Jump Start # 2370
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead”
The fifth sentence in 2 Corinthians is troubling. Word came about how the apostle was doing. The news wasn’t good. Rather than sunshine, happy faces and rainbows drawn on the sides of the letter, the Corinthians likely saw dried tears of an apostle that was beaten and beaten and beaten. The Corinthians had only one thing that they could do. Pray.
The language is intense—probably the strongest that Paul uses to describe what he went through.
- Burden excessively
- Beyond our strength
- We despaired life
- We had the sentence of death within us
Paul who once hunted down Christians and gave his vote to execute Christians, was now receiving the most intense persecution of all.
There are lessons for us to see here:
First, God allows the innocent to suffer. Since the days of Job, to the blind man in John 9, even to today, we struggle with that thought. When the wicked suffer we feel like they are getting what they deserved. They sowed the wind and now they reap the whirlwind. But, when the good suffer, that’s hard to understand. Job suffered. Joseph suffered. Jesus suffered. And, now in our verse, Paul suffered.
Second, this suffering can be extreme. Paul despaired life. He felt as if he was going to die. When the bottom drops out of life, we all can feel that way. And it doesn’t have to come from rods being beaten against our backs to feel this way.
A young Christian man comes home from work and finds a note on the kitchen table. His young wife has taken the babies and left him. There is someone else in her life. He’s crushed.
A Christian is busily taking care of her aging parents. She does everything for them. A doctor’s visit and a few tests later and she finds out that she has stage four cancer. Now who will do what she has been doing?
A young professional wants to climb the corporate ladder. There are too many ahead of her, so she drops in the HR department one day with a sob story of her senior supervisor sexually harassing her. That supervisor is a Christian. He’s called in. He denies it. The young woman threatens to sue the company. The man is fired. He has a son in college. He has a mortgage. He doesn’t know where he’ll find a job making what he was. He’s bitter. He knows he was set up, but there is nothing he can do.
Paul thought he was going to die. He trusted in God who raises the dead. Why is that expression, raises the dead, there? It doesn’t say, Paul trusted God who can kill giants, part seas, or knock walls down. It doesn’t say that Paul trusted God who can get us out of an trouble. Rather, in God who raises the dead. Even if we die, God will do something.
Suffering can be extreme. The heartache, pain and suffering that some go through is never understood by the rest of us. Every Sunday morning, there sits a lonely widow who is hurting both in her heart and in her body. She aches every time the song leader says, “Let’s stand.” On a good day, she still doesn’t feel well. Just a row over is a young couple. Few know that she had a miscarriage recently. They suffer in silence as they look at all the children in the building. Just down from them sits a man whose grown children haven’t talked to him in years. They had words and now bitterness and anger keeps them away. He has grandchildren that he has never seen. He sits and worships with a broken heart. Just across the isle is a lady whose mother passed away last week. She too is broken hearted. And behind her sits a man who has an appointment in the morning at the hospital. He is scheduled for a whole series of tests. He hasn’t been feeling well. He fears he has cancer.
The suffering we go through can be extreme. We tend to think my pain is greater than your pain. What I’m going through is worse than what you are going through. But for each of us, the pain is extreme.
Thirdly, our passage reminds us that these things happened so Paul would not trust in himself. His trust was in the Lord. It wasn’t some inner strength, positive thought, happy place he went to in his mind that got him through these things. It was God. It was believing in God. It was knowing the promises of God. It was trusting the hopes of God. Paul wouldn’t say, “I’ll be ok.” What he would say is, “With God’s help, I can do all things.”
What was the worst thing that could happen to Paul? Die. No. To die without Christ. To die on your own, without salvation, promises and hope. Paul welcomed death. It would put him next to the Lord and that’s where he wanted to be.
Our passage reminds us that terrible things can happen to us. We want to know how to avoid those terrible things. Drink more water? Move to a better climate? Eat more veggies? None of those things. Terrible things are a part of life. They will happen. What do you do when they happen? If you have been building a foundation upon the rock, when the storms hit, you’ll get through it. But if you wait until the storm is here and then start thinking about a foundation, it will be too late.
Paul already had a foundation built upon Jesus. The storms came. They were intense. His house, his faith, his hope stood. There was no blaming God. There was no turning his back on God. These storms made him walk even closer to the Lord.
We despaired even of life…but we trusted in God.