Today you should read: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Have you ever seen the show Undercover Boss? If you haven’t then I will quickly explain the premise of the show. Basically, the CEO of a large corporation disguises himself as a new employee with the company. The purpose is to be able to see how day-to-day operations really function in their companies. The reason why this concept works so well is that the employees never would imagine that their boss would come and do the job that they are doing. In our culture the big CEO wears a nice suit, rides in nice cars and has a nice comfortable office. This show gives us insight to the power of perception. Because the employees perceive the boss a certain way it makes it easy to trick them.
In Second Corinthians, Paul is addressing a similar issue of perception of identity with the people of the Corinthian church. They were calling into question Paul’s apostleship on the basis that he suffered way too much to be a spirit-filled apostle. Basically, Paul just suffered way too much to be blessed by God. To their credit, Paul had gone through a lot of hardships for the gospel. However, what a naive thought by the church at Corinth. Paul had been spreading the gospel all over the place and suffering so that gentiles like themselves could hear the gospel and they would have the nerve to call into question Paul’s apostleship? Well, let me take a moment to defend them a bit. They suffer from a similar issue that we often find ourselves in which is, we often equate blessings with success. Often we look at the church that has thousands in attendance as God blessing that church but we look at a missionary who is in prison for his faith as a lack of blessing. Another example is that if we have a Sunday morning service where many people raise their hands for salvation we are successful but if a message convicts those in our church and people leave, that can be seen as failure. The Corinthian church was struggling with their perception of blessing and Paul in our chapter today graciously begins to correct them.
So what are some lessons that we can learn about trials?
- Trials have purpose. (v.3-5) Paul explains that the affliction and trials that he has faced were for the purpose of seeing how God is the God of all comfort. Because of Paul’s experience with suffering he is able to comfort others who are going through affliction themselves. Paul is trying to help all of us see that trials themselves are blessings from the Lord so that we can grow closer to him and love others. James tells us to consider it joy when we meet trials of various kinds because they produce in us perseverance (James 1:2-4). Because of what Paul had gone through he was able to have a greater impact for the kingdom of God so his trials were his blessing. What I am not saying is that trials are fun and happy times and we should throw a party when we go through them. However, when we have a kingdom-minded focus we can appreciate the way God uses them in our lives and see them as blessings.
- Often we receive the benefits of the suffering of others (6-7). Where would we be without the suffering of Paul to go and spread the gospel among the gentiles? Would we know Christ? What if Christ had not suffered and died on our behalf? Was Christ not blessed by God? Often when we suffer it is for the greater purpose of impact on the world around us. Think about in your own life. The words of someone who has been through the same struggle we are facing always seem to mean a little bit more than everyone else’s. God uses us to love one another and to comfort one another by showing how God comforted us through similar trials. I have the privilege of counseling others through difficult times in their lives and some of the most effective moments are when I share how God has brought me through obstacles in my own life. When I share those stories, the scriptures that God taught me during those times bring new insight for those I counsel.
- Our hope is in Christ alone. Trials force us to cling to God and his promises in Christ alone. If you have ever visited someone who is on their death bed they never seem to care about their accomplishments, their money, or their possessions. They care about God and their loved ones. The reason is that when we face the ultimate reality of death it makes us evaluate what is truly important in this life. Even the most hard-hearted person finds himself asking questions like, “What happens when we die?” when faced with the reality of death. God is the one who raises the dead, namely Jesus who he raised on our behalf for our salvation so that we can all have eternal life (John 3:16-17).
Questions to ponder:
- To what or whom do you cling for comfort?
- Does that person or thing comfort you when you face trials?
- Why or why not?
Posted by: Chad Wiles