The Suffering Saint - Part 7
We are at verse 8 and 9 in 2 Cor.1:3-11, and we will wrap up next week with this text. The Apostle Paul reminds this church that he as an Apostle is not exempt from suffering, pain and affliction. He begins that they should not be unaware of the horrific affliction that came to him in Asia, we are not told what it was, affliction remember in the greek is thlipis, meaning something of a weight upon the chest. A constant, always weighing down of pain that seemingly is very painful and will not go away. But this affliction, burdened them excessively , beyond their strength that they despaired even of life. Instead of the affliction of 20 pounds upon their chest, it may have seemed like 100 pounds and they were not going to escape it.
The sentence of death Paul says is what they were under. A sentence of time or penalty would normally mean that it will run its course and the end of the affliction will come; in this case, death would be that sentence. Paul was not expecting then to come back and stay at the ministry to the gentiles he had been given by God to do, but he says that the reason God had given him in this affliction was that he would not trust in himself, but in God who raises the dead. To Paul it must have appeared this would be the end of his ministry on Earth as he had come to know it. Pain is what causes weeping and sorrow. Some afflictions are so heavy, a fourth dose of chemo, a child that is critically ill, the loss of a loved one, losing a cherished job, a divorce when you thought such a thing would be impossible.
Maybe Paul thought of Abraham, and the promise he was given before he was sent to offer up his son Isaac. In Heb.11:17-19, that God's promise to him in Gen.21:12, that through Isaac his descendants would be named. Thus in Heb.11:19, the writer says, "Abraham considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead." Abraham was confident in God that if following God's commandment to offer up his only begotten son, that God would still raise up many descendants for Abraham. It is a complete reliance, a complete trusting, a complete hope in God that He can do more than we think, ask or even imagine. John Piper states, "that reliance is that all human suffering is meant to awaken or increase our reliance upon God who raises the dead, and not on ourselves."
In 2 Tim.1:12 Paul states, "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day." Through much anguish, pain, and affliction, he did not give up his reliance on the God of hope, the One who fills us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. English Puritan Thomas Case said, "The spiritual privileges of God's suffering people, are therefore called the peaceable fruits of righteousness (Heb.12:11) because the taste of this fruit brings in such peace and comfort into the soul, as makes it rejoice not in God only, but in tribulation, and in all these things to account itself more than conquerer through Him that hath loved us." We may be perplexed about many afflictions that come our way, but as Paul lived through so many, remember that God works all things for our good, and that all trials are common to man and the Lord is faithful to give us a way of escape through them that we may bear through them, that He will always sustain us and never allow the righteous to be shaken, and with all that in mind, we might be afflicted in every way, but never be despairing.
Elder Randy Slak