Title: Comfort in Affliction
Text: 2 Corinthians 1.3-11
CIT: God comforts us in our times of affliction in order that we might comfort those who are afflicted.
CIS: God comforts us in our times of affliction in order that we might comfort those who are afflicted.
Introduction: Dietrich Bonheoffer by Eric Metaxes: P. 514-515;
It had been six years since Best had witnessed Bonheoffer in prison encouraging and exhorting the cellmate and other inmates being held prisoner. I guess he reflected back to that time, in which the impression Bonheoffer made was still very real. Through the story of Eric Metaxes, we see God comforted Bonheoffer in his affliction and suffering, And, Bonheoffer himself was encouragement and comfort to those who were in prison witnessing his life. I find it amazing to see how God comforts his people by using other people.
This past week I was visiting with Melodese and told her I was preaching on 2 Corinthians. I told her I was trying to figure out the theme for this letter. She suggested comfort. And rightfully so. When you read 2 Corinthians from the very beginning, comfort is a theme that flows throughout the entire letter. No more so than in these opening verses.
Case in point: this word appears 10’s in v 3-7; It appears 30’s in the NT – that’s a full 1/3 of the time it appears in only 5 verses!
Transition: What we will see throughout this letter is that Paul is explaining to the Corinthians as to why he has suffered so much. And his point is that his suffering is evidence of God’s call upon his life as an Apostle, which is what he stated in the greeting back in v 1.
Now, I’ve divided this passage (3-11) into four parts. What I’m hoping you’ll see, what I believe Paul is telling the Corinthians and us, is:
- The source of our comfort in affliction
- The purpose in our affliction, helping us find comfort
- The reality of God at work in our affliction
- And the example of Paul’s life in affliction
Transition: let’s begin with verses 3-4 where we find the source of our comfort in affliction.
1. The Source of our Comfort in Affliction (1.3-4a)
exp.: Typical of Paul, he begins his doxology following his greetings and salutation. Rd v 3; Three statements about God that Paul makes:
- In spite of our suffering and affliction, God still deserves our reverence and worship. In the good times and bad, when rains and when the sun shines, God is still God. For me, that’s the hardest time to present a doxology! Ill.: When I broke my collarbone – God, I feel like you’re picking on me! 2nd, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of this before, but God’s Character is displayed through our suffering. Look at his goodness toward us in our suffering:
- Father of Mercies; I’m reminded of Hebrews 4.16 where AH records: 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Last week I read in Lamentations 3.22f: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Father of mercies and 3rdly, Paul addresses God as…
- God of all comfort: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – who is the source of comfort in our affliction…
app.: What a great attitude to keep in our times of affliction: Blessed be God! the source of comfort in our affliction. 2nd, we see…
2. The Purpose in our Affliction (1.4)
exp.: Abraham Lincoln: The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. Mark Lowry says his favorite verse is and it came to pass…. In other words, it didn’t come to stay! But while it’s here, Paul wants you to know that there is purpose in suffering. Rd v 4a; so that we may be able; lit.: into the power of us; ὁ παρακαλῶν ἡμᾶς ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ θλίψει ἡμῶν εἰς τὸ δύνασθαι ἡμᾶς παρακαλεῖν τοὺς ἐν πάσῃ θλίψει;
- your suffering empowers you; it empowers you to comfort others in their suffering. Listen, You can’t share what you don’t have! You can’t meet people at their need if you’ve never needed like that. Those who are most merciful are those who’ve needed great mercy. Let that sink in for a moment:
Ask yourself: where in life have I suffered most? That is probably a ministry you now have. Like it or not, it qualifies you to serve in a way that those of us who haven’t suffered like that can. It isn’t saying we don’t, but rather that you can.
Transition: the source, the purpose and 3rdly,
3. The Reality of God at work in our Comfort and Affliction (1.5-7)
exp.: Affliction is a part of life; Jesus promised us this; he uses this very same word in John 16.33: 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Paul clarified this thought that it will be a part of the Christ life in 1 Thessalonians 3.3. Let me read 3.1-4.
3 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.
I think this would be a good time to define the word affliction and suffering found here in this passage and in our text today. Context: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me?
There are two different words in the Greek and they mean the same thing (I’ve underlined them in the previous text): θλι̂ψις and θλίβω. Both words mean to press. However, θλι̂ψις means to be pressed and θλίβω means to do the pressing. So in this text of 1 Thessalonians Paul is saying he is being pressed and that someone else is doing the pressing – that he is suffering and that he is suffering at the hands of others. Look back at our text in 2 Corinthians 1.4 and 1.6 where we can see the two words being used.
So, the 1st word is affliction. In the Greek, two separate words. There is a 2nd word: suffering. In the Greek, it is also two separate words. it’s found in v. 5-6; Suffer. There are so many ways to suffer. Suffering:
- A baby sitting in a diaper for hours with a rash
- A child starving without food or water
- A man caught in a fire
- A woman abandoned by her husband
- A cancer patient wracked by pain and torment
- A pastor who is thrown from his bike and breaks his collarbone
ill.: that’s right, by definition, I have suffered from my bike accident; all of these examples listed are considered suffering by definition; When I broke my collarbone, I sat down on the trail and leaned against a nearby trail – I felt at the moment and have felt a bit of suffering from that moment through even this moment. That is what this word means, but understand the context of this passage. The suffering in v 5-6 is suffering that comes about by being pressed, afflicted. Maybe, as you consider spiritual warfare – my accident might fit that definition. But listen to me: Paul is not referring to (see list above); that is NOT what Paul is saying in this verse. That is not what Jesus is saying in John 16.33. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In these two texts we’ve looked at this morning, the context is suffering that comes about through persecution.
ill.: At the end of a two-month hospital stay, Iranian authorities severely beat American pastor Saeed Abedini before returning him to prison. Abedini, a U.S. citizen who turned 34 on May 7, was admitted to the hospital in March for internal bleeding and other injuries related to his imprisonment. Although he received little treatment, his family was allowed to visit and bring him meals. Iran detained Abedini in 2012 when he was in the country to work on a government-approved orphanage. Abedini’s sudden return to prison came days after the United States and Iran failed to make progress in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
Now with this statement of tribulation in the world, Jesus calls us to have peace. Why? Because He has overcome the world; Here in 2 Corinthians we learn a simple principle on how to have peace in affliction: God comforts us in affliction;
- In v 5, Christ suffered tremendously and through his suffering, we share in comfort through salvation.
- In v 6a, Paul and those with him suffer in bringing the Gospel to the Corinthians, and the Corinthian church shares in comfort.
- In v 6b, affliction comes to the Corinthians and they share also in comfort.
Transition: to make all of this clear, Paul illustrates this through his own life in …
4. The Example of our Comfort in Affliction (1.8-11)
exp.: in these verses, Paul says: We suffered, even near to death; But, God allowed it so that we might rely on Him – and look what He has done:
- He delivered where we could not; we were too weak.
- He has given us hope to rely on him in the future; He is faithful.
- He is to be praised for our deliverance; He is worthy of our thanksgiving and blessings.
I love that he comes full circle in the realm of praise. You notice that?
app.: I wish I had more time to delve into this passage, but I think it best to encourage you to study this matter on your own. I had originally planned to present verses 8-11 in full; However, during the preparation of this message I felt it was too broad and, at first, decided to preach on verses 8-11 next week. But I can’t do that now. I realize there just isn’t enough time for me to cover everything. So, Let me leave this in your hands. Maybe you’ve been looking for a good study, Or maybe you would like to invite a couple of friends over and read the passage together. Whatever the case, I’ll leave this study in your hands. See if you can go back to ask chapter 18 and see where Paul suffered and was persecuted. Outline on the map his steps and retrace them.
Conclusion: Remember the 3 questions: What does the passage say? What does the passage mean? What does the passage mean to me? Affliction, suffering, struggle.
This passage got me to thinking: What does struggle produce in me? Do people come to Christ more through my prosperity or through my anguish? And what’s more, do I grow more through my struggles than I ever do through times of peace and prosperity?
After more reflection, I was struck by how I’ve been so un-god like toward my kids. Here on Father’s Day – as a parent, in reflecting on the past, I’ve not wanted to watch my kids struggle, let alone suffer. I protected them and intervened in such a way that I didn’t let them suffer when it would have been good for them. I think it would have taught them life principles that they wouldn’t learn otherwise. Like a bird being hatched – the struggle is actually helping…
Question for Reflection:
- Fathers, are you letting your kids suffer at times that are good for them? I think this calls for wisdom. I’m not advocating inflicting anything on your kids, but rather, watch them and don’t intervene too soon. Let them work out their problems. Again, this calls for wisdom. I think intervention at the right time can teach our children how to seek the Father during times of duress.
- How much am I willing to suffer so that others might come to know Christ? Not that I would ever want to inflict suffering upon myself, sometimes, taking Christ to the Nations calls for suffering.
- Do I have an attitude of Gratitude offering praise to God who comforts me in my affliction?
- Do I remember in prayer those who are suffering for Christ? Randy told me while we were in China, that those in prison and suffering persecution don’t pray to be released.
- What ministry has God given you through your suffering? Are you doing that ministry? I wonder if we to often sit down and feel sorry for ourselves (a pity party) and we don’t get busy using the experience for God’s glory?
- Invitation to come to Christ and be comforted through his sufferings. Sometimes, I think God uses suffering and struggle to draw us to him. Maybe you’re there right now…