The Blessing of Affliction
THE BLESSING OF AFFLICTION
2 Cor. 1:3-11
Of all the dilemmas we face as Christians, the one Paul speaks of here in this passage…the problem of affliction…is perhaps the most difficult for us to deal with.
- We don’t understand why God allows it to happen.
- We think that as Christians we should be exempt from it.
- Because we serve a great and loving God, affliction and suffering is something that He should never allow to come our way.
And when it does happen we often criticize God and blame Him.
- “If God were a good God He wouldn’t let this happen.”
Sometimes we handle suffering and affliction in a different way.
- Instead of blaming God we blame the one who is suffering.
- Like Job’s friends, we reason that the one suffering “must have sinned.”
- And when it happens to us, we sometimes reason and say, “Well, God must be mad at me!” “I must have done something to make Him mad!” “I must have done something wrong.”
True, our wrong doings can cause us to suffer.
- But just because you are suffering does not automatically mean that you have made God mad.
This kind of thinking only brings about confusion…and frustration….and accusations and guilt on the sufferer that they may never recover from.
- And so, for the most part, we have never handled the problem of affliction very well.
Well, here in this passage Paul has some things to say on this subject and hopefully what he has to say will help us as we deal with affliction and suffering in our lives.
First thing I want you to notice is “no one is exempt.”
- It makes no difference who you are…whether you are the Apostle Paul…the Son of God…or an elder or preacher…
- Afflictions and sufferings and pressures…and stresses are going to come.
And the truth of the matter is, the fact that you are a faithful servant of God may mean that your afflictions will be more than those who are not faithful to God.
Look at Paul.
- Other than Christ, who would we consider to be a more faithful servant of God than Paul?
- And yet, in this passage, down in verse 8, Paul speaks of afflictions which caused him and Timothy to be “burdened excessively, beyond their strength, so that they despaired even of life.”
In verse 5 Paul says that what they were suffering were “sufferings of Christ.”
- And in verse 6 he says that they “suffered for the comfort and salvation” of these Corinthians.
So much of what Paul and Timothy suffered was due to their commitment and devotion to Christ.
- So just because you are a child of God…a servant of God…that doesn’t exempt you from afflictions….
- In fact, it could cause you to experience afflictions that you might not otherwise suffer.
So, no one is exempt from afflictions and suffering.
- Not you…not me.
- It is human to suffer because suffering comes with humanity.
- We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world.
- As a result, there is and will always be sin and suffering until the Lord comes again and puts and end to it all.
But now look at vs. 3. Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all afflictions…”
- People look in a lot of places to find comfort in their times of affliction.
- Some look in exciting and dissipating pleasures of the flesh.
- They turn to strong drink or drugs….or to immoral activities.
- The problem with those things is, when you sober up…or when the high is over, the pain and affliction is still there…and you have really not been comforted at all.
- And the immoral relationships only add to the affliction.
Some people seek to find comfort by complaining…or by entering into depression and hopelessness.
- Again, these things only afflict us more.
Some simply try to ignore the affliction…or deny it….or pretend to forget it.
- Obviously there is no comfort in that.
We look in all of these different places to try to find comfort during our times of affliction.
But the one place we should look…we must look…in order to find true…real comfort in affliction is to God.
- 3 says that He is “the Father of mercies.” Mercies can be translated “compassions.”
- The fact that He is the “Father of compassion” indicates that He is the “source” of compassion.
- Any true, lasting compassion that we may find…begins with and comes from Him.
The verse says that He is the “God of ALL comfort.”
- ALL comfort!
- All good…genuine…real….lasting comfort comes from God!
And verse 4 says “He comforts us in “ALL our afflictions
- Not just some….not just certain kinds…but ALL of them.
And when it says that “He comforts us“, that is present tense which means that He continually….and constantly comforts us.
Far too often we look in the wrong places for our comfort.
- We look to ourselves.
- “I’ll figure it out! I’ll get through it alone.”
- We look to our material possessions…or our wealth.
- “Money will buy me peace of mind.”
- We look to our strength…our power…our prestige and authority.
- “I don’t have to pray…praying is a sign of weakness…I’m stronger than that.”
Well, that isn’t the place to look!
- Ask King David.
- He had knowledge…and wealth…and power.
- And yet, in his times of affliction where did David turn too?
- He turned to the one true source of true, lasting, comfort.
- He turned to God.
No wonder He said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of rigteousness For His names sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou are with me, They rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
In times of affliction…of suffering…of stress and pressure…turn to God for only God can make sense of it all.
- Only God can give it all a purpose…just like He did when Joseph was suffering because of his brothers and Joseph said, “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.”
- Only God can use our afflictions to make us stronger…and to help us grow…to become more like the image of His Son.
And in the end, it is only God who can and will deliver us from all afflictions. He alone can and will wipe away all of our tears.
Look again at verse 3. At the time that we are suffering some affliction, it is hard to see any good in it.
- It is difficult to see how any of it can be beneficial.
- But look at what Paul says here in this verse.
- Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comforts…”
Now watch this…“who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
When our daughter was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome….and we were told that she would have to deal with it for the rest of her life…it was really hard to accept that.
- We had a hard time understanding.
- Here she was, an AIM student in Germany…teaching people about Christ…serving Him…doing what we thought God wanted…and then she is stricken with CFS.
- It didn’t make much sense to us.
- But she put her faith and trust in God…and she accepted His will for her life…
- And at the time…she had opportunity to visit with and encourage several others who had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome….
- And not only CFS…but some who were dealing with other discouragements ranging from diseases….all the way to emotional struggles.
- And today, even though she, for the most part, cannot leave her home, continues to send out cards of encouragement; corresponds frequently with a friend who lives in China; and she and Kevin have raised their daughter to be a willing servant of Christ.
She was afflicted….and comforted by God….and as a result she has been able to comfort others….and do so in an effective way because of her own experiences.
God is an evangelistic God.
- His desire is that “no one should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
- One of the most effective times to reach people for Christ is when they are suffering.
- When their world has been shaken and they are looking for a place of refuge.
- And the most effective teacher in a time like that is someone whose world was once shaken in the same way.
Some times our afflictions….and the comfort we receive from God…qualifies us….and equips us to be powerful tools for God to use to bring others to Him.
- Each one of us, in our different and unique experiences with suffering in life…can be used by God to sympathize with…to comfort…and point others to the source of all mercy and comfort…if we will only let Him.
Look at verses 8-9.
- In these verses Paul speaks of an affliction that came on them in Asia that burdened them “excessively, beyond their strength, so that they despaired even in life.”
- We don’t know what affliction he is talking about but whatever it was, it was severe enough that they, “had the sentence of death within them.”
- They were hopeless…and they apparently thought they were going to die.
But look at what he says next about this affliction. In vs. 9 Paul says,
“We had the sentence of death within ourselves IN ORDER THAT WE SHOULD NOT TRUST IN OURSELVES, BUT IN GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD.”
We tend to rely on ourselves.
- We think that every thing depends on us…and all that we do…and all that we have…is ours because of our own efforts.
- And sometimes we become so haughty and arrogant that we think we are the “king of the world” and we think we are invincible.
If you go back to the Old Testament you find a guy named Nebuchadnezzar that was that way.
But the best thing that ever happened to Nebuchadnezzar was for him to suffer affliction and eat grass like a beast…because that experience brought him to a better understanding and knowledge of God.
- In fact, the indication from scripture is that Nebuchadnezzar may have become a faithful man of God.
Some times, our afflictions are the only thing that will cause us to slow down long enough to make us realize that we need God.
- That hope, peace, comfort and most of all, salvation, is not within us and our worldly pursuits…but they are in God. (the woman with the issue of blood; Jairus/daughter)
And sometimes our afflictions are the only thing that will make others realize their need for God as well.
- In 1965 as I stood at my fathers graveside…his death made me realize as an 11 year old boy that there was a whole lot more to life than just living and dying.
God preaches some of His most powerful sermons…and He extends some of His most appealing invitations to others…through our afflictions.
In this passage Paul speaks of afflictions. Something that none of us want to experience.
- And yet, how tragic it would be to go through life free from adversity and affliction.
- For to live a life free from affliction might cause us to never seek for or find our God and Father…the One who raises the dead.
Vs. 11: “You also joining in helping us through your prayers, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many.”
- Thankfulness to God is the only proper response for what he has done…even when we suffer affliction.
Afflictions will come. Turn to God for your comfort.
- Use your experiences to help and comfort others.
- And realize that God can and does often draw you as well as others closer to Him through your afflictions.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023