ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART II | Comfort in Affliction | 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Topic: New Testament Passage: 2 Corinthians 1:3–11
Christopher Rich – January 17, 2021
ENDURE | Courage in Weakness
PART II | Comfort in Affliction | 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Introduction | We need comfort
Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are beginning a new series ENDURE: Courage in Weakness.
We are Weak and Weary. Courage is needed to overcome fear and strength to supplant our weakness so we can continue in confidence to where a final victory is experienced. This journey is long, includes difficulty, but it can include joy and ultimately leads to a destination of glory. We need to endure. To endure is to remain or continue even in the midst of great difficulty to a greater destination. Endurance is usually a sign of significant strength. Yet paradoxically we find ourselves both weary and weak the longer we endure difficulty. The more affliction the longer we endure the less endurance we realize we have.
When do you need comfort? Well it is not when everything is going well is it? When you’ve received a great gift, achieved an accomplishment, enjoying peace and harmony in relationships you might be moved to celebrate but you don’t necessarily “need” comfort. When we need or crave comfort is when things are difficulty. It’s bitter cold you want the comfort of a warm fire. When you’re feeling alone or isolated you want the comfort of friendship and companionship. When you are in physical pain you want the comfort of relief. When anxious you want to be comforted with peace. We NEED comfort when things are unsettled, unknown, or worse seem hopeless. It is not wrong to desire comfort because it’s acknowledging that things are not as they should be. Desire for comfort is a barometer that something isn’t right, and that’s ok.
Where do you go for comfort? What do you turn to in order to find comfort when you’re suffering? How do you self-medicate? How do you use food, alcohol, entertainment when you’re experiencing pain or difficulty? Maybe you seek comfort in areas where you feel strong or competent. When afflictions come, we begin to look inward hoping we have the strength to endure. We need to find both comfort in the present and courage to continue not despite our weakness, but in our weakness. We often think of endurance in terms of individual character not collective interdependence. Seeking strength, we look within ourselves for affirmation or beyond ourselves for inspiration. Yet when our hope is in ourselves alone, or even. Simply placed in others, we will eventually find ourselves disappointed as we fail or other don’t live up to our expectations. We need our gaze shifted beyond ourselves or other imperfect people if we are going to be truly comforted in the midst of affliction, difficulty or pain. We need our reliance shifted from inward, or outward, to upward and onward!
PART I |Comfort in Affliction, Abundance of Christ – We share both | 2 Corinthians 1:3-6
2 Cor 1:3-6 | 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
We cannot hope to successfully avoid affliction, but we can be promised we will be given what we need to endure it. In this the Bible, is incredibly realistic about the nature of pain and suffering in the world.
Start with God - What do you think of when you think of God the Father? Power, white hair, judgement, discipline? Is God the Father scary like thunder and lightning? How does God the Father see you? Is He pleased with you? Are you distant from Him or is He distant from you? I think we see God the Father as intimidating at best and condemning at worst. God does have judgment and wrath for sin. Jesus’ work to die our place for our sins isn’t simply a moral example of sacrifice or just because he loved us. Jesus has done the work of absorbing the wrath of God for sin so that we are now blameless before God. Grace and Peace is now where we are now with God. So we need to see the relationship differently.
How do these verses describe God the Father? Paul is remixing a common Jewish blessing “Blessed be you, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.” In doing so he’s redirecting the attention of the religious in Corinth to the truth of the continuity of the God who was worshipped in generations past is the God the Father who is the Father of Jesus. Who is Jesus? God the Son, SENT by the Father on a mission of grace. In God “sending” Jesus He is intentionally in responding to the needs of His people, their need for grace, their need for salvation. All of God’s promises for His people find their “yes” in Jesus. Jesus says “Me and the Father are one” So you want to know what the Father is like you can and should look to Jesus. Father of Mercies This is kindness and compassion. He is a Father who is merciful, caring, and compassionate for His people, for His kids. Verse 2 says “our Father” that means if you are “In Christ” we are collectively part of a family of God as Sons and Daughters, brothers and sisters. God of all Comfort – This means you cannot find more comfort than with this God! God is Comfort and God Brings Comfort- He does what He is….. In doing so he looks at how we are regardless of what our affliction is and answers us in our suffering with a comprehensive comfort.
As there are a variety of miseries which the creature is subject unto, so he has in himself a shop, a treasury of all sorts of mercies, divided into several promise of scripture, which are but as so many boxes of this treasure, the caskets of variety of mercies. If your heart be hard, his mercies are tender. If you be sick, he has mercy to heal you. If you be sinful, he has mercies to sanctify and cleanse you. As large and as various are our wants, so large and various are his mercies. So we may come boldly to find grace and mercy to help us in time of need, and a mercy for every need. – Thomas Goodwin English Theologian/Pastor from the 1600’s
Conduits of Comfort - It is God the Father alone who is truly able to mercifully give us comfort in our afflictions which actually answers and address our suffering in meaningful ways. We are known and loved so He comforts us. However, He comforts us, not only to ease our individual suffering, but to look to the needs of those who we are connected to who are also afflicted. God comforts us God is for us, but God’s comfort isn’t only for us. God comforts us, in part, so we can be comforters of others. We receive comfort and we give comfort so that makes us conduits of or vessels of comfort. We think about ourselves sometimes like a cup either empty or full. So we say I need to be filled if I am going to help others. So we go to the source of comfort, get a little or fill ourselves start to pour ourselves out and feel empty again. What if we aren’t a cup but a conduit. Where God’s comfort and mercy is flowing in and through us so we’re like a pressurized house filled with God’s love and comfort while also serving others from the source. God cares about us, God cares about others, and God cares for others by caring for us. We cannot give what we have not first received. So we don’t comfort others with our wisdom or our presence if so what we are giving them is not lasting or filling. But when we comfort with who God is. What He’s done for us, we are comforting others from a pure unending source of comfort. The GOD of all Comfort. To comfort others means listening to others to understand what their affliction is. We are not a very good listening people. We like to be heard, but we don’t often listen. We have a God who hears us and listens to us so we can hear and listen to others.
Christ’s Affliction and Abundance - Christ has been afflicted for our salvation. Christ has suffered for us so we can be comforted in Him and be a comfort to others. Greek God’s were distant and indifferent to human suffering, they cared little of forgiveness or comfort. Our God is intentional about addressing our affliction so much so that He showed up. God show up in the flesh. God lived a life like ours. He knows and understands our affliction. He experienced hunger and loss, betrayal and anxiety, He was slandered, and abused, He endured condemnation and suffered consequences for our sin He did not deserve. Christ has experienced comprehensive afflictions so he can comprehensively address us in our trouble and pressure. When the pressure of affliction mounts, Christ is that deep reservoir we have been given to be connected to as the abundant source of pure pressurized comfort to flow into us and flow through us. Christ allows us to have Patient endurance – those are two really difficult words we don’t like to have to live out especially in difficulty.
PART II |Circumstances Unsettled, Hope Unshaken | 2 Cor 1:7-9
2 Cor 1:7-9 | 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
Circumstances Unsettled, Hope Unshaken – There are circumstances, seasons, pressures, and pains that are excruciatingly difficult. Again, the Bible, the Gospel is realistic about how we experience suffering. When we have been cruising in relative peace, pain, trauma, can easily unsettles us at a foundational level. We don’t know where to find our footing. We’re disorientated. Yet Paul says to the Christians I have a hope for you that is “unshaken” because it is based and built on a firm foundation stronger than whatever seeks to discourage or disorient. Don’t minimizing the pain or difficulty, that is callous and costly when affliction and trials and pressure are a real threat to joy and require a real response of comfort to endure.
Real emotions, relying on experience. Sometimes our circumstances can overwhelm us beyond our ability to cope or even see a path forward. We are not to be ruled by our emotion or our experiences, but we should not pretend they do not matter. Paul is talking about depression. I don’t want to you to pretend it’s been easy for me or us, I want you to know the intensity of the emotions that came from the affliction we experienced. All struggles matter – the specifics of the situation aren’t given (an event in Asia, maybe the Ephesians riots we don’t know for sure) I think this is significant because what we tend to do is compare the circumstances of our suffering and affliction with others and we either thing “we’ll at least I am not dealing with that” or “that’s what they’re struggling with?! Come on, they should be able to handle it, I can.” We can be too hard on ourselves because what we’re dealing with isn’t as “bad” as how someone else has it, or we are too hard on others. What we don’t do is humbly realize that a struggle for someone else is still a struggle, and even when we’re good our difficulties still impact us. This requires humility AND empathy.
Burdened and crushed – While we don’t know the specific circumstances there is a ton of clarity on how this impacted Paul. He experienced affliction. Walls closing in. Hope diminishing, doom ascending. He talks about a crushing weight of a burden (something you cannot carry on your own). It’s like a ship that is bogged down so much it’s at the water line, or a pack animal that has a load on it which has caused its knees to buckle. Felt, they’d received the sentence of death (again back to perceptions not necessarily reality.) It’s the belief of terror or trauma that has been inflicted. A judgement hasn’t been made about it just that it was difficult. It was literally “beyond our strength” led to such a collective and comprehensive despair that life itself no longer seemed appealing. He believed death was the destination. Hopeless.
Purpose of pain – Hopeless and crushed is where we need the greatest comfort and where God shows the greatest mercy and power. When we cannot go on anymore on our own, when we have come to an end of ourselves. It is at those ends where we are met by God who intended them not to lead us to despair or even destruction but to lead us to hope in Him. What it served to do was move the focus of their individual or collective reliance from themselves but on God. Relying on God when unsettled. We run from affliction rather than turn to Relying on God in affliction. What comforts them in the pit of death in the dark night of the soul is not what they see in themselves or each other but God who speaks life into the tombs we find ourselves in. We see death, God speaks life and that is our comfort. Death isn’t the end because God raises the dead. It doesn’t mean affliction won’t be faced, rather our afflictions can be endured with HIS resurrection power.
PART III | Confidence in Deliverance from the God who Delivers | 2 Cor 1:10-11
2 Cor 1:10-11 | 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 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.
Depression leads to Distress. Deliverance leads to Determination - We have hope in God who is so powerful He raises the dead. The God who raised Jesus from the Dead, is historic but also present. The resurrection 2k years ago is the power active in our lives today. The God who raises the dead can deliver us from our affliction. When we have seen God work in our difficulties in the past we are given greater courage to endure the next challenging season that may arrive. We do not have this confidence alone but share it with a community who has been delivered by God. His argument isn’t just God is good (He is, all of the time, God is good) It is not just that He is Good AND Powerful (He is) It is that He’s good, He’s powerful, AND He’s shown BOTH in action to bring real relief to real suffering. Doctrine of God goodness and power displayed in the past can bring us hope for deliverance today. When have you seen God work in your life in ways that brought you life, comfort, deliverance? That wasn’t just a one-time deal that same God who worked in your life then didn’t forget about you or run out of mercy compassion or comfort for you. That means nothing is hopeless with the God of all comfort. So we look back on what God has done. How he has delivered us in the past. We have greater faith that He can and will do it again in the future (both near and far). So we set our hope in the present in the character of God who is the Father of Mercies what He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Past deliverance, future promises leads to present hope. We encourage hope by prayer.
Prayer until our faith becomes sight – God doesn’t need our prayers to know what’s going on, even our heart, He’s not waiting for us to pray to act. But God is responsive to our prayers. Part of how we are comforted in our affliction and specifically in relying on God and not ourselves is to bring our worries and our cares to a God who is able to answer our cares with His comfort. Where do you need to pray for comfort or deliverance?
One day there will be no more affliction, we will dwell with God and His people in a place where it says there is no more sin, sickness or suffering. Tears of sorrow or pain will not be present or possible. It’s not a race we need to win or a destination that we arrive it instead it will be a new Heavens and new earth that comes to us. Until then we pray. We pray individually, we pray together, we pray for one another. Praise God who is the Father of Mercies who has given us greater comfort in great affliction. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you comfort others with the resurrection power of God. Thank Jesus for enduring suffering for us and giving us unshakable hope. Pray many would be called and we would continually be moved from relying on our own strength, acknowledging our weakness, and finding the courage to ENDURE by grace through faith when we simply Trust Jesus!
More in ENDURE: Courage in Weakness | 2 Corinthians
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June 6, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XIX | Enduring Weakness | 2 Corinthians 12:1-19
May 30, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XVIII | Leading out of Weakness and Vulnerability