Series on II Corinthians, 1:1-11, I Dedication of Paul to Ministry, A Sincere, 1 Suffering for the Gospel. Title: Pain and Praise

Introduction:


In the emotional pages of II Corinthians we view an Apostle in pain. The letter is divided into three sections indicated in your outline: Paul's dedication to his ministry, Paul's directions with regard to giving and Paul's defense of his apostleship. The underlying theme is the rejection of Paul’s ministry, and it resonates in every part of this letter. How do we see our ministry? His ministry was characterized by the qualities which are listed in your outline. The first is sincerity and in our text for today we are looking at suffering for the gospel as an evidence of that integrity. When Paul discusses his sufferings throughout this letter, his focus is on the meaning of suffering. I believe he gives us four reasons why God sends suffering into our lives. all of these points remind the Corinthians that Paul is suffering on their behalf and they are being blessed by his labors.


I Purpose


Paul writes in verses 1-5, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,  to the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. Comfortable Christianity is a contradiction, though most of us including Paul would prefer to be comfortable, but it does us no good. The Apostle states two reasons why God is to be blessed for our trials. First, it enables us to comfort others, and second he says that it increases our own comfort and consolation. Peter states in his first letter, 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. in this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while if need be you have been grieved by various trials that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Notice he starts with the same words as Paul, blessed is God! Hebrews 12:8 reminds us If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline) then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. All the suffering of Christians is part of God’s plan for them and for their brothers and sisters. This includes hitting your thumb with a hammer, falling off a ladder, having an automobile accident, enduring a chronic disability, and receiving a fatal diagnosis from a physician. The question is always the same, “why?” And, the answer is always the same, for you and the family of god to know God better. Job is the proverbial example of suffering. He was not an apostle, nor an evangelist, or preacher. i think he was a businessman. Yet he became a test case for somebody who holds fast to the faith and does not let go. he became an example to every generation of true faith and God’s faithfulness. Through that process he learned that God has a purpose which was unknowable.

II Participation


In verses 6 and 7 Paul follows up with, If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. Some people say “don't pity me,” by which they mean that we shouldn’t look down on them because of their troubles. I concede that some pity is demeaning. People feel sorry for you, but they think it’s your fault. Returning to Job’s experience, what was the attitude of his so-called friends? They all said what a sad sight you are Job, and we are so sorry, but what did you do to deserve thus? That kind of pity we can all do without. The Bible says, As a father pities his children the Lord pities those who fear him. Pity is what we ought to have for one another. True pity arises from suffering with Christ. According to verse 5  although Christ's sufferings in his earthly life are unique in saving us, nevertheless, in the present, we have a fellowship, a partnership with Christ in suffering. It is this partnership that produces the comfort. Let us understand fully that it is not the experience of suffering that helps us. Whether it is physical or mental, whether it is small or great, or whether we see a direct relationship between our suffering and our Christian profession, it is our partnership with Christ that brings the comfort. And we can see this in all of our trials as Paul is pointing out in verse 6. The Corinthians ought to be sympathetic for, as he wrote to them in I Corinthians 12:26, if one member of the body suffers all suffer. They were deficient in this respect, but Paul is still confident that the Corinthian believers would learn that we are all going through these sufferings together in partnership with Jesus, and when we see that, then we also get the comfort mentioned in verse 7.


III Prevailing v.8-10


And finding Christ in suffering is exactly what Paul is doing in verses 8-10 as he teaches us to prevail,  We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. The apostle enumerates his hardships. In great pressure he and those with him despaired of life. It was like being on death row. But, he says that God brought them to that place so they might rely on him and not on themselves. This is the key thought. Once again delivered Paul anticipates further deliverance. But what if he is not delivered? No problem! Paul says God raises the dead. death itself is not a threat to believers for we are more than conquerors even in dying. However, what if we are like Job and we would rather die than live, and our problem is living with the pain? To understand what Paul was thinking about this we must go back again to verse 5 where he speaks of the suffering of Christ overflowing into our lives. Paul does not approach suffering with guilt as if every trial were a divine punishment. He sees it as admirable to persevere in pain. As he wrote to the Christians in Rome in Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. This is finding Christ in your suffering. You can not do it unless you are justified. If you know you belong to God, come hell or high water, you are safe in the arms of Jesus. This is all that matters. You can have this if you surrender your life to God and receive His gracious provision in Christ.


IV Prayer


The fact is, our sufferings draw us close to God, because they bring us to prayer.  Many times we wouldn't pray at all if weren't for our own sufferings or for those around us. Prayer brings deliverance. It may be in life or in death but it is real. It's pretty humiliating to think that way, but prayer takes a lot of discipline. Given our sinful condition, pain and suffering are an essential ingredient in prayer, but there is another unique aspect of prayer. It is the only way to true thanksgiving. It focuses us on the Lord's power to deliver, and when He does,even though it is not always the way we desired, we are conscious that He has done it. It's not an accident. it's not an anomaly or the result of our actions, it’s God. Of course if we don't share in each others sufferings with Christ, and we don't prevail with Christ in those sufferings then we're not going to pray and if we don't pray we won't praise.