“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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.
"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.” 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
1. The living God is merciful and good. (v.3)
Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
2. Suffering/affliction/troubles are part of living in a good world gone bad (a fallen world).
3. The Father mercifully uses our troubles to build us up in Christ and teach us invaluable lessons (v. 8-10)
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain
“...the fleshly confidence with which we are puffed up is so obstinate that it cannot be overthrown in any other way than by our falling into utter despair. For as the flesh is proud, it does not willingly give way, and never ceases to be insolent until it has been constrained, nor are we brought to true submission until we have been brought down by the mighty hand of God." (1 Peter 5:6) John Calvin, Commentary on 2 Corinthians
“Pruning means cutting, reshaping and removing what diminishes vitality. When we look at a pruned vineyard, we can hardly believe it will bear fruit. But when harvest time comes we realize that the pruning enabled the vine to concentrate its energy and produce more grapes than it could have had it remained unpruned. Grateful people can celebrate even the pains of life because they trust that when harvest time comes, the fruit will show that the pruning was not punishment but purification.” Henry Nouwen, Weavings
4. Comfort comes from God (v. 4)
Comfort is the act of EMBOLDENING in belief or course of action.
The Father pours comfort into our lives, so we can pour it out in serving, loving, and caring for others.
“The church is a fellowship of the broken who are held together by God’s love and love for one another. It is therefore, a transmitter station for comfort, so that no Christian can expect to enjoy the benefits that come from Christ without being a benefit to the church or others.” David E. Garland, The New American Commentary, 2 Corinthians, Footnote 63, p. 64
1. In the character of God, what is a basic building block regarding troubles/suffering in Scripture?
2. How does our culture show the spirit of Ponce de León (1474-1521) in his purported search for the Fountain of Youth?
3. Explain this statement: “In Christ there is real substantial and progressive change, but we never arrive at perfection.”
4. Why does the Father in tender mercy give comfort/encouragement/hope/emboldening faith in the midst of our pain?
5. What do you think of the comments by Lewis and Calvin?
6. How did Gladys Staines display a God-honoring, resilient spirit in India in 1999?
7. What does this statement mean, “Our pain gives us a platform to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ to a watching world”?