2 Corinthians 1: Don’t Get Too Comfortable
Comfort has two distinct definitions: ‘a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.’ And –‘to ease or lesson another’s sadness, sorrow or pain. One is a noun the other a verb, an action taken.
Ever been getting ready to sit down and as we say, “take a load off your feet”, when your spouse, mother or someone else says, “Don’t get too comfortable, I have something for you to do.”
In America we live in a land of plenty, a land of comfort. We find comfort in our circumstances and well-being. We want: physical health, all our family doing well, financial security, and a ‘quality of life’, few in the world enjoy. Which also means if these circumstances change – our comfort level changes. We know when we are saddened by the changes in our lives which cause sadness, pain and loss, we want the pain to ease and we look for those things which can do it: some turn to alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, eating, travel or amusement and entertainment to take our mind off our troubles. Some of these are innocent, others are dangerous, but they are all potentially addictive. And collectively they begin to define success and comfort in America. “I want to live in America, OK by me in America, everything is free in America. I like the shores of America, comfort is yours in America…” (West Side Story)
False teachers were stirring up the church at Corinth against Paul saying, his teaching was not God’s truth. They implied Paul was not a true apostle of Jesus Christ. This letter is unlike any of Paul’s other letters in that it was the most personal letter he wrote. Paul tells us of some his personal experiences such as his vision of the third heaven and his ‘thorn in the flesh.’
Paul will recount how much he had suffered already. He will list the number of times he was beaten, in prison, lashed, stoned, left for dead, shipwrecked. In his book, the Road Less Traveled, author and physician, M. Scott Peck, begins his book with this opening sentence. “Life is difficult.” I don’t have to explain that to you by now, you have learned this personally.
GRACE AND PEACE
Paul begins with a familiar greeting: “To the Church of God in Corinth together with all the saints throughout Achaia. (Achaia was the ancient name for Greece.) Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. “
Grace and peace. Understand these foundational truths. God’s Grace is the source of all our supply. Grace is the word which gathers up all that God has done and is doing and is ready to do for us and give us all. God loves to give. God loves to bless. All His supplies come via His Grace and obtained by faith.
The result of this grace, this amazing, marvelous grace is peace. “You (God) keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts you.” (Isaiah 26) The key element to peace is trust which creates an ever conscious awareness of God’s presence at all time. A mind must be transformed by the Word of God in order to have this awareness. When we got saved, (justified,) we had peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. But we also have the peace of God, which Jesus gave to us. We received it by grace through faith. This peace is what cuts off anxiety as soon as it arises, when it first strikes. We are told not to worry or be anxious for anything. We are told to keep from worrying we should pray always. (Now we must be able to discern between the destructive force of worry and productive concern.) Worry accomplishes nothing and is in fact destructive. Concern prayerfully discerns the constructive steps to be taken to deal with the trouble or a specific problem. Because life is difficult and we will have trouble in this world, we must learn how to deal with difficulties and troubles for God has a purpose in allowing these to come into our lives.
Remember fear is the opposite of faith- it is the opponent of faith. This is why one of the Lord’s most often repeated commands is and was: Fear Not.
A PEACEFUL HEART IN THE STORMS OF LIFE
Peace is what we desire and God wants us to find the peace which passes understanding by trusting Him. Here are five essential beliefs for a peaceful heart: especially in times of trouble:
- God is absolutely sovereign. Psalm 91 is a testimony to God’s Sovereignty and of the security of those who trust in the Lord. He is our refuge and our fortress. The Psalm closes with a promise which Gina claimed when I was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, she personalized these verses and placed my name in place of the pronouns: “Because he (Tim) has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He (Tim) shall call upon Me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.” Winds obey Him, He speaks and billowing waves cease. Fish bring Him a coin he needs, or swim into nets. The dead hear his voice and come to life, blind see, lame walk, deaf hear. He is in complete control. God is before all things, He created all things, He upholds all things, He is above all things, He knows all things, He accomplishes all things, and He rules all things and is control of all things. Nothing is impossible for Him. God is absolutely sovereign! If God is for you- who or what can be against you?
- God is your Provider. He provided a lamb for the sacrifice for Isaac on the mount. And He provided the Lamb of God Himself for me and you. Psalm 34: 10 tells us: “…but those who seek the Lord will lack no good thing.” Paul writes in Philippians “My God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget God is in control of my material resources, my income, everything I have is a gift from Him, coming down from my Heavenly Father. Peter said God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. Do you know and believe this truth?
- God made each of us just the way He wanted us to be. We are what we are and who we are for a purpose. I exist and you exist because God willed for us to exist. We exist for one purpose- for God to give Himself to us. He chose my parents. He chose my birth order. He chose my gender. He chose the time and place I was to be born.(Acts 17) He chose my physical traits as well as the talents and abilities I would be born with naturally. He then gave me the spiritual gifts He chose for me when I was born again spiritually. He is the Potter, I am the clay. He shapes me for His purpose. (S.H.A.P.E.= Spiritual gift; Heart or desire He has worked in me to use my gift; Abilities, natural talents I was born with which He selected for each of us; Personality, the outward expression of our temperament we were born with; and the Experiences He has allowed me to experience- all to shape each of us for His specific purpose.
- God made us in His image and remember God is love. We were created to be lovers. To love the Lord God with our all, to love our neighbors as ourselves. God has a place for each of us where we belong. He knows we need someone to love and someone to love us. Everyone wants to be needed. And everyone needs to be wanted. God has a place for each one of us to belong- it is the in the Body of Christ, the true church. “ There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in you all.” ( Ephesians 4: 4-6) We are part of the same Body. The Holy Spirit connects you to believers in fellowship. God said from the beginning: “it is not good for man to be alone.” We need to have a place we truly belong.
- God has a plan for your fulfillment. When you ask, it will be given; when you seek, you will find; and when you knock, it will be opened to you.” God knows the plans He has for you. Listen to God as He shares His thoughts with you: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me, and you will find Me, when you search for me with all your heart.” ( Jeremiah 29: 11-13) *Half-hearted efforts will never work.
God is absolutely sovereign. God is your provider. God made you the way you are for a purpose. God has a place just for you. God has a plan for you- the only plan in which you will find lasting fulfillment.
The New Testament is not just about how to get to heaven, it is also about how to live life on this earth as a Christian, as God’s child.
God is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (This tells us God does not will anyone to go to hell. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said how he longed to gather her as a mother hen does her chicks, but they would not. Notice Jesus says they would not, not they could not. God has revealed Himself through His creation and through the conscience, so man has an external witness and an internal witness. Therefore, man is without excuse.) God‘s desire for each of us who are believers is to find our place and purpose. To find the peace of God which passes understanding. He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.
He wants us to become skilled using the natural talents we were born with, and the spiritual gifts we received when we were born again.
This turning of gifts and talents into a skill is our responsibility. This means we must acquire specific knowledge and how to apply it in order to become competent. Trust God to help you learn and develop.
WHY WE HAVE TROUBLES
Here are the facts:
We all have troubles.
God comforts us in our troubles.
God does not remove the trouble and suffering because He has allowed them for a purpose. Here are some of the multiple purposes of trouble and suffering:
- Conforms us to the image of the Lord Jesus.
- Allows us to experience the comfort of God in our times of suffering.
- Equips us to comfort others.
- Churches become comfort stations, rest stops,
- Churches also become a place of restoration.
- Suffering and troubles teach us to trust and rely on God- not self.
The word comfort also involves strengthening. The Holy Spirit is the power and source of strength within each of us; He also happens to be called The Comforter.
God’s comfort and strength is always more than adequate and available to hold you up no matter how difficult the suffering and trouble is. Remember His Grace is the source of everything we ever need. And His grace is always sufficient.
What is your response to suffering and trouble? Did you notice how Paul started this section? “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion( mercy) and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in an trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Do you praise God for the trouble? Or do you try to get out of it as soon as you can? God – Help me get out of this? Or God help me get through this?
God allows trouble, crisis, pain and suffering in order that we may learn how to depend on Him for mercy, comfort and strength. It is the only way we can discover what God can do to comfort and strengthen us during these times of testing. He is teaching us how to live the Christian life. This is how we learn to patiently endure. Unfortunately there are no short cuts to gaining patience, except to be put in situations where you must wait on the Lord.
Saul of Tarsus was a very intelligent, talented, educated, a proud, self-reliant Jew who also possessed the highly prized Roman citizenship and the backing of the Sanhedrin. God had to break him of his self-reliance on his own abilities and strengths. Paul will share his personal setbacks and suffering in this letter like none of his others. He allows us to hear his despair, depression and pressure he felt. He does not deny his feelings.
Suffering can come as a result of our own sin, rebellion or impulsive decisions. Suffering can come to keep us from sin. Suffering refines, enlarges, and purifies our faith. Suffering breaks us of the habit of self reliance. But suffering can also come to prepare us as it did for Joseph in his 13 year trial from being sold as a slave and imprisoned on a false charge to the second highest place of power in Egypt. And of course the Lord Jesus, God in flesh suffered for our sakes.
Paul describes his situation: “I do not want you to be uninformed about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answers to the prayers of many.” Intercessory prayer is powerful.
Notice the tenses of the verbs: He has delivered (past tense); he will deliver (present tense): He will continue to deliver (future tense).
Troubles/ trials and suffering? God has sent them. God has allowed them to come as opportunities that you might learn the amazing secret of inner strength, inner comfort, inner peace which keep your heart quiet, though you are going through tough times.
Remember this truth: God has to work in us before He can work through us.
And remember when it comes to this world, John said to not love the things of the world. In other words, John is saying, ‘don’t get too comfortable in this world, the Lord has things for you to do!