2 Corinthians 1:8
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”
Sometimes, it is comforting to know we are not the only ones to face difficulty. Paul was a godly man involved in the business of the Kingdom, yet he found himself face to face with trials that caused him to despair. Fortunately, Paul walked through those trials and came out the other side with insight to help each of us. He points out three things which should guide us through our difficult days.
First, he speaks of the comfort that comes from the Lord. One of my favorite titles for God is found in this chapter. He is called, “The Father of mercy and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Paul went on to describe the mercy of God, explaining it is both sufficient and abundant. He declared, no matter what we might be facing, God has comfort available for us, and this comfort is so great we will be able to pass it on to others who are in the midst of their own trying times.
Second, Paul speaks of the confidence he had in the midst of his trials. He speaks of trusting the Lord, because He is the one who raises the dead. This reminds me of Abraham who was willing to offer Isaac, because he believed God could raise the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19), No matter what we are facing, if we face it with confidence in God and His word, we are trusting the One who can do the impossible.
Third, Paul explains, he did not walk this road alone, but was accompanied by the prayers of the saints. Often, when a friend is facing difficulty, we feel like there is something we should do, but we don’t know what it is. We do not have the financial resources to fix their problems, or the strength to lift them from their despair. Instead of feeling helpless, we should come alongside them in prayer. When Paul was released from his Roman imprisonment, he attributed it to the prayers of the saints coming alongside the work of the Spirit.
Finally, Paul speaks of having conducted himself with godly sincerity. In other words, he lived righteously through his trials. Instead of using the difficulty as an opportunity to compromise his walk with God, he chose to set a standard for others to follow. Too often, we allow difficult circumstances to give us excuse to sin. We complain, backbite, murmur, wander, or even indulge in vice, thinking our hardship gives us license. Paul chose to trust in and walk with Christ through his trial, and come out the other end as a shining example.
Questions for 2 Corinthians 1
- In verse 3, Paul refers to God as the “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort”. The Greek word translated “mercies” indicates compassion from deep in His heart. The word translated as “comfort” could also be translated as consolation, solace, encouragement, or refreshment. God comforts us because of his compassion. What are some of the ways that God has comforted you? Take time to thank Him for His compassion towards you.
- Read verses 4-7. In addition to comforting us simply to help us, God comforts us that we can be a comfort to others. As you think about the ways that God has worked in your life, ask God to help you see how He might want to use you to minister to others in the same way.
- Paul tells in verses 8-10 of a tremendously difficult time that he and his companions went through while in Asia. They were “burdened”, “despaired of life”, and had the “sentence of death” upon them. But notice the reason for this in the middle of verse 9, “that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead”. When we face seemingly impossible situations, God designs these as opportunities to trust Him in a greater way. What difficulties is God bringing you through now? Are you taking advantage of the opportunity to trust Him in it?
- Paul speaks of his “boast”: that he lived in “simplicity and godly sincerity”, not according to his own power and resource but by the grace of God. Essentially, this means that Paul lifted a life that was an open book and had no hypocrisy. His only agenda was Jesus. Have you ever lived this way? If not, what is holding you back? If you once did, but are not now, what have you allowed to creep in to get in the way? No matter where you’re at, ask Jesus for help to live like Paul!
- Read verses 15-18. The Corinthians are accusing Paul of not being a man of his word. However, Paul wasn’t saying yes and then changing it to a no. He was just noncommittal until he was sure it was the Lord. Read Matt 5:33-37. Do you keep your promises? Do you stick to your yes’s and no’s? Do you count the cost before you make commitments?
- The reason it is important for us to be trustworthy when we say we do something is found in verses 19-20. What is God’s character when He makes promises?
- We are told that the Holy Spirit is in our hearts as a guarantee. The word for guarantee means “money which in purchases is given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid”. In other words, the fact that the Spirit lives in us, is a proof that Jesus will finish the work in us and take us home. Read Phil 1:6. How does this truth minister to you?
- In verse 24 Paul speaks of not having dominion over (being the boss of) the Corinthians. Rather he says that he is a “fellow worker”, a Greek word that we get our word “synergy” from. Synergy means multiple forces working as one. What part do you play in the work of the kingdom of heaven? Do you have your eyes on the prize: seeing people come to know God and to grow in their relationship with Him?