2 Corinthians 12:11-21
11/10/2019Ryan Hayden 2 Corinthians
Take your Bibles with me today and turn to 2 Corinthians 1.
I'm going to start a new book series today going through the book of 2 Corinthians. I preached through 1 Corinthians about 7 years ago and it really did a number on me. It worked me over and changed my perceptions about the ministry in some big ways. But I never went on and preached through 2 Corinthians so I want to start on that today.
Let me ask you a question: How many of you know someone who has been hurt in church? Have any of you been hurt in church?
The truth is that people get hurt or offended in church all the time. I heard an old preacher say once:
To dwell above with saints I love, oh that will be glory. To dwell below with saints I know, now that's another story.
There is a reason why nearly every town in America has more than one Baptist church. Most of the time, it wasn't done that way on purpose. Over the years people get their feelings hurt and have some church splits.
I told you recently that when we had a church planter come to Fairview when I was there, he asked Pastor Scallions if he had ever started a church. And Pastor Scallions said, never on purpose, but I've started seven accidentally.
The backdrop for the book of 2 Corinthians is people getting hurt in church. Specifically, Paul was hurt by the response and actions of this church at Corinth.
Corinth was a brand new boom town. At the time Paul visited it it was less than 10 years old and yet it was teeming with people. It was already the third most important city in the whole Roman Empire.
The people who moved to Corinth tended to be two types. They were either recently freed slaves looking to move up in the world or recently retired soldiers looking for a new start. It was a city that had no roots, so there was no established old money class, it was a city where anybody could rise to the top.
So it filled up quickly with a bunch of people who were trying to make it in the world. The kind of people who didn't come from money, but who desperately wanted to look like they did. If Corinth was around today it would probably look a bit like what you see in big cities in America. Lots of people in their twenties and thirties desperately trying to look richer than they are. The people in this city were just starving for status.
So Paul came to Corinth to start a church there. You can read about that in Acts 18. Paul went to the city and found two believers named Aquila and Prescilla, and moved in with them because all three of them were tentmakers by profession. So they started a tent making shop their in Corinth. And Paul did what Paul always did, he went to the Synagogue and started preaching to the jews, and like always the jews rejected Paul.
But after awhile something strange happened: The chief ruler of the Synagogue - basically the pastor of this jewish church - trusted Christ. God was doing something in that wicked city of Corinth. So Paul stayed in Corinth longer than just about anywhere else, about a year and a half, and he started a church.
Then he left them and went on his way to go back and report to other churches and start new ones. But he began to hear about some troubling stuff going on in this church at Corinth.
All of this stuff really happened in one church. It was a hot mess. So Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians to deal with all of those issues.
And apparently Paul went and visited Corinth to make sure they were following what he said and it didn't go well. Most scholars think that some people in the church questioned Paul and openly mocked him to his face and that no one in the church came to his defense.
They said he wasn't the real deal. He wasn't "apostolic" enough. They questioned everything about him. They questioned the way he spoke. They questioned his humble mannerisms. They questioned why he wouldn't take money from them. They questioned why he changed his travel plans. Basically they said "this guy Paul is a fake apostle."
Now imagine pouring your life into people for years, watching God make a church in this wicked city and then trying to get them grounded in the faith and leaving and coming back to that.
So Paul left Corinth defeated and hurt. And after awhile he wrote them a second letter (which we don't have) and he sent Titus, on of his helpers, to deliver that letter. And do you know what, the people actually responded. They actually repented.
And so Paul was writing a follow up letter and that's what 2 Corinthians is. He was going to visit them soon and He wanted to deal with these problems one more time. Just make sure that they were absolutely taken care of.
And that's 2 Corinthians. It's a very unique book. It's by far the most personal and transparent book Paul wrote to any of the churches and a lot of this book is going to be Paul discussing and defending his own ministry and apostleship.
So with that in mind let's read verses 1-11 this morning. 2 Corinthians 1:1-11:
[2Co 1:1-11 KJV] 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy [our] brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: 2 Grace [be] to you and peace from God our Father, and [from] the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6 And whether we be afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope of you [is] stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so [shall ye be] also of the consolation. 8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver [us]; 11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift [bestowed] upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
There is a phrase in verse 3 that I want to dwell on this morning because I think it's the theme of these verses. Look at verse 3:
Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
The phrase is "the God of all comfort." The greek word translated "comfort" there is actually found ten times in these eleven verses. About six times we see it as some form of "comfort" and the rest of the times we see it as the word "consolation." But it's the same word.
The word literally means "to call to one's side." The idea is someone saying "hey, you, come over hear, let me tell you something." And then saying something or doing something that encourages that person.
The Holy Spirit is called the comforter. Same word. He comes alongside us and helps us and encourages us.
The idea here is help or encouragement with some kind of trouble and hardship.
Now, with that in mind, and based on what we learned about Paul today, I want to make four quick points from these verses:
The first thing I think we can learn from this is...
Some people think and some preachers preach, that if you are just spiritual enough, if you are just faithful enough, then you won't have to deal with problems anymore. The health and wealth preachers say that if you just have enough faith (and give enough money) then God is going to bless your socks off and things will just be peachy all the time.
You can have your best life now. You can make every day a Friday. That's the idea.
But here is the thing, that's not what the Bible teaches at all. God never...listen, God never promises that we won't have problems. In fact, the opposite is true, God told us we'd have problems.
1 Peter 4:12 says:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Listen, Jesus didn't say "take up your easy chair" and follow me. He didn't say "take up your slippers" and follow me. He said "take up your cross." There are going to be problems.
Paul had to deal with so many problems in this Corinthian church. We've barely even gotten into this but as we study this book we are going to see four problems Paul was dealing with:
And that's just scratching the surface. Look, Paul had problems and you'll have problems.
A second thing we can learn from this passage about problems is...
Look at some of the phrases in these verses:
all our tribulation (4)
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, (5)
whether we be afflicted (6)
partakers of the sufferings (7)
we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life (9)
Paul wasn't talking about suffering in some detached, academic way. He was really hurting. He felt the pain. Big time.
Look, there is no spiritual plane you reach where problems stop hurting. The pain is still there. The problems are still real. The disappointment is still disappointment. The health issues still hurt.
The Bible never says that if you have enough faith, you won't have any problems and the Bible never says that if you have enough faith, the problems you do have somehow won't hurt.
Paul was a pretty exemplary Christian who was way more spiritual than you or I will ever be and he still really had problems and they still really hurt him.
So listen you are going to still have problems, those problems are still going to hurt. That's part of the Christian life.
You say "pastor, this isn't a great message so far." Ok. Well, let me get to the good part...
The third thing we can see from these verses is...
Look at verses 3 and 4 again:
Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
God doesn't promise to keep us from trouble and He doesn't tell us trouble won't hurt but He does promise to comfort us in our trouble and in our tribulations. When we go through hard times, He will be there with us, helping us.
God hath not promised skies always blue, Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain. God hath not promised we shall not know Toil and temptation, trouble and woe; He hath not told us we shall not bear Many a burden, many a care. God hath not promised smooth roads and wide, Swift, easy travel, needing no guide; Never a mountain, rocky and steep, Never a river, turbid and deep. But God hath promised strength for the day, Rest for the labor, light for the way, Grace for the trials, help from above, Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
You see, Christians aren't the only people who go through trials and troubles. The world has trial and troubles too. Plenty of lost people face cancer. Plenty of lost people have problems with their kids. Plenty of lost people have to deal with poverty or disappointment.
But it's only Christians who can say that God is going through those trials with them and comforting them. It's only Christians who can say that God is giving them rest and strength in their trials. It's only Christians who can say that God is directing them through those trials with the word of God.
He is our comfort. He calls us to His side and He refreshes and encourages us when we are in the middle of trials.
Let me give you one more point. Look at verse 6:
And whether we be afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation.
Paul was going through some problems. He was afflicted. He was enduring sufferings. But Paul realized something in those trials. He realized that God had a purpose in those trials that was bigger than Paul. Those trials were for your consolation and salvation.
Paul could say, yep, I'm going through trials and yep, they hurt but God is helping me through them and do you know what? I know that God is going to use my trials to help you. God is going to use my trials to help others with their trials and some people might even get saved because of the trials I face and the way I handle them with God's help.
So the fourth point is this...
Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses for a reason:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
God has a purpose for all the things we go through. Even the sufferings? Especially the sufferings.
There are two purposes Paul gives us for our suffering here: Consolation and Salvation.
Consolation is so we can help others.
Salvation is to aid our testimony.
It's easy to act like a Christian when everything is going our way - anyone can fake it on a sunny day. But when the storms are howling the real is on display. And people can see us and see that it is real to us.