Summary: Any study of the life of the apostle Paul requires a serious look at the subject of pain. Suffering is not a pleasant subject to explore, especially in our western culture.
A GRACE THAT WON’T LET GO
Any study of the life of the apostle Paul requires a serious look at the subject of pain. Suffering is not a pleasant subject to explore, especially in our western culture. Perhaps you have heard, as I did growing up, that pain and suffering come from the devil. Since God wants His servants well and free of pain, healing and happiness are of the Lord. That sounds great. The problem is, it is neither true nor biblical. The devil is not always the one responsible for the pain and suffering in our lives. You may be surprised to know that there are times when pain comes as part of God¡¦s sovereign plan to prepare us as useful servants. He knows what is best for us in light of what He is doing in us.
Our theology gets fuzzy here in these United States because of our addiction to the creature comforts. We have a sit back and be served mentality. Let me give you an example; have you ever lost the remote to the TV or cable box? We will tear a room up looking for the remote, instead of just going to the TV set and changing the channel. When is the last time you made popcorn on the stove? Now days we have four different flavors of microwave popcorn in the kitchen.
Romans 8:22-23: For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption to wit, the redemption of our body.
It is not only our fragile body which makes us groan; it is also our fallen nature, which hinders us from behaving as we should. Our groans express both present pain and future longing. In other words, some Christians grin too much and groan too little! They don’t seem to have a place in their theology for pain. Church you know how we are; we are quick to tell someone, you have to smile through you suffering. Church, I believe man has grown weary of the perpetual Christian grin-frankly, so have I. If you frown and allow you countenance to reflect any measure of inner turmoil, people will frown at you judgmentally, as if to suggest you’re not walking in the Spirit. Don’t get me wrong. I find nothing offensive about Christians laughing. Laughter demonstrates authenticity in our lives. I simply believe there is no need to glue a permanent Cheshire grin to our faces, lest we look like we’re not living a victorious Christian life. If someone tells you he¡¦s going through the valleys of life; or going up the rough side of the mountain, I urge you not to insist he smile. Don’t urge them to sing some song that you think they should be singing. Sometimes people just don’t feel like singing or smiling. Matter of fact, there are times it’s hypocritical to paste a smile on your face. Even as a preacher of the gospel there are days when my heart feels so heavy I dread preaching, or writing, or doing anything else related to the work of the ministry. Those are the days I don¡¦t grin. Yet regardless of how I feel, I have to teach the truth-even when that truth is hard to deliver and even harder to receive. So understand, I am not saying this to comfort you. That’s God’s work, ultimately. It is my prayer that I equip for next 96 years of ministry. You may be living with pressures or some debilitating physical disease or emotional pain I couldn’t even begin to imagine; in 16 years of preaching I’ve often seen the evidence of inner turmoil surface on the faces of God’s people. It is in those times, when I feel at a loss to offer encouragement, which is why I am most thankful for the scriptures. In God’s Word we not only discover His will for our lives, we find words of genuine comfort for those times when life comes unglued.
All this brings us back to Paul. A day rarely passed in his Christian life when he didn’t face intense pain, suffering, and/or pressure-almost all of which were related to the harshness of life and the hardships of ministry. Unlike us, Paul doesn’t sugar coat the ups and downs of Christian ministry. He bares his soul and lets the unedited truth flow.
The apostle’s second letter to the Corinthian Christians is like an open window into Paul’s soul. Let’s take a look through this window that Paul has left open for us to see what God is trying tell us through his ministry.
2Corinthians 1:3-4: Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth 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.