8-11a Notice the words of hardship and struggle in vv:8-11

·         Affliction – To be squeezed (In Asia – Not sure what Paul was talking about)

·         Utterly burdened – Utterly weighed down with calamity

·         Beyond our strength – Over and above our ability to cope

·         We despaired of life – NO way out; great doubt; utterly at a loss.

·         We had received the sentence of death – Like a man condemned to die – situation seemed futile. (Already a dead man walking)

·         V:10 Deadly Peril – Whatever Paul faced it was a life and death struggle

Ø      v:9 - BUT – These difficulties were sent our way by a loving, strong, sovereign God to make us rely on HIM not ourselves.

Ø      Proverbs 3:5-6 – “5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Ø      "Trust the past to God's mercy,  the present to God's love, and the future to God's providence."- St. Augustine

Ø       Sometimes God has to knock the legs out from underneath us and put us flat on our backs so that we will trust him fully.

Ø       AA Big Book in the chapter “We Agnostics”

If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?

 

On page 68 For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves.

The First 2 of the 12 steps in AA are:

1.      We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

2.      Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Suffering reminds us that … no we really cant do this on our own. 

  1. Suffering teaches us to give thanks in everything – 1:11b

From this introduction hopefully we have learned a greater appreciation of the comfort of God and the afflictions He allows us to experience in our service for Him.

“The Arabs have a proverb, ‘All sunshine makes a desert.’”

“In this beautiful introduction Paul found occasion to be thankful in the most trying circumstances.

Even suffering has benefits.

It provides the occasion to experience God’s comfort, to watch Him answer prayer, and to observe how believers can be strengthened in their Christian walk and witness by another’s circumstances.”

The Message paraphrase expresses verse 11: “You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.”

I work with long term acute patients as a hospital chaplain. Patients with spinal injuries; tracheotomies; feeding tubes; patients who cannot move; some who have feeding restrictions; some on respirators;

It is amazing how grateful they are for a ¼ cup of ice chips or a swab soaked in tap water to wash out the inside of the mouth.

There is thankfulness in the small things … cup of ice chips.

There is thankfulness in the big things … a patient walking out of the hospital on his/her own power.

There is thankfulness on the part of the staff … for their own health and strength.

There is thankfulness on the part of the staff … when they see patients and family endure and walk out as healthy people.

Suffering not only teaches us to be grateful … it also causes others to give thanks for God’s working in response to prayer in your life.  

APPLICATIONS FOR LIFE:

  1. Instead of focusing on ourselves now, think of how we can help others later. Chuck Colson in Prison – Founder and President of Prison Fellowship.
  2. Rather than fighting, surrender to God. (Stop resisting, start resting.) – Don’t give up … (v:6) … allow God to use you where you are.
  3. Getting even is a natural response. Try giving thanks … it is supernatural.
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