Where did we leave brother Paul? We look now at his letter to
the church he had established in the city of Corinth, in which he
encouraged, instructed, and corrected the body of believers. In
our study of 1 Corinthians, we learned so much about our Christian
faith, including proper conduct within the church, and how different the
church should be from the world around us. Paul explained
the essential element of our faith—the —and that without it, our faith in Jesus is
pointless, and our future without hope. First Corinthians
did much to inform our thinking and faith in Christian doctrine.
Despite Paul’s letter, matters grew worse in the Corinthian church, and even
after he paid the folk a visit to confront wrong-doing, a follow-up
letter was necessary. He begins his letter with,
“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and
the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can
comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the
same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will
shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down
with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we
ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can
patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you
share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives
us.” 2 Corinthians 1.1-7, NLT
‘Get the feeling that Paul might have been discouraged? Possibly. While
recognizing that God is merciful and the very source of comfort, Paul
would not need to comment on either if he didn’t need mercy and comfort
himself. Indeed, Paul was a man who knew trouble, so he could come
alongside those who were troubled, and offer comfort. And
so I ask you—what trial have you endured, and learned from, that you
might use to encourage another weary traveler in his journey? You see,
in God’s economy, no suffering is ever wasted in the lives of his
My oldest son has had to learn everything the hard way. When he was a junior in high school, he began to
compromise—first in small ways, then in greater ones. As
time went by, I would find myself thinking, “Well, at least he hasn’t
done….(this or that horrible thing)…..” but eventually, he check-marked
most of the things I feared most as his mother. Yet . . .
also as his mother, I am amazed at how many of those things have allowed
me to come alongside another mother and show her compassion I would not
have known unless I had been there. With those things
submitted to God, he uses them.
Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. In our pain, we seek God like at no other time. Suffering
gets our attention . . . which is why C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers
to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”. Yet when trials come, we all have
a choice how we will respond. Someone once said to a
sufferer: ‘Suffering colors life, doesn’t it?’ The
sufferer replied: ‘Yes, but I propose to choose the color.’ Indeed.
“The is the athlete of God whose
spiritual muscles become strong from the
discipline of difficulties.”
Think of the platter of life experiences you have—loss of a child, sudden death of a parent,
rebellious delinquency of one of your children, divorce . . . each of
these things represents some sort of life lesson; each one—if you turned
it over to God, and sought his mind on the subject—would allow you to
meet someone else walking a similar road, and help them find their way.
Are you struggling with pain? You serve a God who has faced everything you ever will and more, and yet
remained pure. He is worthy of your trust, so take him
your pain, take him your sorrows. He will give you back
joy. God will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead
of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61.3)
‘We are with you, Brother Paul. We want to watch, listen, and
learn from you.’ “Help us, O Lord, to learn from the
struggle, and encourage others with what you have taught us."
In your holy name, Amen.”