Summary: Looking at 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 we can see the nature of difficulties in: 1) Giving Hope (2 Cor. 1:3-7), 2) Getting Hope (2 Cor. 1:8-9), 3) Praise for Hope ( 2 Cor. 1:10-11)

The actions recently of major Nidal Malik Hassan on Fort Hood in Texas, have been shocking. The US army psychiatrist, who was charged with providing hope and comfort to distressed soldiers, turned on them, shooting 51.

In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul rejoiced because God has so recently delivered him from a grave peril in Asia. This recent trauma brought him to the edge of despair as he felt unbearably crushed with all hope for life draining away (1:8). A break in the clouds of this unrelenting suffering and the ray of hope afforded by the comforting news from Titus about the Corinthians’ response to his “severe letter” (7:5–11) evokes his praise for God’s unexpected grace Paul talks about his own suffering and the comfort that God provides that they may have hope. (Furnish: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 65–68).

What do you do when the difficulties arrive? Do you avoid them, secretly blame God, or try to hide? Although we may not completely understand the difficulties we find ourselves in, we can continue to trust God, receive His comfort and praise Him even in the midst of the difficulties.

Looking at 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 we can see the nature of difficulties in: 1) Giving Hope (2 Cor. 1:3-7), 2) Getting Hope (2 Cor. 1:8-9), 3) Praise for Hope ( 2 Cor. 1:10-11)

1) Giving Hope (2 Cor. 1:3-7),

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 [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. [7]Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (ESV)

1:3 Paul launches his letter with a classic Jewish liturgical formula that praises God for his benefits. This affirmation has two implications. First, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is no longer to be known simply as the Father of Israel. Through Jesus Christ all, both Jew and Greek, have access to the Father (Eph 2:18). One can only truly know God as Father as the Father of Jesus Christ. Second, it declares that Jesus is the foremost blessing God has bestowed on humankind (see Col 1:12).

Paul identifies God as the God of endurance and comfort (Rom 15:5), the God who gives endurance and encouragement (Rom 15:5). Here he identifies him as the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort and implies that mercies and comfort are brought to realization through Christ (1:5).

The word “comfort” in the Old Testament refers to God’s concrete intervention (O. Hofius, “ ‘Der Gott allen Trostes.’ Παράκλήσις und παρακαλεῖν in 2 Kor 1, 3–7,” Theologische Beiträge 14 (1983) 217–27.)

Please turn to Isaiah 51

The divine commission that the prophet Isaiah:, “Comfort ye, my people” (Isa 40:1), does not have as its end simply consoling the people in their affliction. God intends to intervene and deliver them out of their affliction.

Isaiah pleads to God:

Isaiah 51:9-12 [9]Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? [10]Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep,

who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?[11]And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. [12]"I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass,

For us, the word “comfort” may connote emotional relief and a sense of well-being, physical ease, satisfaction, and freedom from pain and anxiety. Many in our culture worship at the cult of comfort in a self-centered search for ease, but it lasts for only a moment and never fully satisfies. The word “comfort” “has gone soft” in modern English. In the time of Wycliffe the word was “closely connected with its root, the Latin fortis, which means brave, strong, courageous.”( N. Watson, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Epworth Commentaries (London: Epworth, 1993) 3.)

The comfort that Paul has in mind has nothing to do with a lazy feeling of contentment. It is not some tranquilizing dose of grace that only dulls pains but a stiffening agent that fortifies one in heart, mind, and soul. Comfort relates to encouragement, help, exhortation. God’s comfort strengthens weak knees and sustains sagging spirits so that one faces the troubles of life with unbending resolve and unending assurance.

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