Summary: Chapter one may be seen as a template in dealing with disappontment
2 Corinthians 1.1-22
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is written about 6 months after the first, in the year 55, from Macedonia. The Corinthian church had been infiltrated by false teachers who were challenging Paul’s personal integrity and his authority as an apostle. Because he had changed his itinerary from one long visit, to two shorter visits, these adversaries were asserting that his word was not to be trusted, and that he was pocketing the collection taken for the poor in Jerusalem. Paul thus asks the Corinthians to consider that his personal life was always honourable and his life transforming message of salvation was always true. He urges them to prepare for his next visit by dealing with the troublemakers in their midst. And so he starts the letter offering thanks to God for giving him divine comfort in his troubles, and expressing his integrity about his conduct and why he changes his plans. It is fact an intensely personal letter in which he vividly reveals his feelings and his faith as he faces peril and disappointment.
In fact, what we see in chapter one is a template in dealing with disappointment.
We turn to verse 3 and we see Paul offering Praise to God the Father, and that through God that we can receive comfort in our troubles.
My wife is currently training to be a counsellor, and for those of you who don’t know anything about counselling, there are various models, or styles of counselling. She is working as a Christian counsellor to people in all kinds of trouble, and again and again over the last two years, she has told me how the transforming power of God has helped people to turn their lives around. This is contrasted strongly with those who try to go it alone, and use all manner of self help manuals, spiritual searches that lead to darkness instead of light, and sometimes going down all sorts of fruitless paths to try to get their lives back together. But if we fail to recognise our dependence on God, and to receive his forgiveness after repentance, we are heading no where. Only if we turn to God and recognise his Lordship over our lives, then we are offered a truly new start. This is what is meant by being born again; it is as if our previous lives have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus and we are able to stand before Christ repentant, forgiven, and renewed.
Paul offers just such comfort and forgiveness to the Corinthians, knowing that this will only come through the love and power of the Lord Jesus. For in the same way that Paul’s suffering would also benefit the Corinthians, experiences that come to a Christian are not for the individual alone, but also for the profit of others. It’s a bit like asking someone who has not coped with the death of a loved one, to minister to someone who is in that process; it’s not that it can’t be done, but it certainly is true that it can be done with so much more empathy and understanding by someone who has been through that process. It is said that the best grief counsellors have been through grief themselves , which enables them to empathise better as they have experienced the deep feelings of loss and so know what it is like to go through that. So Paul was better prepared for the Corinthians because of what he had gone through, and could empathise with their position much better. In a similar way, they could also learn from Paul in a practical demonstration of Koinonia, or fellowship and sharing.