Calvary Road Baptist Church

“ARE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE?”

Second Corinthians 1.1-11

 

We turn to a text found in the Apostle Paul’s second Corinthian letter. As we do so, I beg to inform you of several personal responsibilities that God has put upon you who are Christians. If you have turned from your sins to trust the eternal Son of the living God, the virgin-born Savior, who died a sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross, and conquered death when God raised Him from the dead three days later, then along with the gift of eternal life God has given to you there are also some responsibilities. Here are but three of those responsibilities:

First, it is your responsibility to be faithful. It was in First Corinthians 4.2 that we learned the following principle: Although God has equipped each of us with different spiritual gifts, capacities, and abilities; the one thing He does require of each of us is faithfulness:

 

“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”

 

Therefore, I urge you to be faithful in focusing your attention on this message from God’s Word so that our time spent together in Second Corinthians 1.1-11 will bless and change your life.

Second, it is your responsibility to have the right attitude. In the epistle written by James, we are instructed to “receive with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save your souls” from the power of sin in our daily lives. Where you sit for the next few minutes, I urge you to think of yourself as something like a cup ready to be filled, a sponge ready to be saturated, a diner ready to be fed, or a child ready to be taught. For the Word of God to be used by the Spirit of God in our lives as we listen to Bible preaching, we must have the right attitude. We must have a meek and teachable spirit about us.

Third, it is your responsibility to maintain your ongoing commitment to engage in right actions. Make up your mind all over again to be a doer “of the Word and not a hearer only, deceiving your own selves,” James 1.22. Decide right now, if you have not already reconfirmed your decision to do so this morning, to obey God’s Word even before you hear its instructions. I plead with you, do not sit in judgment, evaluating each piece of truth and doctrine as you hear them, deciding which parts you will obey and which parts you will reject. Decide now to accept it all. Decide now to obey it all.

Those things understood by all and agreed to by all, let us stand together for the reading of God’s Word. Second Corinthians 1.1-11:

 

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.

 

Two main points in Paul’s opening remarks, his introduction if you will, to deal with in this message entitled “Are You Uncomfortable?”

 

First, WE SEE PAUL’S SALUTATION

 

In verses 1 and 2 Paul deals with four things that we typically overlook, but which are an important part of this portion of scripture:

First, Paul identifies the authors. Paul and Timothy. Anyone who has read much of the New Testament recognizes the names of these two men; the one the great enemy of Christ who was saved and miraculously transformed into the great ambassador for Christ, and his young preacher Timothy who himself was miraculously saved. But then again, all real conversion experiences are very much miracles, are they not? Throughout Second Corinthians, it can be seen that Paul frequently refers to “us” and “we,” but not usually about all Christians, or even including his readers. He is usually referring only to himself, to Timothy, and their other team members, and their experiences in serving God together as preachers, evangelists, and church planters.

Second, Paul identifies their offices. Paul, of course, was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” And from reading Ephesians 4.8 and Ephesians 4.11-12, we see that as an apostle Paul fitted one of the four categories of gifted men that the Lord Jesus Christ gives to His congregations, both for establishing churches and also for growing them and building them numerically and spiritually. And what office did Timothy occupy? He is Paul’s “brother.” Does that mean Timothy’s job was to sit back and watch the preacher perform his tasks? While that’s the view of many modern Christians, it is not the view portrayed in the Word of God of a co-laborer. Though no official office is here indicated for Timothy in Second Corinthians, we see him as intimately involved in serving God as was the Apostle Paul. Would to God more Christians were of the opinion that evangelism was important for all able-bodied church members, or that personal sacrifice for the cause of Christ was their opportunity as much as anyone else’s, or that prayer and devotion to God’s Word as someone willing to disciple others was necessary for them as well as me. One of the authors held an official office. The other author held an unofficial office, called “brother,” but which office is critical to the cause of Christ by their sheer numbers. What duties and tasks are you engaged in as a Christian, as a church member, as a saint of God, and as a brother or sister in Christ?

Third, Paul identifies his addressees. This second Corinthian letter is primarily addressed to the “church of God which is at Corinth,” which is to say, a local church congregation in a named city. Would to God Christians reading the Bible would take stock of the great importance placed on the local church congregation in the New Testament. But secondarily, this letter is addressed to “all the saints which are in Achaia.” Achaia is simply that geographical region that we now call the Greek peninsula, and the term “saints” simply refers to the Christians who lived in that region. The conclusion to draw at this point is that what Paul is here writing about is also applicable to the other Greek congregations. He writes here of no issue that is confined only to the Corinthian church members alone. Those of you who have heard me over the years preach through First and Second Thessalonians, Galatians, and First Corinthians, may find it interesting to note that we are in yet another New Testament epistle in which Paul primarily addresses, not Christianity as a whole, nor the great nebulous invisible church (whatever that is), but a local congregation.

Fourth, Paul pronounces a blessing, verse 2:

 

“Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Though seemingly a formality that the Apostle Paul goes through in his letters, he really does mean what he writes. The grace of God, which is necessary for real living, and the peace with God and the peace of God that comes only from God and His Son Jesus Christ, is Paul’s passionate desire for each of his readers. And, humanly speaking, that is why Paul wrote this letter to his beloved Corinthians so that they might enjoy one of the benefits of God’s grace, peace of heart and mind. My friends, do you have such peace, or is your heart troubled?

 

THE SECOND THING WE SEE IN PAUL’S INTRODUCTION IS THANKS GIVEN

 

Paul is showing his thankful heart by informing the Corinthians of some things that they needed to know, or perhaps needed to be reminded of. And in the midst of the sometimes overwhelming troubles of life, we need to know these things, too.

First, we see Paul’s praise for plenty, verses 3-5: In verse 3 God’s virtue is extolled:

 

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.”

 

Isn’t God great? Folks, our God is a great God. He’s tremendous. Want to know just a few of the multitude of reasons why God is great? Paul gives us some. God is great because He’s the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And where would we be without the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior? Eventually, and deservedly, we’d be in the lake of fire. God is great! God is great because He is the Father of mercies. Now, it’s a marvelous thing that God is just and righteous and holy, but the thing I like is His mercy. I think God is great because I am a recipient of His mercy, extended to me when Jesus Christ became my personal Savior. God is also great because He is the God of all comfort. Now Paul is getting down to the task at hand. Is your life hard? Paul’s life was hard. So was Timothy’s. Far more difficult and brutal than has been anyone’s experience in this room this morning. Know what that means? It means that if they say that God is the God of all comfort, they know what they are talking about. After extolling God’s virtue, Paul moves on to verse 4 where he shows how God’s equips His men:

 

“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.”

 

Remember, now, that the “us” here is Paul, Timothy, and their co-laborers. He does not include the Corinthians in these remarks. Paul is telling the readers that God comforts him, comforts Timothy, and comforts their co-laborers in all of their tribulation. That’s not quite true of everyone, is it? Some people don’t respond to God gracious means of comforting them in tribulation. Why not? They want to hold pity parties and feel sorry for themselves because life is hard. Not Paul and Timothy. And why did God comfort those men of God? So they would be able to use the comfort they received from God in their tribulations and trials of life to then comfort others. The way God equips us to minister to the spiritual needs of others is to bring truly difficult things into our lives, then to comfort us amidst our difficulties, so we will then be able to comfort others. Then, in verse 5, God’s supply is explained:

 

“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”

 

We see here that our Savior not only starts us off in the Christian life but sustains us in the Christian life. Consider how much suffering Paul went through. That’s a measure how much consolation Christ gave to him. How much suffering did Timothy experience? That’s a measure of how much comfort Christ gave to him. See how God balances out things in this verse? There is never more suffering than the consolation that’s available. Likewise, there’s never more consolation available than the suffering God sends into a believer’s life. Why does it work out that way? Because God isn’t playing games with us. He isn’t a cruel God, Who just enjoys seeing people suffer. Paul, Timothy, and their colleagues have seen that. They have experienced that. That’s why Paul is rejoicing in Christ for His plenty. Specifically, Paul is praising God for the abundant supply of comfort that Christ gives to His men, both official leaders like Paul and unofficial leaders as Timothy, to enable them to minister to others having rough times. Are you having a rough time of it? Why not respond to the situation like Paul and Timothy did? Don’t be uncomfortable. Be comfortable, so you will be comforted and will then be able to comfort others.

Second, we see God’s plan for partakers, verses 6-7:

 

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.

 

I want you to notice something in these two verses. I want you to notice three experiences that every Christian man or woman God uses eventually becomes aware of: First, there is heartache:

 

“And whether we be afflicted.”

 

Notice that this is not an “if” situation, but a “when” situation. If you are going to useful to God, you’d better expect to be afflicted. Heartache is a part of the game plan God has for His children, especially those He will use to influence others, either as pastors or as examples in the church. If you want your life to count for something, then you need to begin now to prepare for heartache. Don’t be surprised when it comes, because it is part of God’s recipe for your growth as a Christian. Second, there is help:

 

“It is for your consolation.” “It is for your consolation.”

 

Paul experienced pain for their benefit. I experience paid for your benefit. Other Christians in this congregation also experience pain for your benefit. It may not be the same kind of trouble and affliction that you’ve experienced, but we’ve been around long enough to be at least modestly prepared by God to comfort those we are called upon to minister to in their affliction. God equips us to help others, as some you have been equipped. Third, there is hope, verse 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.”

 

What keeps me going, and I suspect what also keeps Joyce and Isaiah going, and Archie and Shirley and Lee going, and others of us going, is hope. Hope that I’m not suffering for nothing. Hope that this great pain will not be experienced in vain. The hope that as God has led us through personal trials and difficulties for the specific purpose of preparing us to minister to you, you will then actually allow us to minister to you. You’re going to suffer. Life is hard. Just make sure that as you suffer you will allow those of us who have been prepared by God to comfort you. Decide to be a comfortable Christian. Do not stubbornly and may I say selfishly insist on being uncomfortable by being inconsolable during a time of great tragedy and heartache. That is not at all pleasing to God, the God of all comfort.

Finally, we see God’s purpose for problems. God has reasons for everything He does. Let’s look at just a few reasons why He allows a pastor to suffer, why He will allow the man who stands beside the missionary, the Timothy, to suffer, and why He will allow you to suffer at some point: First, the experiences, verse 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.”

 

God wants leaders, be they pastors or other church members, to suffer certain things to gain experience in dealing with and being comforted in situations. Do you have to be drowning in booze? Do you have to have just discovered you have a serious illness? Is it required that you commit horrible sin to be prepared by God to deal with the problems associated with horrible sins? Of course not. Paul was not a fornicator. Neither was he a brawler. But God still used certain experiences of his life to squeeze him so hard that the great Apostle Paul “despaired even of life.” And so it is with others. I think of Spurgeon’s many years of pain. Those men could appreciate the thoughts of suicide that the wicked man might have contemplated without having committed the sins the wicked man committed. And by their experiences they understood what others had gone through without the destruction to their life testimonies. Don’t think you have to commit sin to experience the range of emotions that sinners experience. No, God can give you an even wider range of experiences without committing sin. Then there are the effects, verses 9-10:

 

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.

 

God brings trials of life, tribulations, and afflictions, to give us the experience to produce a particular effect in our lives. God wants us to make and continually re-assert an important decision. The decision is to “not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” Paul knew God could be trusted, because He had already raised Christ from the dead, He had already saved Paul’s life on numerous occasions, and He was presently doing marvelous other things in his life. So Paul’s decision was to decide each and every day to trust God to do in the future what He had already done in the past for him, and was doing in the present for him. Obviously, then, Paul would be used by the Holy Spirit to persuade then others to make the same decision to trust God for daily living he had made. Finally, in addition to experiences and effects, instruments should be noticed, verse 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.”

 

Paul makes mention of the fact that when God works in the lives of men, even in the lives of spiritual leaders, He does so through the agency of other people; human instruments. And how did God use His instruments to affect such great things in Paul’s spiritual life and his success as a spiritual leader? How did He use people such as the Corinthians? Through prayer. They prayed for Paul, and God answered their prayers. Do not doubt the efficacy of prayer. Sometimes the only way God’s people make it is God answering the prayers of the saints. Pray for me. And also through giving:

 

“The gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons.”

 

Sometimes the affliction is a material need. Sometimes the tribulation is a feeling of loneliness. Sometimes it’s the frustration of feeling totally unappreciated. Want to know what helped Paul make it at times? The little card delivered by the letter carrier. The phone call to say, “I love and appreciate you.” Am I soliciting such treatment? Not at all. I’m just paraphrasing what the Apostle Paul said helped him make it. The gift he received by the means of many persons.

 

Friends, life is hard, very hard. And none of us in this room has any right to think that we’ve cornered the market on suffering, or that we are somehow superior because we’ve gone through things no one else has gone through. “No one else understands.” That’s so much bunk. But what isn’t bunk is this: God has a plan for using the sufferings and afflictions of this life to do a great work in Christian’s lives. God has a purpose for the problems He brings upon us to face and deal with each day.

On a personal level, these things take place so that, #1, we will decide over and over and over again to trust God not self. He raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, didn’t He? And He’s delivered you in the past, hasn’t He? So, why not trust Him tomorrow, as well? #2, God uses such things as these to equip us to be of some benefit to others when such things occur to them. God comforts you in trouble so that you will be able to comfort someone else who will come to trouble with the comfort you first received from others.

The question, of course, is if you are comfortable. Are you willing to be comforted by God using other people to minister to you in your affliction? Will you turn to Him and see His purpose in it all? Or do you grouse and complain at your lot in life? Do you withdraw and become emotionally, or in some cases physically, isolated from those sent by God to your side to console you?

How many times have you had countrymen take vows to murder you? How many times has persecution resulted in you almost drowning in the Mediterranean? How many times have you been beaten with a cat o’ nine tails across the back? How many times have you been stoned? How many times have you despaired of life because of people’s reactions when you did right?

My friends, Paul praised God when those things happened to him. He was able to praise God because he was comfortable. He allowed God to comfort him. He allowed people to be used by God to comfort him. Will you? You are a comfortable Christian if you receive comfort from God through others who come to you in your affliction, in your suffering, with you intending to use your comfort from them to in turn comfort others when it’s their turn.

And though the word is nowhere found in our text, are not peace and mercy, and yes, even comfort, expressions of God’s love for His children? Therefore, if you are uncomfortable, you are interfering with God loving on you using other Christians, with God hugging on you in your pain, with God blessing you in your distress. I am not sure, but I don’t think that as a Christian you have the right to do that. Be a comfortable Christian. And if you must suffer, make sure you get the greatest benefit from your suffering, so you will be a blessing to others when the time comes.

 

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org