2 Corinthians 1:1-11: Comfort in Suffering
May 1, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
1 Samuel 1-2, Psalm 95, Mark 9:33-50, 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
What is the right way to look at our afflictions – difficulties, sufferings, trials? Paul here gives us three key principles that he models in his own life and ministry.
First, “all our affliction.” It is easy to begin to think that there are only “certain kinds of suffering” or particular sorts of trials that God can use, and that other difficulties are not the kind of troubles that God will use to our benefit or his glory. But here Paul is quite specific: God “comforts us in all our affliction.” Are you troubled by physical ill health? By mental health challenges? Are you in conflict with a loved one? Are you spiritually under attack? Are you suffering the loss of something through your own poor choices? There can be many different reasons for our trials as Christians. We do not always suffer because we are Christians. Sometimes Christians suffer because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes Christians suffer because they make poor choices. Sometimes we cannot discern the reason for why we suffer at all – whether it is our fault or someone else’s, or in the mystery of providence. But here is a promise for you whatever your trials: God comforts you in all your afflictions.
Second, the comfort that God gives to us in our afflictions is “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.” God’s comfort of us in our trials is so that we can comfort others in their trials! The purpose behind our suffering is to shape us to be able to help others in their suffering! If someone has never suffered, they are unlikely to be much used by God. But if someone has suffered and has received that comfort of God in their suffering, then they are better fitted as a tool in the Master’s hands to give comfort to others. The requirement of empathy is pathos, or suffering: and with it, in the gospel economy, is the spiritual comfort of Christ’s presence and his love which we experienced, and therefore with which we can encourage and comfort other people.
Third, in the midst of the ongoing difficulties of this world, prayer is a vital and essential tool in God’s plans. Paul says, “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.” Some theologians worry that if they say that prayer does things, they will be impugning God’s sovereignty! But not the theologian Paul. He understands that God, in his sovereignty, has deigned to use the prayers of the godly for the good purposes of God himself. Pray then, Christian. Upon your prayers really and truly rest – because God has so designed it, and such prayers by his power he inspires – the blessing that many people need. We must help each other by praying for each other. The blessing that we need is “granted us through the prayers of many.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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