The apostle Paul wrote this letter to a group of Christians in Corinth. They had
experienced persecution and even internal strife within their assembly of
Believers and he wrote to encourage them with the fact that God often uses
these things to enhance the faith of the Believer and to assure them God also
knows their situation and is still in total control.
2 Corinthians 1:1-11: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our
brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints
which are in all Achaia:
2: Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3: Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4: Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5: For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ.
6: And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7: And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
8: For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
9: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
10: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
11: Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
Verse 3 points out that God is the Father of all mercies. To the Jewish people, the phrase "Father of mercies" means that He was the originator of all mercy. In John 8:44: , Satan is named as the father of lies because all lies originated with him. (John 8:44 "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.") God is the Father of mercies because all mercy originates with Him and can only come from Him.
God in His grace gives us what we don't deserve, and in His mercy He doesn't give us what we do deserve. Lamentations 3:22. "It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.”
God’s mercy is tender. Psalms 25:6. "Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old."
God's mercy is great. Numbers 14:19. "Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people." His supply of mercy is inexhaustible.
Whatever the Father did for His Son Jesus when He was ministering on earth, He's able to do for us today. We're precious to God because His Son is precious to Him and we're citizens of “the kingdom of His dear Son." (Colossians 1:13). We are so precious to God the Father that He'll make provision for our relief from the pressures of this life so they don't destroy us.
The words "comfort" or "consolation" are repeated ten times in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. The Believer can know Him as the "God of all comfort."
Don't think of comfort in terms of “sympathy,” because sympathy sometimes weakens us instead of strengthens us. God puts strength into our hearts so we can face our trials and actually achieve His goal through those trials.
God uses His Word and the Holy Spirit to encourage us, but sometimes He uses other believers to give us the encouragement we need, too.
It's easy to focus on our problems and get discouraged because of difficult circumstances. We're all subject to natural human feelings. The first step to take is to look to the Lord in faith and realize that God is with us all the way. Psalm 121:1-2.“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help, My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”
God does permit us to have trials. Even the apostle Paul felt the pressure of
difficult circumstances, and the only place he looked was to God:
2 Corinthians 11:22-31: "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
23: Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24: Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25: Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26: In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28: Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29: Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30: If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not."
In verses 5-6, Paul used the word “sufferings." Some sufferings come to us because we're human and subject to pain; but there are other sufferings that come because we're God’s people and want to serve Him.
Trouble is never an accident. Sometimes it is a corrective measure God uses. For the believer, everything is an appointment from God.
When it comes to the trials and tribulations of this life, there are only three ways we can look at them. If our trials were the products of “fate” or “chance,” then the only thing we could do is to give up, because nobody can control fate or chance. At the same time, it would be just as futile if we had control of everything ourselves, but if God is in control, and if we trust Him, then with His help and guidance we can overcome our circumstances.
God's Word teaches that He alone permits trials to come and through these trials we learn to rely on Him. Satan couldn't touch Job (see Job 1) until God gave His permission.
God encourages us in all our tribulations because He assures us that He is in control of all our trials. Paul realized this and wrote verses 8-9: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:"
God gave Paul the grace to bear his trials, [verse 9] and He'll do that for the Believer today. The first thing God has to do is show us how weak we are in ourselves.
Paul was a gifted and experienced veteran servant of God. He had been through all kinds of trials. All this experience wasn't sufficient for him to face these new difficulties and overcome them of himself so he relied on God to provide.
God wants us to trust Him, not rely on our abilities or our experience. When we feel
confident in ourselves or that WE are in control of the situation, we're about to
meet the enemy and fail miserably. Paul rightly said, “For when I am weak,
then am I strong”
(2 Corinthians 12:10).
God can work in us and through us when we present ourselves before God in our weakness, willing to wait on God's direction. As long as we cling to our own power, we will fail. When you and I die to self, that is, when we let God control our lives, then God’s resurrection power can go to work.
Remember Abraham and Sarah? They took matters into their own hands and
caused the mess we have today in the Middle East. Then, when they were as
good as dead physically, God's power took over and gave them the son He
promised many years before.
(Romans 4:16-25 repeats the story!).
The scriptures speak of “dying to self." That doesn't mean acting like we are dead and doing nothing and expecting God to do everything. It means letting God control our lives.
The God who can raise the dead or give a 90 year old woman a baby promised to her many years before has the power to rule over any situation. God is able, but we must be willing to accept his terms.
God doesn't want us to deny our emotions. Paul didn't deny how discouraged he felt. God doesn't always deliver us immediately, and sometimes He does it in a way we never expected. The apostles James and Peter were both imprisoned by Herod. James was beheaded but Peter was released from prison. Both of them were delivered, but in different ways. Sometimes God delivers us from our trials, as in the case of James, and at other times He delivers us in our trials as He did Peter.
We have access to God through prayer. In seven of his letters Paul mentioned his need for prayer support. At the same time, he was also praying for those he asked prayer from.
If we yield to God, trust Him, and consult Him in all we do, God will work out His plan through the trials in our lives. Remember, we never feel our need of God more than when we are in trouble. Difficulties can increase our faith and strengthen our prayer lives.
Trouble also presents an opportunity for other Christians to share our burdens, or for us to share their burdens. It's also encouraging to know that the times when we have no idea how to pray or what to pray for, we have the promise of Romans 8:26: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." The Holy Spirit is there to present our plea to God on our behalf. And I'm sure the Holy Spirit's words in prayer are much more eloquent than mine would be.
Difficulties can be used to glorify God. When you find yourself with trouble you don't understand, remember what God can do for you.
We usually think only of ourselves in times of suffering and not of others. One writer said that we become "cisterns" instead of "channels," yet one reason for trials is so we might learn to be channels to comfort and encourage others because God has encouraged us.
We don't have to experience exactly the same trouble as the other person to encourage them and share God’s love. If we have experienced God’s comfort, then we can “comfort them which are in any trouble." Verse 4b. It helps if we've experienced similar troubles because we can identify with others and know better how they feel.
Human suffering isn't easy to understand. Why we, or someone we know, suffer sometimes is hard to grasp, but if an explanation is needed the Believer will get one in heaven.
Sometimes we suffer the consequences of our own sin and rebellion. Jonah was an
example of that. Sometimes we suffer to keep us from sinning, as was the case
2 Corinthians 12:7: "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."
Paul wasn't being punished for something he had done, he was being prepared for something God had for him to do. He was being prepared to minister to the needs of others.
Just think of the encouragement that we get from the Psalms David wrote. He knew first hand the troubles of this world and in those Psalms he tells how our mighty God preserved and blessed him.
Sometimes God calls a family to have special trials in order to experience a special blessing. I feel as though God has done this for me in my life more than once.
The hardest part of enduring trials is waiting for the eventual outcome. Patient endurance is evidence of faith, but if we rebel against God, or get critical instead of accepting what God has for us, then our trials will work against us.
It's a lot easier to grow in knowledge than to grow in grace. God has to work in us before He can work through us. Knowing God’s truth in our head is one thing, but living God’s truth in our life is a lot more difficult. A good example is Joseph. Even though he had done no wrong, he went through thirteen years of tough times before he was made a ruler in Egypt, and then he became a great representative for God.
God "prepares us" for what He is "preparing for us". Sometimes that preparation includes suffering.
Our Lord Jesus Christ had to suffer, and that was in the will of God the Father. We share the sufferings of the Saviour when we suffer in the will of God.
This isn't referring to His suffering on the cross because He was the only One who was sinless and could die for us. This refers to the fellowship of His sufferings.
Paul is writing about the trials that we endure because of faithfully doing the Father’s will, just as Christ "sought only to do the Father's will." This is suffering “for righteousness’ sake.”
God's grace will never run out. If our sufferings increase, so does God’s grace. James 4:6. “But He giveth more grace.” God has grace for our every need, but He doesn't give it to us in advance.
The important thing is to fix our attention on God and not on ourselves. Verse 3 of our text promises us that God is "The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.”
If we could store up God’s grace to use when we chose, we'd trust ourselves and not “the God of all grace.” God does give us resources that can be kept for future use like money, food, knowledge, and the such, but the grace of God can't be stored like that.
God's grace in our daily lives shows as we develop godly character. When new troubles come our way, that godly character enables us to use tribulation to the glory of God.
I'm writing this at the season of the year we sometimes make New Year's resolutions. Here's a suggestion; you undoubtedly pray, but resolve to pray more. Pray for others by name if you know them. Be sincere in your prayers. Don't just point to the phone book and ask God to bless each one listed there along with their family.
There are times when we can pray for a group or for someone we don't actually know, and that's correct. But, God also wants your love to be directed to individuals just like His love is directed to you as an individual.
God loved you and me so much that He sent His only Son
to take the blame for our sins,
and that provided the only way
for us to come to Him in simple faith for forgiveness.
Our sins were paid for by His Son's shed blood
on the cross at Calvary.
If you have never accepted God's forgiveness for your sins,
I urge you to do so right now,
and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior.