Who Comforts Us In All Our Troubles
By Timothy Lopez
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Key Verse 1:4
“Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
As we have just finished our journey through the book of Acts, and may many of its lessons stick with us, we’re beginning yet another journey through Paul’s third letter to the Corinthian church— the Book of 2nd Corinthians. You might be surprised to know that this is not Paul’s second letter to them, as the second letter is thought to be lost. There’s much to say however, about the context of this letter, but many things will be explained as we go along. But as a forewarning, this book isn’t an easy book to follow. While 1st Corinthians is said to be Paul’s most organized letters, 2nd Corinthians is the complete opposite. It is known as Paul’s most disorganized letter. When moving from 1st to 2nd Corinthians, it’s likened to entering into a forest without a road map, right after walking in a well-paved park. But let’s dive in this letter and discover what it’s all about together.
Let’s read verses 1 & 2. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia: (2) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Why take the time to look at this greeting? Because greetings are important! They set the stage for the rest of the letter. Paul here decides to set the stage as an apostle of Jesus who was called by the will of God. Some of the Corinthian Christians had some “beef” with Paul. And that “beef” was that they had a hard time accepting Paul’s apostleship and authority. There was a sect of Jewish Christians who opposed Paul’s apostleship and influenced some of the church members to oppose Paul. But in Paul’s greeting, he points out that his calling was not of his own will but of the will of God. But in truth, those who had a problem with Paul’s calling, didn’t have a problem with Paul himself— rather they really had a problem with God! Why? Because, we know the truth is that Paul’s calling was not by his own will. Here are 2 facts about everyone’s calling: (1) We never start off qualified, and (2) We don’t initially want to take our calling on. Our will isn’t fully in it when we’re called. When we’ve just been called for God’s service, our will is usually the last faculty that gets the memo! For whatever reason, whether we have other priorities, or we have other interests, we usually take a long time to accept our calling. But Paul accepted his calling as the will of God. What do we learn from this? The sooner we accept our calling, the easier it will be for us.
The rest of the greeting says, “With all his holy people.” Though they had problems with Paul as well as problems within the church among themselves as well, Paul didn’t address them as difficult people or troublesome people. He rather addressed them as “God’s holy and chosen people”. In other words, he respected them as God’s children purchased by the blood of Christ and worthy of great honor! And as such, he blesses them with the grace and peace of God. It’s actually quite rare to hear people greet each other with “grace” and “peace” these days. Especially when there’s conflict involved. But when you really think about it, we all need God’s grace and peace more than anything else. Why? Because the grace and peace of God is the only blessing that puts the heart at ease and gives us the confidence we need in the Lord. We need grace and peace especially when we carry on such things as sensitive conversations, and especially when we are trying to serve the Lord. We need it when we meditate on the Lord’s word. We also need grace and peace to guards our hearts from evil. Grace and peace give us strength in the midst of temptation and suffering. We may not be able to change many of our circumstances. We are where we are. But we can certainly ask for the grace and peace of God as we’re walking through whatever season we are in life at this time. As the holy people of God, we have every right to these two gifts when we ask. And as the holy people of God it is our privilege and obligation to bless each other with them as well.
Let’s read verses 3 and 4. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Paul is about to get into two subjects— comfort and suffering— with a dash of compassion on the side. But before this he gives praise to our Heavenly Father for being the author of these two things. Just as God is compassionate, he is also a comforting God as well as a comfortable God. Does that sound strange? Not really! God is never shaken, nor startled, nor surprised. This is partially why he was able to comfort his Son in his trials and can comfort his servants in the many trials that they endure here in this world. But how does compassion relate to comfort? When attempting to comfort another person, when trying to relieve them of their suffering, we must first be able to see what is causing their suffering. That’s when someone else’s heartbreak becomes our own heartbreak; Or, when someone else’s suffering becomes our suffering. Sometimes we turn a blind eye to what causes people’s suffering. We do that because looking at them causes our heart to break as well. And we don’t want to disturb whatever we have going on in our comfortable life at that moment. So when someone else’s suffering breaks our heart, we turn the other way so as not to disturb our own and feel obligated to help them.
Therefore having compassion on the other person, not only takes insight, but it also takes selflessness to step out of ourselves and see and feel someone else’s pain. And that’s exactly what our Savior did! Jesus, the Son of God brought much relief to many suffering souls because he did this. Isaiah 49:10 says, “They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” And Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” I’m not sure how the Greek is worded, but in this translation the order is correct, for our heavenly Father would have to be a Father of compassion before he could be a God of comfort. Compassion always precedes comfort. If we are to imitate our Lord and Savior and be men and women of comfort, then we’d first have to be men and women of compassion.
Look at verse 4 again along with verse 5 this time. Let’s read them together. “Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” What comes to mind when you think of comfort? Nice weather? Not this crazy snow we had yesterday. Do you think of sleeping? Good sleep can be hard to come by. I think of my wife’s cooking. That really makes the world a comfortable place. Although there’s nothing wrong with such examples, they aren’t the kind of comfort that Paul’s speaking of. For one thing, the comfort Paul’s speaking of comes from the Lord. It is the rest and comfort our weary souls can receive only from the Lord. All human souls are laden with sin and guilt. But Christ alone can take these heavy burdens away. And that’s all related with troubles and sufferings. But the comfort that Christ gives to the weary soul of the sinner, also comes with His sufferings. They cannot be separated. Christ couldn’t give us one without having received the other. He couldn’t offer us rest and comfort for our souls without first suffering for our sins. And likewise, we don’t get one without the other either. Like two best friends who do everything together, so is the comfort and suffering we receive in Christ Jesus, and the comfort we in turn can offer to others. In other words, we cannot begin to offer comfort to anyone, unless we first taste of the suffering of Christ as well. Let me explain.
This is coming from Paul who had experienced so much suffering in his own life first, before he was able to comfort anyone. He suffered tremendously with these people who misunderstood him and then rejected him as their teacher and shepherd, to say the least. We could only imagine what emotion he experienced as we writing these letters to them to clear the air and to be received once again as their rightful teacher and friend that he was! Imagine having to explain to your own children that you really love them— and try to convince them of how much you love them! Paul pioneered Corinth during his second world mission journey (Acts 18:1. And he suffered much as the Jews there resisted and persecuted him. The Lord had to personally speak to Paul to convince him to stay in spite of his suffering because the Lord’s work there was flourishing. (Acts 18:9,10) So Paul stayed. After having sacrificed so much for this church, imagine how much it hurt him now that he had to defend his own apostleship to them! That was indeed suffering. He was the one brought them the gospel, whom God worked through for their salvation. But although these Corinthian Christians questioned Paul’s apostleship, he was still comforted. He could praise God for his comfort at this time! How is this possible? It’s possible because he had the right attitude towards suffering. This means that he didn’t despise it or avoid it. He embraced it as his Lord Jesus had done before him. And he did so because he knew there was deep meaning in all the suffering that God gives his people. Eventually, he learned that his own suffering produced the comfort by which he was able to comfort all suffering people— even those who betrayed him like this church.
The attitude we have in our suffering is what usually makes the big difference in the fruit we bear in our lives. Suffering becomes difficult to endure when we don’t accept it, and when we can’t or don’t see the meaning of it. And when that happens we naturally become bitter. And bitterness is like a swampy poison for our souls that’s hard to get rid of. Bitterness latches itself on to all that we see, hear and think. But in our suffering, instead of getting bitter we should get better— don’t you think? We are sinners living in a sinful world. And since we’re sinners, we can’t avoid causing suffering to one another. So, when that happens we need to ask the Lord to help us have the right perspective and the right attitude so that we can endure, and so that we can mature through our suffering. We have to go to God with our sufferings, and not try to find some way out of it. Then God gives us insight and understanding to see meaning into what we are going through. But we have to go to God our Father with our troubles and sufferings. According to verse 4, all our troubles need to be relieved not by some worldly method or solution, but by our Heavenly Father himself! Why? God does this so that we can comfort others who are in trouble. That’s it! Our troubles, our sufferings, our hardships, are so that we can be instruments of comfort to others in trouble. The Lord uses all our troubles, trials and turmoil to make us a source of comfort to others, that they too might find relief in their heavenly Father as well.
I’ll give an example. There is a specific struggle that I have. I’ve endured it for many years, and it can affect many areas of my life at times. I’ve wondered for a while now why the Lord let me have this struggle. I know that in many ways it’s what leads me to my knees in prayer and dependence on Him. But nevertheless, I wished I didn’t have it. Others would counsel me the best way they could and encourage me. But they didn’t seem to have the same difficulty. But to my surprise, I found myself at a Fernando Ortega worship concert. I never thought I’d ever go, as he’s not on my list of artists that I listen to. He’s a bit more popular among the older generation. It’s no secret that he’s a well accomplished musician whose produced worship music since the early 90s. But to my surprise he confessed the same struggle that I had. And for him it lasted over ten years. The way he had described it, those ten years sounded even more severe than what I had went through. It was so severe that he would slip away from conversations with people just pray to God to help him. In that moment my world was flipped upside down. I was overwhelmed with comfort from seeing how he suffered. I mean I’m sorry that he suffered with this for so long. But if anyone could be an instrument of comfort, it was this servant of God who had it rougher than me. What are you suffering with now? What have you endured? What is the source of your anguish and discomfort? Do you see that whatever it is, as you walk through it, the Lord will use it is, so you can become a source of spiritual relief to others?
Paul goes on to explain this in verses 6 & 7. Let’s read those together. “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” I know we’ve been on this subject for a while. But I wanted to highlight one last reason for our comfort. According to Paul, in verse 6, it’s so we can patiently endure the sufferings of Christ. So, it’s not only to grant comfort to others. But it’s to take on more sufferings, more of that humble pie. And around and around we go. Comfort seems to lead to suffering and suffering seems to lead to comfort. And as mentioned before, these verses are also Paul’s own experience with the Corinthians. When he distressed over the Corinthians, God comforted him. And instead of becoming bitter, his own comfort overflowed to the Corinthian Christians such that he was able to comfort them. Do you know what a victory this is for someone to be able to become a blessing rather than curse on those he or she loves? In fact, this is one of the challenges of the shepherd life. Sometimes the sheep trouble the shepherd. Lord knows I did, and Lord knows you did as well, didn’t you? But then when the shepherds seek the Lord in prayer, they are comforted, and in return they turn around and comfort the sheep who had troubled them. Let’s ask our Lord to help us embrace this truth and way of life so that we can all partake in the fellowship of Christ, experience victory and be a blessing on one another.
Let’s read verses 8 & 9. “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” The question is why was Paul under such great pressure, exceedingly beyond his own ability to endure? Imagine that even Paul was brought to the brink of death! Why? He tells us why. So that he would have no other remedy than to put his hope in the One who raises the dead. Paul’s stress was so that they would come to the end of himself (That is, the end of his own strength and abililties) and discover that there was nothing he could possibly do other than rely on the Lord who raises the dead. Do you know what that is? That’s resurrection faith! That’s why our Lord is willing to bring us to this point so that we too can cast ourselves upon him and rely on his power. Relying on our ability or lack thereof is the easiest thing to do. Sometimes the problem is that, we wait that until we can’t do anything, before we finally think to rely on God. It’s so easy to do, that it often takes a disaster or a misfortune for us to learn to rely on the Lord’s resurrection power. So, what do you think God is doing in the hardship of our lives? He is causing us not to rely on ourselves, or on the stable and comfortable circumstances surrounding us. Rather he is causing us to rely on Him who alone in all the universe is eternally and beautifully reliable.
So, do we now dare to speak lightly of the calamities that have befallen some of us? We may not know entirely about the troubles and hardship that go on with each other, and therefore I would be ignorant to attempt to point anything out to discuss it casually. But these verses do encourage us to confess faith that for those who love God, all of the troubles that seemed to have occurred with us, everything that was beyond our ability to endure, everything that made us despair of life itself, will work together for our good. (Rom 8:28) And that good is not necessarily, a solution, or a quick fix, but that good in the context of this passage, is that we would learn to rely more fully on the Lord. The good that comes from our troubles is that we learn to love God more in and through that event. The good that comes to us is that we will be able to praise him with a deeper understanding of Him and his grace to us. In short, the good that comes from our problems in this world is that we become more established and rooted in the grace and love of God.
Let’s read our last set of verses, 10 & 11. Let’s begin. “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” The prayers of the saints are also very important in this matter. It doesn’t matter if there’s conflict in the church or not as long as we pray for each other. When God answers our prayers, and helps our brother or sister overcome a trial, it is everyone’s victory. Just as if one of us falls, we all fall. But when there’s victory, the prayer servants are honored and thanked for their support. These verses should stir us up more fervor to pray for our Pastor and elders. To pray for the all those here serving the gospel work with their whole hearts, especially those who serve TBC and JBF and CBF and Friday meeting and the Music ministry and Outreach and all our Team Leaders who are struggling to uphold the church and its function. And to pray for the whole ministry here at Triton U.B.F. as we strive to work with the strength that God supplies to enlarge and purify the body of Christ in this place. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” We can work our heads off. We can have conference after conference after conference. We can go through all the motions of worship. But if the Lord is not doing, it is nothing. Let’s thank God, and come to him diligently to continue his work in us here. As our key verse says: Let’s read it together: “Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” We can only comfort each other if we can share each others troubles. And the best way to share each other’s troubles is to fellowship with one another in Christ the spirit of Christ’s sacrificial love and with earnest prayer for one another. God bless you.