Summary: The believer is rich beyond measure, IN CHRIST (#1 in the "Every Spiritual Blessing" series)
I’d like to ask you to try and put yourselves to some degree, into the minds of the Christians in Ephesus who first read this letter.
Paul had been with them briefly during his second missionary journey, and then during his third journey he and those with him had undergone horrible persecution.
In fact, in I Corinthians 15:32 Paul refers to having fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, and if you look at II Corinthians 1:8 you can get a glimpse of what was going on in the evangelist’s mind and heart during that time.
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia; that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us,...”
So it is apparent in this, that Paul and those with him were tossed to wild animals in the arena, and according to what he says here in II Corinthians they just reckoned themselves dead and placed their trust entirely on God, knowing He would either deliver them, or raise them from the dead in His time. Well, He subsequently delivered them from this peril to continue in the work of the Kingdom.
Now the Christians of that city, perhaps even some who were not Christians yet at the time Paul underwent his persecution there, are reading and hearing this letter from the one they saw suffer so much and ask for so little.
Knowing Paul’s humility and his patience with suffering, and his courage to go on even after such a terrifying ordeal as that must have been, ... how their hearts must have been encouraged to have him declare in the opening lines of his letter to them,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,...”
Friends, many folks in this world will never see Jesus except for the Jesus they see in us. But history has proven that when they see us suffer in His name, and when they see in us patience through it, and our trust in God to deliver, and then see that deliverance come, that is the moment He becomes real to them and they begin to see their need and seek Him for themselves.
We are so loathe to accept any amount of adversity coming into our lives. We are so vigilant against it; so ready to use any means at our disposal to avoid it. But what I see in the lives of the great men and women of the faith recorded for us in scripture, is that their testings and trials, no matter how severe, ended eventually in deliverance and praises to God.
If you skim through the Psalms, over and over again you will see the Psalmist crying out to God for help in a time of trouble; assistance against the onslaught of enemies; rescue from certain death; comfort in time of pain and grief; but at the end of each one, praises for God’s faithfulness and lovingkindness and mercy and deliverance.
What a much stronger witness to the world the church would be, if we bore our sufferings as though God-ordained ~ trusting and waiting on Him ~ seeing His eventual deliverance from it ~ and lifting up loud praises to Him as a result of it.
A good friend and sister in the Lord gave Lynn and me a nice card some months ago, and in it she included this short poem I had never seen, but that meant so much to me:
He cannot heal who has not suffered much
For only sorrow, sorrow understands;
They will not come for healing at our touch
Who have not seen the scars upon our hands
These people had witnessed Paul’s suffering and his patience and his deliverance, How much significance their knowledge of those things must have lent now to this line; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...”
Also, Paul does not write to them of all the really swell things God has given him. “Oh, I prayed and believed God and He gave me a herd of camels and a two story condo on the Mediterranean!”
Far, far too often, our first thoughts are of ourselves. What will God give me? What will God do for me? What should I ask God for?
Even when seeking His will, as we’ve recently discussed in our Tuesday evening study, in most cases it seems, we’re seeking to know His will concerning a decision we think we have to make about ourselves; a business venture, or the prospect of a large purchase or a new job. It’s ok. It’s good to pray and wait on the Lord for an answer to those things. Always.