- My daughter in stage crew of Little Mermaid.
- Play was great… between each scene the lights go out with total darkness.
- We wonder what’s going on, but there’s much work being done by stage crew setting up next scene.
- Likewise, in our life when there’s darkness, we wonder where is God. But it’s in the darkness that God is doing most of His work.
Know Pain, Know Gain: A study in 2Corinthians. Today we start new series in this book for 2 reasons:
- Framework for suffering in Christian life.
- Lots of problems, pains – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and a bit of death.
- Pastor does lots of funerals but each one is emotional. I/we are sustained by the promises of God.
- Prosperity Gospel teaching has little value or view for suffering in <><.
- Lots of problems, pains – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and a bit of death.
- God’s Word is good for His church and feeds a hungry soul.
- I preached 1Cor in Feb-May 2014.
- Never preached 2Cor until now; off the heel of 1Cor 13.
Church of Corinth
- They were a fractured family divided over leadership, pride and jealousy.
- They were a corrupt congregation filled with cliques, conflict, sexual immorality, discord and lawsuits against each other, struggling & unequally yoked marriages ending in divorce, materialistic and idolatrous, drunken and gluttonous, unfocused and unruly in their worship services, defective and flawed doctrine and not to mention just a lack of love for God and each other.
- They were Christ’s church. The grace of God goes to every sinner and covers every sin. Corinth was a fractured family and a corrupt congregation but that is the kind of church that Jesus died for; one filled with flaws, mistakes and messed up people who are recognizing their need for a Savior and growing in the sanctification process. And the Corinthian Church was spiritually growth and maturing from the time they received Paul’s previous first letter.
Connection with Corinth
- Paul visited Corinth mid 50’s to preach Jesus, and ended up staying for 18 months and planting a church.
- Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1Cor 5:9-11) that we do not have.
- Corinth wrote Paul a letter that we do not have (cf. 1Cor 7:1)
- Members of Chloe’s house reported to Paul about quarrelling (1Cor 1:11)
- Paul wrote a second letter to the Corinthians which is 1Cor. with 16 chapters.
- A third letter was written by Paul to Corinth and is missing as well (cf 2Cor 2:4; 7:8)
- Another letter Paul wrote to Corinth is 2Cor. with 13 chapters.
- 1 & 2 Corinthians combined are the longest letters in the NT.
- Corinthians is filled with both doctrinal teaching but also practical instruction for individual Christians and corporate church practice. We would miss a great deal if we did not have these letters.
Letter of 2 Corinthians: Popular Passages & Sayings
- God of all comfort (2Cor 1)
- Lord is Spirit and where Spirt of the Lord is, there is freedom/Liberty (“Two Corinthians 3:17”)
- jars of clay (2Cor 4)
- absent from body is present with Lord (2Cor 5)
- live by faith not sight (2Cor 5)
- If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold new has come (2Cor 5:17)
- avoid being unequally yoked (2Cor 6)
- sow to reap… God loves a cheerful giver (2Cor 8-9)
- “thorn in the flesh” but the Lord says “My grace is sufficient for you” (2Cor 12)
- “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12)
EXAMINE 2Corinthians 1:1-11; 11:16-12:10 How Pain Can Be Comforting
Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will
- Paul had a life-changing encounter with the life, love, and truth of Jesus.
- Paul was one of brightest minds, missionary heart, and historic world influencers.
[with] Timothy our brother
- Partners and teams are so important for ministry and missions.
To God’s church at Corinth
- The fact that a church existed in Corinth at all was ironic due to its high immorality. The problem was not that Corinth was in the midst of the world but that the world was in the midst of the church.
- A strategic city for its population, prosperity, position, and pleasure-living.
- Population was likely ½ -1 million people.
- Prosperity came from the city’s bronze-making and high commercial trade development among incoming merchants and sailors through its Isthmus, and its intellectual philosophical centers.
- Position along an isthmus trade route allowed Corinth to hold a significant place of social and economic prominence.
- Pleasure-living consumed Corinth with cultural entertainment, athletic notoriety in the Isthmian Games (second only to Olympian), and sensual idolatry with over 1000 prostitutes from dozens of cult temples – most known was temple of Aphrodite. In fact, to “Corinthianize” meant to live a depraved, debauched and devilish lifestyle.
àChristians should recognize the impact and influence that emanates from strategic cities.
- In fact, the term “pagan” came from Roman word “pagus” which meant village or district. To be a pagan meant you lived in a rural area and were a village person. Since early Christianity spread from city to city (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Rome), they viewed the villagers (pagans) as those who were unlike them. By 300 AD half of the Roman cities were Christians and the large % of unbelievers lived in rural villages.
- YET, today Christians have left the cities and the center of culture making influence. Our mission strategy should be to get back into the cities to impact culture – large populations, gzreat prosperity, strategic position…
Grace and Peace
- Paul’s writing to a church where he doesn’t agree on everything, but he writes with charity.
- We can learn charity by spending time in God’s Word.
Pain is comforted by God’s relatable character (2Cor 1:3, 5).
Paul gives praise to God even in the midst of suffering. He’s setting the tone of the letter as praise Godward and not pity manward. Paul is also a realist and not attempting to hide his feelings, but interpreting them through the lens of faith. That is what makes Paul to appealing to us. God uses those the most who have experienced significant suffering. Scars become stories. In fact, it is seldom said that a person grows the most without trial or has been influenced by others who have never experienced suffering. The most depth and development comes from those who have lived through loss and persevered through trials.
Paul points us to the person of God.
- God is not a theory but a person.
- God is the solution, regardless the problem or question.
- Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
- Reference to the suffering of Jesus.
- Appointed suffering for the Son.
- Delivered with resurrection power, now available to those who believe.
- Reference to the suffering of Jesus.
- Father of mercies and all comfort
- God gives these blessings, but more, He is these blessings; mercy and comfort are who He is.
- Psalms 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
- Psalm 145:9 “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
- Eph 2:4 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…”
- Lamentations 3:22-23 “his mercies never end, they are new every morning”
Illus: Who has experienced turbulence on an airplane? If you have, it’s always a bit nerve-racking. Usually, you buckle or tighten your seat belt. You hold on to the armrest, clinch your neighbors hand, and grind your teeth. Your mind wanders on phone calls or conversations you may need to have. And you begin to pray a bit more sincerely. Then the pilot buzzes over the loudspeaker, “We’ve run into some choppy wind, so we’re going to adjust our altitude and hopefully find some smoother air.” The pilots message calms us that he is in control and at work to correct the turbulence.
– – – That’s what we all need: To know God is there and in control, and to adjust our altitude to God’s perspective.
- God becomes relatable when we
1) Pray & Read Bible. This doesn’t necessarily create sunshine, stars, and smiles. But reading Scripture and praying to God begins to shape who we are and how we react to world and circumstances. We notice that God is there and has spoken, and we loosen our clinch and lessen the grind of our teeth.
2) Talk to others about God. We mostly talk about people more than things, because we are relational beings. So, the more we talk about God, the more we become aware His presence.
Pain is comforted by God’s redeeming circumstances (2Cor 1:4-11).
Paul does not want to waste his troubles or trials. Instead, he gives the Corinthians a framework for understanding suffering. Sometimes God allows suffering not just to grow our character but to groom us for ministry with others. Paul’s experiences were unrest internally and externally (cf 2Cor 2:13; 4:8-18; 7:5). Yet to Paul, his testings became testimonies; our mess becomes ministry, and yes, our hell becomes hallelujah as God’s comfort comes to us to work through us. Paul despaired of life but his dependence was upon God, who did deliver him.
Undoubtedly, trials are unwanted from us – and from God. Yet, God still permits suffering to pass through our life for His greater purposes.
- Job’s suffering was permitted and somewhat planned by God (Job 1:8).
- Jesus’s suffering was planned by God (Acts 2:23).
- Peter’s fiery trials were purposed by God (1Peter 4:12-16).
- Paul’s suffering was purposed by God (Acts 9:16).
- Our pains are redeemed through our prayer life. Paul notes his desperation of life taught him not to trust in self but in God who raises the dead (2Cor 1:9). Further, Paul references God’s deliverance is due to the prayers of others (2Cor 1:11). We must take seriously our privilege and responsibility to pray for one another. If your prayer life is not increasing in quality and quantity, then be ready for God’s permission of problems to arrive that you would learn the source of your dependence.
*** SPBC CORPORATE PRAYER + > ***
- Our pains are redeemed through our future preparations. As athletes train for trials, so we must train for the trials to come. Our spiritual preparation is strength training to compete in life circumstances and combat evil capacities (Eph 6).
Pain is comforted by God’s sufficient presence (2Cor 12:7-10).
Paul had significant suffering that he reveals his vulnerability with the Corinthians. He shares his personal struggle with a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt self.” He pleaded with the Lord three times to remove it, but God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness,” so that Christ’s power may reside in him. Paul goes on saying, “So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul’s life was marked not just by suffering but by the Savior. As God was with the Patriarch Joseph in Genesis, so God was with Paul to use him to accomplish much.
No amount of suffering exceeds God’s power to sustain and save a believer. His graces sees us through every task and trial. We never have to doubt God’s presence with us and power to deliver us. While we may struggle to discern God’s temporal or eternal purposes for our pains, we can trust God’s wisdom and goodness.
- Illus: My daughters love jam on their biscuits. My Aunt Ginny makes all kinds of jams: Apple & Cinnamon, Blueberry, Strawberry, Pineapple, Peach, and Triple Crown (Blueberry, Strawberry, Blackberry, with Lemon zest). Sometimes the jars are hard to open and my daughters complain, “I can’t open the jar.” Then I say, “You can’t open the jar bc you haven’t used all your strength.” Then they try harder and quickly repeat the complaining. My response: “You haven’t used all your strength because you haven’t used all your resources. You haven’t asked me to help you open the jar.” We have more strength and sufficiency available to use when we pray to God for help.
- Instead of “Why me?” we should ask “Who else?” As Paul, we must have the frame of mind for ministry with others. When faced with trials, ask God for the eyes and heart to share comfort with others. Paul says his sufferings help bring salvation to the Corinthians. Can you envision that your life’s hardships can be used to bring help and hope in faith to God in the lives of others?
“If we are afflicted, it is for YOUR comfort, and YOUR salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for YOUR comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for YOU is unshaken, for we know that as YOU share in our sufferings, YOU will also share in our comfort” (2Cor 1:6-7).
- Bring your pains to the One who knows and heals. “Your Love Defends Me”
- Turn pains into prayer devotion to God and for others. Ask “Lord, who else?”
 See Sam Storms, A Sincere and Pure Devotion To Christ: 100 Daily Meditations on 2Corinthians, vol 1., p.23.
 Sam Storms, pp.28-29.