2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
When we are going through the trials of life and we are experiencing pain and suffering, and especially if that suffering involves us being persecuted, hated, rejected, mistreated, and betrayed by those who were supposed to love us, we may not be thinking in those moments about how God is using these trials in our lives for our good and for the good of others whose lives we touch. But when we respond to our trials by trusting the Lord with our lives he will use these trials for good in our lives.
There are many reasons our Lord Jesus takes us through trying times but one of them is so that we can comfort others who are going through similar trials with the comfort we received from the Lord when we were experiencing our trials. But let me talk about that word “comfort” for a moment here. The word doesn’t just mean something that makes us feel good inside, like someone giving us a hug and telling us that everything is really going to be okay. The meaning is broader than that.
The word also means “a summons, a calling for, an exhortation, an entreaty.” It is a holy urging and a personal exhortation to another person toward a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, and toward living a holy life, pleasing to God, and toward walks of obedience, and against continuing in a life of sinful addiction. It is delivering God’s verdict with regard to holiness and righteousness and sin and salvation and eternal life, etc. It is about how the Lord weighs in the relevant facts.
This is about the Lord, through us, encouraging other believers in Jesus (or those professing Jesus but not in practice) to carry out his plan for their lives. This is about us delivering God’s message to others, which comes from the teachings in his word. And this includes warnings against going directions we should not go as well as urgings to go in the direction that we should go. So this is not all about making people feel good emotionally, but it is about leading them to follow Jesus in obedience to his will for their lives.
And the thing about that is that it might actually increase our persecution because not many people want to hear that they are going a wrong direction and that they need to turn and that they need to go the right direction. And so the abuse may then get heaped on us all the more because we are caring enough about people to tell them the truth when they may not want to hear the truth, but when they might want to hear what will coddle them in their sins or what might just make them feel good with no action required.
For, you probably have experienced some of that comfort from the Lord when you were hurting physically or emotionally when he didn’t just say to you, “Everything is going to be okay,” but where he showed you things in your own life that needed to be corrected, or when he revealed to you that you were headed in a wrong direction, or when he pointed out to you that you had neglected his calling on your life or that you had not done something that he had directed you to do, etc.
For sometimes the Lord brings trials in our lives in order to prune us and to correct us and to discipline us for our good. And sometimes that is what it takes to finally get through to us and for us to yield to him in various areas of our lives. And that is him comforting us, too, in our afflictions. For he is maturing us and growing us in him, and he is teaching us perseverance, and he is conforming us to his likeness which is all part of the sanctification process which is necessary in our lives to get us ready to meet Jesus.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ESV
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
Sufferings and trials can be minor and they can be major and they can be everything in between. Sometimes, for me anyway, I am better prepared for the bigger trials and it is the little ones that sometimes will take me off guard. I guess that is because I am expecting the bigger ones but the little ones sometimes seem to come out of nowhere. But I am growing in that area. I have to anticipate that they can come out of seemingly nowhere and so I should not be surprised by them when they do come.
But those bigger ones can bring one to the point of utter exhaustion and total lack of physical and emotional and mental strength. And that is when Satan tries to attack us the most, I think, is when we are weak physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. And it is in those times when we really need to cry out to God for strength and wisdom and discernment and when we need to resist the enemy and fight off his attacks against us with the armor of God which he supplied for us to fight off our enemy (Ephesians 6:10-20).
But no matter how long we have followed Jesus Christ with our lives, and no matter how strong our walks of faith might be in him, and no matter how determined we are to resist Satan, to flee temptation, and to walk in holiness and in righteousness, we should take heed if we think we stand lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). We should never get cocky and think whatever can’t happen to us. But we must always be on guard and we must keep our dependency in the Lord and not in ourselves.
And that is the lesson that Paul and his companions learned through their particular trial. Now it was not that they weren’t already relying on the Lord Jesus for their strength. They were. But the Lord took them through this very difficult trial to teach them even more that their total dependency had to be in the Lord and not in themselves, and that no matter how weak they were they could rely on the strength of the Lord to get them through that trial. And I have seen the Lord do that in my own life over and over again.
[Matt 5:10-16; Matt 10:16-25; Matt 24:9-14; Matt 28:18-20; Lu 6:22-23; Lu 21:12-19; John 15:1-21; Acts 1:8; Acts 26:18; Rom 5:3-5; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; 2 Co 1:3-11; Eph 4:1-16; Eph 5:17-27; Phil 3:7-11; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Heb 3:13; Heb 12:3-12; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 Pet 4:12-17]
By W. B. Stevens
Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder,
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested though in the wrong.
When death has come and taken our loved ones,
It leaves our home so lonely and drear;
Then do we wonder why others prosper,
Living so wicked year after year.
Faithful till death said our loving Master,
A few more days to labor and wait;
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing,
As we sweep through the beautiful gate.
When we see Jesus coming in glory,
When He comes from His home in the sky;
Then we shall meet Him in that bright mansion,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
Farther along we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, don’t worry, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
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