The Suffering Saint - Part 5
English Puritan Richard Sibbes writes, "Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night, but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for spring, so do afflictions prepare the soul for glory." As we move along in our study of 2 Cor.1:3-11, we have seen that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, has reasons we will see today for allowing us to be afflicted. Verse 4 says, "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." So it looks like there is one reason here we are finding ourselves afflicted, from time to time in our walk to our heavenly home, that God has planned for us a learning experience that we can then help others be comforted with when we ourselves are comforted by Him earlier on.
So a purpose of God in comforting us is to enable us in the future to bring comfort to others. After Jesus had been received back up into heaven and He and the Father had sent the Holy Spirit, He used the Apostle Paul more often than any other, having him write more than any other, more books of the New Testament, to be a comfort to so many people after he had been comforted himself having gone through so many afflictions himself. Thus he can say in 2 Cor.12:10, that, "He is well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul is speaking of the great opportunity to use our comfort we receive after having been afflicted in order to comfort others. The comfort we receive from God is a great blessing to us and praise God for it, but we must understand that it is not given to us to be merely a benefit to us alone.
It is not always a comfort to hear some one say," I know exactly how you feel." But it is for sure a great comfort to us when we know that another has gone through exactly what we have gone through, and can bring comfort to our hurting soul with the comfort the one sharing has been comforted by God with in the past. As we go thru the storms in life, we gain valuable wisdom and faith that will prove beneficial to us and others who face similar storms as well. For there are purposes in them for us, things to learn in them for us, and grace to see from Him in them for us. For we also see that God uses gifts as well as afflictions, abilities as well as griefs, adversities as well as talents for the common good.(1 Cor.12:10) And we are told to seek to abound in the use of these for the edification of the church. The greek word literally means to build the building. We can build up one another to strengthen their faith while they walk in a path we may have walked before, to fill someone's need when we have just what they need. "We who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom.12:5). I may be a hand to you and you may be an arm to me is what Paul is getting us to understand here.
God as the comforter consoled Paul so that he could be a consoler of the afflicted. In this ministry God prepared Paul for, Paul must have acquiesced, meaning a reluctant acceptance of something without protest. Great theologian and commentator Charles Hodges wrote, "Paul was willing to be afflicted in order to be the bearer of consolation of others. A life of ease is commonly stagnant. It is those who suffer much and who experience much of the comfort of the Holy Spirit who live much. Their life is rich in experience and in resources." Though we do not know the purpose for the struggles, we can trust in One who will see us through them so we can see others through them too! God the Father is a comforter, the Son is a comforter, the Spirit is a comforter, and so can we can be a comforter too. We seek not only comfort from God as Paul teaches, but we can seek broken hearts to comfort with the comfort we have received from Him. Remember, He has hung all the stars in place, and calls them all by name, yet He still heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds!
Elder Randy Slak