2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 4
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|Well, today we’re going to find out even more about that comfort. We looked at that verse 3 last time of how he praises the God of comfort. He praises him first of all for Who He is. Now he begins to get into what He has done and what he has experienced and knows about this God of all comfort. He’s brought comfort to all the believers in Corinth and Greece, or He can. And Paul wants them to know that.|
The God of All Comfort – Part 3
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians as we continue in our study of this wonderful epistle of the apostle Paul. We’re going to talk about “The God of All Comfort,” and this is part 3. We’re continuing as we see Paul develop this in the first chapter. We’re going to be looking at verses 4-7 in just a few moments.
When a person has the truth of God’s Word revealed to his heart, that he’s born into this world as a sinner, separated from God: only God’s Word and the Holy Spirit can convict a person of this. And when he realizes that he has no hope of ever being good enough to be saved from the penalty of death assigned to him, and then when he realizes now why Jesus came but the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son came into this world to be born of a virgin, to die for his sin and that He resurrected the third day, and then ascended back into heaven, and when he understands why Jesus came—it was for him. When John 3:16 is no longer for “God so loved the world,” he can put his own name in there.
I remember the day in my own personal walk when it was “for God so loved Wayne,” and it overwhelmed me that God would do that. When he realizes this and he bows before Him, confessing himself to be a sinner, but confessing Jesus now to be his Lord, giving all that he knows of himself to all that he understands of God, then Christ in that moment delivers him from the penalty of eternal death and gives to him eternal life.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this with understanding from scripture: Christ is eternal life, and He comes to live in the believer, in the Person of His Holy Spirit. Immediately in the moment when that person reaches out to God and God comes to live in his heart, that individual is a brand new creation. He is now indwelt by God Himself. He’s now a vessel through which God can do His work. It’s what God wants to do with us; that’s why He leaves us down here on planet earth: to continue His work through those who have professed Him to be Lord.
You see, Christianity is not a religion that mandates that a person has to be good in order to earn righteousness. No, Christianity is not that at all. Christianity is a relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. And we are His vessels now, bought with a price, set apart for His use. I’ve told this story from time to time but it’s on my mind so act like you haven’t heard it and maybe you’ll enjoy it again. But when I was in Reno I needed a haircut and we’d just moved to Reno, hadn’t lived there very long, so I asked a friend of mind would he tell me where to go get a haircut. Well, his wife chimed in and said, “I’ll tell you where.” And she gave me the address and told me the lady’s name to ask for.
Well, I called and got an appointment and when I walked in I knew I’d been set up. It was really different—it was a beauty salon. One of these places that men don’t go. And I walked in and the music was playing and here comes this lady with a spiked haircut. And I was kind of marveling at whoever it was that didn’t know how to cut and shape her hair. And she walked up to me and said, “You must be Wayne.”
The first thought I had was, “No, I’m Ralph and I’m out of here. I don’t want my hair to look like yours!” And I went over and I sat in the chair and she began to tell me about this wild weekend that she’d just had and she got real detailed. I said, “That’s good, I’ve got the point.” And then came the question: I love this question “What do you do?” I love this question because the answer makes hives break out on people’s faces. People that are presidents of companies no longer are able even to talk to you. And she said, “What do you do?” And I said, “I’m a preacher.” This was after she had told me all this stuff. I thought she’d back up a little bit. She didn’t back up. She looked at me and said, “I’ll tell you one thing, religion never worked for me.” And I said, “Praise God, it never worked for me either.”
And she said, “I thought you were a preacher?” I said, “I am, but I don’t preach religion. I do not preach religion. Religion is performance-based. I preach grace, and I preach Christianity which says Jesus paid that debt for me and that He comes to live in me to do through me what I could never do in a thousand years.” She took me back to wash my hair. And she said, “How do you teach this message of grace, of Christianity being a relationship?” And I took her to Romans 6. Now if you know anything about Romans, that’s a tough chapter. And here’s a little lady that didn’t know Philippians from the Philistines. I mean, she didn’t understand anything in Scripture. And when I finished sharing with her, and I left tears rolling down her face, she said, “You mean to tell me I’ve been trying to be good all these years but I can’t be good? But Jesus Christ is good and He wants to come and live in me and be the goodness in and through me?” And I thought to myself, all over this world I have preached to believers who still haven’t got it.
Christianity is a relationship. And when we come to Him we are now His vessel. The word “saint” means to be set apart unto Him. For what? For His use. Now that a person understands that, God wants to use him to influence the world that is around him. And we saw this: God takes great pleasure in using His people. This is how 2 Corinthians 1 starts. Paul starts off and says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” and the word “will” doesn’t just mean “that which He intends to do,” it means “that which He takes great pleasure in doing.” God took great pleasure in using the apostle Paul and Timothy and all of us that are here. God took great pleasure. But to use us, God purposely locates us where He wants us to be. He knows where we can be the most influential. Paul says, “to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia,” Achaia being the southern and central part of Greece. And we’ve just seen here that God has located His people in strategic places all over Greece. He had them exactly where He wanted them.
You say, “I don’t know why I’m living in this neighborhood. I don’t even like the street I’m on.” Did God put you there? Maybe He’s got you there for a reason and you’ve never seen it yet. He puts His people, and He doesn’t put light where there’s light, He puts light where there is darkness. Now, for us to be used where He has located us and for Him to take great pleasure in using us to influence those around us, then we must understand that we must participate in His enabling grace. Grace at salvation is faith alone in Christ alone. No works on my part. But the grace now that we walk in is called “living grace,” Christ living His life through us. That’s what this grace is all about: not me working for Him; Him doing His work through me.
And Paul brings that out in verse 2. He talks to people who are already saved and he says in 1 Corinthians 1 they’ve already received the grace of God. He says to them, “Grace be unto you.” And He speaks of that living grace that comes only when we’re yielded to Him. Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walk you with Him.” And when we walk that way, trusting Him by faith, then we participate in that living grace and He enables us to touch people around us. Christ in us begins to influence people around us.
And when that takes place there’s a peace that will flood your life that you’ve never known before. He says, “Grace to you and peace.” The peace of God, not the peace with God. That came at salvation. But the peace of God. Those believers who have begun to understand that they are set apart in this world, that they’re a vessel to be used of God, and that God has located them and that God has given them the enabling grace to influence the people around them and who walk in that peace relationship with Him, they begin to understand what life is all about. But here’s the painful side to this truth, everything I’ve said from the opening of our message, here’s the painful side: both believers and nonbelievers who do not like the fact that we’re allowing Christ to live through us will cause a lot of problems in our life. Have you noticed this yet? Have you already come to discover that when you yield to Christ, the world is sometimes not as friendly as you thought they would be?
See, light and darkness, they don’t get along real well. Christ in us, now remember what I’m saying here, will offend the one who chooses to live his life his way. And you can expect a lot of pain. You can expect physical pain from what they might do to hurt you. You can expect emotional pain because of what they’ll say about you. The flesh hates God and anyone associated with Him. You say, “I don’t believe that.” Well then, study the New Testament. The word “persecute” is used 41 different times in the New Testament. The word has to do with those who come after you to hurt you either physically or emotionally. In fact, Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” He didn’t say “may be,” he said “will be.”
You say, “Why do you bring this up? We’re talking about 2 Corinthians.” I know, because last time we were together we saw Paul in verse 3 break into praise. He said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” What’s that got to do with anything? These are the words of a wounded heart, a man who’s been deeply wounded both physically and emotionally. Why? Because he’s stopped being religious and started walking under grace and his life has been one trial after the other, but he’s learned to find comfort with the God of all comfort.
Do you realize the word “comfort” itself implies automatically that one will go through tough times? That he will have to endure unlovable people. He’ll have to endure hateful words and on and on. The believer in the early years of Christianity in the book of Acts, when they would come to know Christ, the first eight chapters, were Jewish people that were converted over to Christ before it moved out into the Gentile world. By becoming a believer they were automatically choosing something that they knew would bring great trouble and pain in their lives. In fact, many of the families would completely disown them; their names were taken off of any heritage.
Christ in these people caused the world to hate them and many paid the supreme price of being martyred for the saints. Let’s just take Paul for instance. I’m going to preempt a little bit of what we’re going to study in chapter 11. Let me just show you what the apostle Paul has to say about pain in his life because he wanted to be a vessel used of God. In 2 Corinthians 11 he’s refuting those who claim he’s not an apostle and he’s coming against the false apostles. And he says, “Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if I’m insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
And this is just a broad brush that Paul gives of the pain that came as a result of his being saved and of his being a vessel that God wanted to use. We know from 2 Timothy for instance, that he was finally martyred for the faith: he was put to death. Galatians 6:17 says, “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand marks of Jesus.” You see, what we need to know today in the 21st century, you say, “I’m glad I didn’t live during that time.” Oh, friend, let me help you. The last 25 years there have been more people martyred for Christ than in the history of Christianity, mostly in Muslim worlds, mostly in dark areas, going on right now even as I speak.
But that’s not the point. The point is, from our text, that we have a God of all comfort. We have good news. Paul had learned that he wasn’t by himself. Paul had learned that when he went through these difficult times, he could praise the God of all comfort. This is the place that we all must find our comfort. When we’re beaten up by those who want a more flesh-friendly Christianity, we need to run to the God of all comfort.
Well, today we’re going to find out even more about that comfort. We looked at that verse 3 last time of how he praises the God of comfort. He praises him first of all for Who He is. Now he begins to get into what He has done and what he has experienced and knows about this God of all comfort. He’s brought comfort to all the believers in Corinth and Greece, or He can. And Paul wants them to know that.
The meaningfulness of our comfort
Three things I want you to see tonight: first of all is the meaningfulness of our comfort. The most meaningful thing about the truth that God is the God of all comfort, to me, and you’ll see it in the verse in a minute, is that this is true all the time. Just like that little phrase: God is good all the time; all the time God is good. And we’re going to see it right here. The God of all comfort is always, immediately, accessible to those who come to Him. God is always there to comfort us in times of distress.
Look at verse 4. He comes out of that verse praising God for Who He is and he says, “who comforts us in all our affliction.” Now Paul is speaking from his own experience. The “our” there is his group. He’s not speaking generally; he’s speaking very specifically. The word for comfort is our same word. It’s a little different. It’s parakaleo. It means “in our times of need to come alongside to help us get through whatever it is we’re going through.” But like I said, the beautiful thing is it’s in the present tense, active voice. Paul’s giving a testimony. And he’s saying, “Listen, all you believers in Corinth, and all of you believers that are all over Achaia, I want you to know something: God has never failed me. Every time I’ve gone through the pain and the problems that come when you let Jesus be Jesus in you, God has always been there in the time of need.” Present tense, active voice means, “Hey folks, this is Who He is.” He makes a choice: active voice means He makes a choice to be this way. You don’t have to beg God to come to your side. God is already there, and the moment we turn to Him He’s always accessible.
To me that’s a glorious truth. It was certainly to Paul. Christ lives in us to always comfort us, in the uncomfortable situations that are going to arise simply because we’re serious about Him. To us, it’s just like that “our.” All the pronouns here, the first person plural pronouns, they’re used of his group, Paul and his group. Paul refers to himself and his companions, “who comforts us in all our affliction.”
Now it would be good to know what that word “affliction” is. It’s used 34 times in the New Testament. It speaks of a very difficult and stressful situation. Personally, Paul is talking about those things he had to endure. He suffered only because he loved Christ. I’m going to keep saying that. I’m going to be a broken record on this. We’re talking about this kind of comfort, this kind of affliction. That’s what Paul is pointing to. But Christ had always been there to comfort him.
The word for “affliction” is the word thlipsis. It’s a Greek word and it means “to be pressed in from all directions.” Let me ask you a question: when you become a believer and you start getting serious with God and you get into His Word and you let His Word renew your mind and Christ begins to work through your life, has anybody felt sometimes as if you can’t take anymore from the persecution that comes? Maybe it’s verbal, maybe it’s an attitude, maybe it’s somebody that won’t even talk to you anymore, but you feel it everywhere you go. Has anybody felt that pressing in on you from all sides, whether it be at work or at home, whether it be in the neighborhood or wherever it is? That’s the World.
Years ago, the USS Thresher, the nuclear sub, it went down so deep that the pressure on the outside overtook the pressure on the inside and exploded that submarine. That’s the word thlipsis. Sometimes you just feel like, is there a friend anywhere? I mean, my goodness, all I’m doing is trying to love Jesus. All I’m doing is sharing His Word. What is everybody’s problem, and it begins to push in on you and everywhere you turn it’s there. He says, “He comforts us.” He’s always there. Sometimes we’re looking in the wrong direction. He’s always there.
“Who comforts us in all our affliction.” The word “all,” we skip right by it, but in the Greek it has a much more poignant meaning: it means Paul refers to each and every time, it’s almost as if God gives him a remembrance of each and every time he’s turned to Him and then he looks back at it and the word “all” means each and every time, but every one of them when you put them all together. And I think what Paul’s doing by introducing this, to the church of Corinth who hadn’t always done it right, he wants them to know that they better get used to the fact that it’s not always popular to walk with Christ and to allow Him to live His life through your life. Hard, stressful, difficult times will come upon us when we choose to say yes to Christ. That’s the painful side of it.
Is there a joyful side? It’s certainly greater than the painful side, but we need to be mindful of that. The meaningfulness of our comfort, and I hear it from Paul, is in the fact that there is not a trial for which there is not His comfort. And it’s the heart of God to help us to understand that we’re not going through it alone. He’s there to comfort us. He’s always there to comfort us.
You say, “I’m a believer and I trust God, but I don’t feel like He’s anywhere around.” I can only ask you one question back: who moved? He says in Hebrews, “I’ll never leave you and I’ll never forsake you.” I want you to understand, if you’re looking for comfort and you’re a believer, you already have it: the Comforter lives within you. And it comes when you are willing to reach out for it, as we’re willing to bow and say, “Oh God, I can’t, You never said I could. You can, and You always said You would.”
The ministry of our comfort
Well, the meaningfulness of our comfort. But the second thing I want you to see is the ministry of our comfort. There’s something about this going through things that helps us. It’s amazing how going through difficult times as Paul did, and turning to God for your comfort in the midst of those times, opens your eyes to others who may be going through the same thing. Isn’t it incredible how you walk right through life and miss three-fourths of it and it’s right around you? But when you’ve turned to Him and you’ve been broken and cried out to Him and you’ve received His comfort, that opens your eyes to people around you.
He says in verse 4, “who comforts us in all our affliction so that,” that’s very important, “so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.” I just love that phrase, “so that we will be able.” God never wastes experiences. Go back, think about all the difficult times you’ve had living surrendered to Christ. Now listen, there are other forms of suffering: there’s the kind I’ve brought on myself. There are other things, there are sicknesses and things that can come physically, and certainly that’s involved, but that’s not the narrow context here. He’s dealing with believers. And what he’s saying is that God doesn’t want to waste your experiences. You go through something and you think nobody cares; God cares and He’ll get you through it. But on the other side of it, He opens your eyes to others. And all of a sudden you have a sensitivity towards them that you didn’t have before because you’ve been there and you know exactly what the answer is.
Manly Beasley was a great mentor and friend. He’s in heaven now and getting joy now in everything he ever preached on. Great preacher on faith. He had 14 different terminal diseases during his lifetime. They had to carry him to the pulpit and when he would stand at the pulpit he would grab both sides and you would have thought he’d never had a sick day in his life and as soon as he preached he would collapse and they’d put him in a wheelchair and take him off. Even until the day he died.
He had gone through some terrible times, just walking with the Lord. And God had just comforted him in everything he had to deal with. And my wife went through a terrible time—this was physical, this was not because of persecution. This was another kind but it all interrelates. And she went through a whole year of such depression she said, “If I had to emotionally prove that God existed, I could not do it. But I believe, because I believe, because I believe.” And Manly would pick up the phone wherever he was in the country and call my wife and he’d say, “I know exactly how you feel.” You see, he’d been there and God had gotten him through and that had opened up his mind and his heart to others who were going through a similar thing.
“So that we might be able.” The word “able” is the word dunamai. It means to have the ability to do something. “You mean that my trials are not just for me to get through, but God wants a ministry to other people, but it’s for me to be so comforted by God that I might learn to comfort others?” Hear me clearly, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” We look at life as if it’s an affront to who we are; that it’s a stumbling block to what we want to be. And God says, “Are you kidding Me? I’m orchestrating your life. I know exactly what you’re going through. But I also know somebody else that needs this message and won’t get it until you go through it.”
All of us want the faith to walk through things, but none of us want the schools we have to go through to get it. Paul is saying that what you’re going through, you’re not an island to yourself. And when you go through it and you turn to the God of comfort—and the specific context is when you’re being persecuted for your faith but it can go in any direction as you’ll see in just a moment—that you can comfort others.
“So that we may be able to comfort those who are,” and here it opens it up right here, “in any affliction.” Paul lifts the lid off of just being persecuted. He now covers every base, from any affliction, any and all afflictions: it covers all manner in saying that. Of stresses and hurtful situations that one might be going through and God’s trying to comfort that individual and give him the peace in the midst of it, the peace that’s in the midst of a storm, so that when he comes out he’s going to open his eyes to somebody that’s been right there in front of him that he hasn’t even seen before. But He makes him sensitive to that individual.
And what Paul is saying to me is that unless we have been there and received the comfort of God ourselves, we can’t be as sensitive to those who are around us going through afflictions. And that’s how God uses it in a positive way in our life. The key is not just the fact that we all suffer. That’s not what he says. It’s not because you suffer: everybody suffers. But that you’ve received comfort from the Lord, that’s where the message comes in and that’s what points people to the God of all comfort. This makes us a candidate to minister to others who are hurting.
We started doing something on staff just this past week and I can’t wait until we do it again. It is called a prayer walk. You’re going to hear a lot about prayer walking coming up in months to come; so much so that it’s going to become a part of our life. We call it prayer walking. Many times, I’ve done it for years in my life, and didn’t call it that, didn’t know that was what it was called. But what we did, we broke up: the ladies went one way and the men went another way. We broke into groups, and by the way, you’ve been prayed for tonight. This is so much fun, watching you walk in the door you didn’t know that we were right in here praying for you, and we prayed over every room in this church and the hallways, and we just asked God to make us sensitive to the people that come in here and sensitive to the people that work in here because I’m telling you, God has that kind of thermometer inside of us and can make us sensitive if we’ll just open our eyes. He’s the God of all comfort, not just for us, but for other people. Open your eyes.
You say, “I don’t have a ministry.” Let me ask you a question? What valleys have you been through in your life? When have you had the faith and how did God bring you through? That’s your ministry right there, because you comfort wherein you have been comforted. And that’s the ministry God gives to you.
It’s incredible how we have tunnel vision going through life. It’s all about us, and then when God doesn’t let it happen the way we want it to, it’s His fault. And we never understand how somebody around us needs exactly what God wants us to discover in Him. We need one another. The meaningfulness of comfort is the fact that he’s always there. He’s always there. The ministry of our comfort: when we allow Him to comfort us and He opens our eyes to others who need exactly that same comfort. It moves us to move to them.
The measure of our comfort
Then the third thing is the measure of our comfort, the measure of it. Now I chose that word carefully because I want you to see the dimensions of it. You need to make sure that it’s not us comforting anybody. I want to go back to what we started with: it’s Christ in us, the Divine Comforter that comforts people through us. It’s not us, it’s Christ in us.
Paul says in verse 4 again, “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,” but notice what he says, “with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” That’s why we sing the song all the time to keep it on people’s minds. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. “Jesus, be Jesus in me; no long me but Thee. Resurrection power, fill me this hour; Jesus, be Jesus in me.” He comforts us as we yield to Him and as we’re comforted by Him He reaches out through us and touches others with the same comfort, because it’s the same Comforter.
He in us makes us sensitive to come alongside those who around us are suffering what we have been through. But Paul continues to show this measure of his comfort when he says, verse 5, “For just as the sufferings of Christ,” now listen to this carefully, “are ours in abundance,” speaking of himself and his group; the persecution has come to them, “so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
Now what did he just say? Basically, first of all he says to the degree that we have suffered, and to the degree that we have received comfort, is to the degree that we can minister to anybody. I love what Tozer said, “to him that he trusts much, suffers greatly.” Paul shows the specific suffering that he’s talking about here. He says he’s experiencing, now listen carefully, the sufferings of Christ. Let me read it again: “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
I want you to turn to Philippians 3:10-11. Paul had prayed this prayer. This was the desire of Paul’s heart. He says that he wanted to know Christ, to experience Christ daily in his life. Look at this, “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Now did you see it? “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection [and the what?] the fellowship of His sufferings.”
There’s not a person in here that is a believer that doesn’t want to experience Him. I don’t want to just go to church and talk about Him. I want to experience Him; I want to know Him. I want to know Him when I go through the valleys in life. I want to know Him when I go through the daily life. I want to experience Him. But now watch: when that happens, that’s when you don’t experience your sufferings; you experience the sufferings of Christ. You know why? Because every bit of the flack that comes your way is not directed at you, it’s directed at the Christ Who lives in you. And you literally become a sharer in the sufferings of Christ.
I’ll tell you, get used to it. When you choose to say yes to Christ, this is an unfriendly world, and light and darkness conflict with one another. And it’s not us that offends them: it’s the Christ in us that offends. This is the kind of suffering that Paul is talking about when he says, “for the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance,” but he also says, “so also our comfort is abundant in Christ.” Do you see it? To the degree that we suffer for His sake, to the degree that we suffer because we let Him be Who He is in our life, is to the same measure that we receive the comfort that He wants to give to us. But even better than that, to that deeper degree, we’re able to minister to other people who are also suffering the sufferings of Christ.
And then he brings it home in verses 6-7; he puts it all together. Look what he says, “But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.” In other words, as Paul and his crew learn to go through affliction, learn to go through the difficult times, the sufferings of Christ, yielding to the comfort of Christ, they were then becoming those who could share that comfort with Corinth and with all of Achaia and all of Greece.
Paul says that this comfort is “effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.” Let me explain that. Anyone—this might bless you, it does me, hopefully it does—anyone who is allowing Christ to live through his life is going to go through—now listen carefully—the same exact sufferings that the apostle Paul went through: the sufferings of Christ. That puts us in some pretty good company, you reckon?
You know, I had somebody say that to me one day and they said, “What’s wrong?” And I told him all my problems. And he said, “Boy, you’re in good company, aren’t you?” I said, “What do you mean?” And he just went back and showed me Paul, stuff I already knew and I wished he hadn’t told me. I wish I would have said it. But we need to be reminded of that, folks. It’s no different today than it was the day that Paul walked on this earth. This world is as hateful towards God today as it was back then, and when we start letting Jesus be Jesus in us, that which comes towards us is equalized by the comfort God gives to us, and then we have a ministry of encouragement to others who are going through the very same things.
Well, Paul is encouraged just knowing that the Corinthians, if they do suffer now, because this has been a pretty upside down church, but at least they’re suffering now, is the right kind of suffering. That’s something he milled on. He says in verse 7, “and our hope for you is firmly grounded.” The word “hope” is that which is expected to happen. I’ve got expectations for you. Remember, he told Titus when he took this third letter to them—this is the fourth letter that he wrote, 2 Corinthians—he told him, “I believe they’re going to come around. I believe there’s hope there.” And he’s picking up on that again. He says, “our hope for you is firmly grounded.” The words “firmly grounded” means “that’s something I can build on now. Now that I see that you’re suffering for the right reasons and not because of sin you’ve inflicted on yourself, man, I’ve got something to build on.”
You know, you never want people to suffer, but if they do suffer, you want it to be for the right reasons, and that’s what Paul is saying. “I have hope for you now that maybe you are living the life that I’ve been preaching to you.” Persecution is not fun, but if it’s present, it is simply indicative of the fact that the individual is yielded to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Understand where this context is, folks, it’s no place else: it’s right there. When we start saying yes to Jesus and He starts using us to influence the world around us, the darkness will rise up. There will be those who desire to live godly lives who will be persecuted. You say, “I’ve never had any persecution in my life.” I can’t answer all of those questions, but I can ask you one. Are you sure you’re letting Jesus be Jesus in you?
I’m telling you, it will threaten families. How many of you have had your family threatened because you’re a believer? Anybody in here? How about at work? Anybody had people at work come down on you because of your beliefs? Yes. See, that’s the kind of hostile world we live in, but isn’t it good we suffer His sufferings? And He’s within us to comfort us, and not only that, to reach out and grab hands with somebody else who is going through it and encourage them.
He’s the God of all comfort. Don’t think it a strange thing this next week when you start living yielded to Christ that you catch it from the people that used to enjoy your company. John 3:19-20, I believe it is, says, “this is the judgment: that light has come into the world but people will not come to the light because their deeds will be exposed.”
Do you realize what we are? We’re lights. Everywhere we go is like a spotlight coming on. And a lot of folks just don’t like that. But I’m glad we’re here together: we can encourage each other and be encouraged from the apostle Paul. And you know what? He had no idea that for generations what he wrote back to the church in Corinth was going to encourage people like you and me in the 21st century. He didn’t know that. This is God’s Word. He’s still encouraging people, isn’t he, because he’s been to the God of all comfort.