2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Lead Pastor Amistad Cristiana International
2nd Vice-President Georgia Baptist Convention
Hispanic Representative Georgia Baptist Mission Board
If there was a man who knew what suffering meant was the apostle Paul. The former Saul of Tarsus caused great affliction to the church to the point that when he had a conversion experience and was presented to the church, the believers feared him much “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).
This Saul had not only witnessed the stoning of Stephen, but he had approved to it, “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death” (Acts 8:1). Causing affliction to many innocent believers was enough reason to fear such a man.
Years later, the same Paul, recalling his life without Christ, said, “For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church” (I Cor. 15:9).
The truth of the matter is that Paul was called not only to be an ambassador of the Gospel to the Gentiles, but his call also included suffering. When the Lord spoke to Ananias about the young believer, the Lord said, “…This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16).
A call to suffering was ahead of Paul’s ministry. But the question we should ask is: how did Paul understand suffering? Paul understood suffering as an opportunity to experience consolation.
Suffering brings divine comfort
Paul understood that his sufferings gave God the opportunity to minister to him in a very personal way. And let me tell you what a marvelous privilege is to be comforted by our heavenly Father Himself. In our moments of distress and troubles, in our moments of pain and doubts, in our moments of despair and anxiety, in our moments of loneliness or guilt, our Father shows Himself to us compassionate, graceful, forgiving, and loving.
Paul says that this is the reason why we praise Him (vv. 3-4). You see real praise, a praise that goes beyond church songs, is the one borne of a life that experienced God’s hand reaching out to us in our lowest moments.
King David, a man after God’s own heart but also a man with many weaknesses, had reasons to praise God and so he lists his reasons in Psalm 103. I believe he lists them because he walked through those stages in life. But let us remember that his problems became in God’s hands, divine benefits!
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” (Psalm 103:1-6).
I have four children, two boys and two girls. One of my daughters is now a beautiful young lady but I remember when she was a little girl and was learning to walk. She knew that I always was behind her with my hands stretched out trying to avoid any falls. There were times I was able to catch her right on time but other times she fell to the floor and cried. Those were the moments that I would lift her up, kiss her, and tell her how much I loved her. She would hug me so tight and fall asleep in my arms. As I write these lines, I’m shedding a few tears because none of my kids are babies anymore, but they know this truth: Daddy loves them, and no matter how deep in trouble they are, my love for them will never quench.
My friend, our heavenly Father loves you even more than that. He will embrace you right now and show you His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness. He is the God of all comfort.
Divine comfort brings divine benefits
As we keep reading our main chapter, I look to verses 5-7, and what I see is a display of God’s work in us while we experience suffering:
- Suffering produces abundant comfort in Christ,
- Distress produces comfort and salvation,
- Comfort produces patience and endurance,
- Patience produces hope.
All of these benefits – abundant comfort, salvation, patience, endurance, and hope – are brought to us while depending on God in our moments of despair.
You see, the world seeks these benefits in the wrong places, through wrong relationships, using the wrong medications, making the wrong decisions, living according to wrong values, placing their faith in the wrong gods, and seeking for hope in the wrong environments. You and I as Christians have found all these precious benefits in the person of our blessed Savior Jesus Christ. We are privileged!
Colossians 3:4 reads, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Christ is the real embodiment of a true life.
John writes in one of his epistles, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Jesus is the life (John 14:6). No one can ever say that they lived a good life without having made Jesus the central part of it.
My friends, the Christian life is for sure not an easy life, but it is the only life that leads to happiness, peace, and redemption.
As a Hispanic-American I lived in a society that called our young people “to live la vida loca” (living the crazy life). La vida loca meant do whatever you want because there is only one life and you must enjoy the ride. That ill concept of life brought among my people many unwanted pregnancies, school dropouts, gang activity, drug and alcohol addictions, and domestic violence. Those who lived la vida loca cry desperately today for a new opportunity. But you and I are privileged to life the best life in Christ Jesus. Sure, we cry at moments, but we are comforted by God, and with His comfort we can also comfort others.
Divine benefits bring divine testimonies
Our life stories are powerful before God’s eyes. In verses 8-9 Paul shares to the brothers and sisters of his great troubles in Asia to the point that there were times that it seemed his own life was coming to an end. But then he says, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (v.9).
I hear Paul saying, these troubles gave us a testimony to share with you to the point that even if we had died, God would have raised us from the dead. That is conviction. And conviction abides in the heart of a person that walked through the valley of the shadow of death and was able to come out of it victorious.
Paul goes on to affirm a truth that has remained intact through the years: if God did it before, then He can do it again (v.10). That same truth is for you today, if God helped you in the past, be assured He will do it again. This is the reason why we as Christians are not hopeless. Our hope is never placed in our presently circumstances; our hope is placed on the everlasting, inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God.
Paul ends this passage calling all believers who are in the midst of suffering to a life of prayer. And Paul assures them that God answers to the prayer of his people (v.11).
My dear friends, if you are going through a difficult moment right now and you happen to read these lines, I have simple advice for you: pray and believe. Some people may think this is not a profound word of revelation, but you see it is the opposite. It is very profound. God never plays tricks with His children who are in the midst of adversities. His advice to all of us is simple: pray and believe, because once God sees you through, your testimony will bless many others who desperately need to hear it today.
Javier Chavez is the director of Amistad Cristiana International and senior pastor of Amistad Cristiana Gainesville. A graduate of Lee University, Wheaton College Graduate School, and Biola University, Javier is an ordained minister with the SBC.