Summary: Focuses on how God uses the comfort He gives to us in our afflictions so that we might comfort and encourage others in their faith.
PERSPECTIVES ON SUFFERING, Part 2 January 27, 2008
Series: 2 Corinthians- Strength through Weakness
Introduction- C.S. Lewis said that God speaks to us our well being, but shouts to us in our sufferings… I don’t think he means that God raises his voice… I think he means that when things are going well for us, and life is hitting on all cylinders, we can become content with God and have Him “in His place,” a neat little part of our lives… But when suffering comes, and we have nowhere to turn but to God, and He has our full attention, it is then that we hear His voice most clearly, and have a greater understanding and appreciation of His purposes.
And this is the basis of Paul’s message in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7… Paul is beginning his letter to the Corinthians and referencing his own sufferings… and as I said last week, he doesn’t begin to attempt to answer the philosophical questions of “why does God allow suffering” or “can there be a God if so much suffering exists”… instead, he accepts suffering as a reality of this present, fallen, sinful world, and looks at God’s purposes in suffering and our relationship to God in the midst of suffering… he looks at the purposes of God that are accomplished through suffering… He says that God comes to us in our suffering… to walk with us and encourage us, so that His purposes might be more fully accomplished in us.
We continue with PERSPECTIVES ON SUFFERING, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
(We began this passage last week and looked at the comfort that God gives, and how he comes alongside in the midst of our suffering to comfort us… )
Review: God is a God who comforts His people, vs. 3-4a.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction…
Paul begins his discussion of his sufferings with his praise of God… for Paul there no sense of abandonment of God in the midst of suffering… instead he praises Him that He is a merciful and compassionate God that comes to us in our afflictions… I suggested five ways that God comes to us, alongside of us, in our afflictions…
• Through the truth of His Word.
• Through His mysterious presence
• Through His people
• Through the hope of heaven
• Through the assurance that faithfulness will be rewarded
(so let’s continue now to look at the other perspectives and purposes in suffering that we find in this passage…)
1. God comforts us so that we can comfort others in their affliction, v. 4b.
so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Let’s look at this verse carefully… begins with so that- do you see the connection??... God comforts us so that, for the purpose that, so we might be able to… we see here the clear plan, purpose, and design of God for the suffering we experience… not necessarily the “why,” but certainly a use of it… God’s design: we are able to comfort others with that comfort that we have received from Him in our afflictions… it is important to realize that we are not the comfort, but that we are able to be the vehicle of God’s comfort… it’s like we are the middle man between the producer and the consumer… and the comfort that we have received from God we can then pass on to others…
Illus.- Many of you know Ed and Brenda Flowers… in 1988 Brenda’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack… this left Brenda and her 14 yr. old daughter Kimberly all alone… Kimberly struggled with the loss of her father over the next few years, her behavior changed, she struggled with depression… and then on Nov. 3, 1992 she took her own life… Brenda wasn’t a Christian at the time, but through this loss and search for the truth she later came to know the Lord… and as she still struggled with the pain and grief of losing Kimberly, she found comfort and hope and peace in knowing God through Jesus Christ…
Since then Brenda has begun a ministry to comfort others who have lost loved ones to suicide, a ministry called “Memory Tree of Lights”… it is a ministry during the Christmas season, when the loss of loved ones is often most acute…
She says, “We are people who hope to be a blessing in the lives of others even though we, most likely, will be the ones who are blessed… we should not run from nor ignore the needs of survivors who believe in Jesus Christ, but we should rally around and address the pain we struggle with, which may over shadow such a sacred and holy celebration as our dear Lord’s birth… May the shadows of our departed loved ones gently yield to the Light of truth and the glorious events surrounding our dear Savior’s birth. He understands the true miracle of forgiveness and unconditional love . . . for it is He who embraces each of one of us and takes upon Himself our excruciating pain and our sorrows. May our loved ones who rest in our hearts, also rest in peace, and in His loving arms.