April 12, 2022 Southshore Bible Church

2 Corinthians 1

2 Corinthians 1

Suffering Together

 

Paul opens this second letter to the Corinthians by recognizing the suffering and persecution that the Corinthian church is enduring (v. 3-11). Although the persecution of a first century church may feel like a distant reality to us, the suffering of Christians is an ever present reality in our world. Although the context and kinds of suffering certainly change, the existence of suffering is a reality in our broken world, as a direct consequence of the rebellion of mankind in Genesis 3.

 

And so even as we do “life together” with fellow believers, whether it’s enduring our own, or sharing in theirs, suffering will be a reality of our life. And as an ever present reality, there are several things we can learn from how Paul understands and addresses the suffering of the Corinthian church.


1. All Suffering is Suffering.

 

Even though Paul and his companions were clearly enduring suffering that was far more severe, to the point that they “despaired of life itself … (and) felt that we had received the sentence of death,” the suffering of the Corinthians was no less real. Paul, amidst his own affliction, extended to them empathy and prayer, and encouraged them to find mercy and comfort in Jesus Christ.


In our context, the suffering of fellow believers cannot be forgotten because of objectively worse suffering elsewhere. And although our response may differ, all suffering is suffering.

 

2. Comfort is found in Christ.

 

Paul reminds the Corinthians that comfort is found in the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction,” and “through Christ we share abundantly in comfort…” Paul himself believed: “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

 

Ultimate deliverance from suffering is only found in Christ. No matter what we endure on this earth, or what suffering we experience, we have been, and will be, ultimately delivered by Jesus Christ. For us then, where do we expect comfort, mercy, relief, and an end of our suffering, to come from? In recent days we have been tempted to seek an end to suffering from medical professionals, government officials, and protests. But ultimately, we will only find comfort in Christ.

 

3. Suffering is Purposeful.

 

You may have noticed that every time Paul addresses his own suffering, or that of the Corinthians, he follows it with a “so that” statement. Each time, we’re told the suffering they were enduring was purposeful.

 

They suffered 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.” (v4)


 “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort…” (v6)


Even when he despaired of life itself, Paul knew “that was that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (v9)

 

We often struggle in vain to find the “deeper meaning” of our suffering, to understand how it fits into what God is doing. And may never know. But it should be enough to know that we suffer so that we can comfort others who suffer, and so that our faith will be strengthened as we are forced to rely on God, not ourselves.

 

Prayer

 

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort, we pray that you would help us to remember that our own suffering is purposeful, and to comfort others who suffer as an outpouring of the comfort we receive in Christ Jesus. Would suffering not cause us to look to our own strength, but to seek your strength, mercy, and comfort. Would we continue to bear one another’s burdens, and above all things point one another to Christ, on whom we have set our hope, that he will deliver us again. Amen.

                                                                

Peter Brown