Study on the Book of 2nd Corinthians

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Division 1 — “The God of Paul”

Lesson 2: "God and Suffering" - II Cor. 1:3-11

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

We will be studying five divisions of this book. They are,

1-    The God of Paul. (II Cor 1:1-11)

2-    The personal defense of Paul. (II Cor 1:12- 2:11)

3-    The ministry and its description. (II Cor 2:12- 7:16)

4-      The ministry and its financial collections. (II Cor 8:1- 9:15)

5-    The minister’s answer to his critics. (II Cor 10:1- 13:14)

We already began division one last week and we looked at “God and His people.” Tonight we will look at the second part of Division one which is “God and suffering.”


2 Corinthians 1:1-11 says, “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: Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 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. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 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. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 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: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; 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.”


-Introduction: Suffering has always posed a problem for man. It may be disease, accident, trial, temptation, abuse, death—no matter what the suffering is, every person who suffers wonders, "Why me? Why do I have to suffer this affliction?" Suffering is the great discussion of this passage: "God and Suffering." We’ll look at six things here:

1.  God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (v.3).

2.  God comforts the sufferer—so that he might be a testimony to other sufferers (v.4).

3.  God matches the comfort to equal the sufferings (v.5).

4.  God uses suffering to stir other believers (v.6-7).

5.  God uses suffering to teach trust (v.8-10).

6.  God uses suffering to teach prayer and thanksgiving (v.11).

#1) God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.

Look again with me at II Cor 1:3, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.”

-First, the word "mercies” here means compassion, pity, and mercy. It means looking upon people in need and having compassion and mercy upon them. Note this, that God is not the God of mercies but the Father of mercies. His very nature and behavior toward us is that of a Father, not of a God. He is our Father, a Father who is merciful and compassionate, and who showers His mercies and compassions upon us. Also note that the word mercies is plural. God does not show mercy just once, nor just here and there. God showers His mercies upon us continuously. Colossians 3:12-14 says that we are to, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”


          -Secondly, the word "comfort" used here means to be by the side of another; to relieve and support; to give solace, consolation, and encouragement. But there is always an underlying meaning to the word. There is the idea of strength, an enablement, a confidence. It consoles and relieves a person, but it strengthens him at the same time. It charges a person to go out and face the world. The word comfort is used ten times in 2 Cor. 1:3-7. Note that the word comfort in the original language is the same word that is used for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given the title The Comforter by Christ Himself.


"If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:15-18).


-Thirdly, how do we know God is like this? How do we know that God is "the Father of mercies" and the "God of all comfort"? The answer is because of Jesus Christ. God is "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It was God...

-Who "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

-Who demonstrated "his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

A father could show no greater mercy than to give the life of his son to save others. This is exactly what God did: He gave Christ to die for His enemies, for those who were in rebellion against Him. God has had mercy upon us, and He continues to have mercy upon us. He continues to pour out His mercy and comfort upon men. Why? Because of His nature: His very nature is that of a Father—a Father of mercies and a God of all comfort.


"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).


"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children" (Psalm 103:17).


"For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds" (Psalm 108:4).


"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not" (Lamentations 3:22).


We said, number one that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.

#2) God comforts the sufferer so that he might be a testimony to other sufferers.

Look again with me at 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 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.”


-The word "tribulation" means to be weighed down exceedingly; to be pressed and crushed. It is the picture of a beast of burden being crushed beneath a load that is just too heavy. It is the picture of a person having a heavy weight placed on his chest and being pressed and crushed to the point that he feels he is going to die.


-The words "us" and "all tribulation." Paul is not only talking about his own trials and sufferings, but about ours as well. God comforts us all—all believers. He does not have favorites; His mercies and comfort are for everyone. And note: He comforts us in "all," not in just a few of our trials and sufferings. We do not have to bear a single trial or moment of suffering by ourselves. Our Father—the Sovereign Majesty of the universe who controls all—is not off in the distance someplace far removed from us. His Spirit is right here with us to comfort us in all our suffering.

-God's purpose in comforting us is to make us a testimony to others.

-God comforts us so that we can comfort others who are suffering.

-God carries us through trials so that we can carry others through trials.

-God strengthens us so that we can strengthen others.

-God helps us so that we can help others.

-God encourages us so that we can encourage others.


"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (1 Thes. 5:11).

We said, number one that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, and that God comforts the sufferer so that he might be a testimony to other sufferers,


#3) God matches the comfort to equal the sufferings.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 1:5, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”


Note that the sufferings being stressed are "the sufferings of Christ," that is, the very kind of sufferings which Christ Himself bore. What kind of sufferings did Christ bear? Very simply, Christ bore every kind of suffering imaginable, even the suffering of death. He had to experience every situation, condition, and trial of man in order to become the Perfect Sympathizer or Savior. For this reason, He experienced the most humiliating experiences possible. He experienced...


•  being born to an unwed mother (Matthew 1:18-19).

•  being born in a stable, the worst of conditions (Luke 2:7).

•  being born to poor parents (Luke 2:24).

•  having his life threatened as a baby (Matthew 2:13f).

•  being the cause of unimaginable sorrow (Matthew 2:16f).

•  having to be moved and shifted as a baby (Matthew 2:13f).

•  being reared in a despicable place, Nazareth (Luke 2:39).

•  having His father die during His youth (see note, pt. 3— Matthew 13:53-58).

•  having to support His mother and brothers and sisters (see note, pt. 3— Matthew 13:53-58).

•  having no home, not even a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58).

•  being hated and opposed by religionists (Mark 14:1-2).

•  being charged with insanity (Mark 3:21).

•  being charged with demon-possession (Mark 3:22).

•  being opposed by His own family (Mark 3:31-32).

•  being rejected, hated, and opposed by listeners (Matthew 13:53-58; Luke 4:28-29).

•  being betrayed by a close friend (Mark 14:10-11, 18).

•  being left alone, rejected, and forsaken by all of His friends (Mark 14:50).

•  being tried before the high court of the land on the charge of treason (John 18:33).

•  being executed by crucifixion, the worst possible death (John 19:16f).

*Note that each of these experiences reaches the depth of humiliation. Christ stooped to the lowest point of human experience in every condition in order to become the Perfect Sympathizer or Saviour. Because of that, He can now identify with and feel for any person's circumstances.


"For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:16-18).


"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).


The point is this, no matter what the suffering is or how terrible it may be, God showers us with the comfort of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not just give us some strength and comfort to bear the suffering; He gives us all the strength and comfort necessary to handle all the suffering. There are no trials too great, no pressures too heavy, that God cannot match them with the comfort of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has borne every trial and suffering for us.


"And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not" (Luke 7:13).


"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:18).


"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).


We said, number one that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, secondly, God comforts the sufferer so that he might be a testimony to other sufferers, third, God matches the comfort to equal the sufferings,


#4) God uses suffering to stir up other believers.

2 Corinthians 1:6-7, “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. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”


A person who suffers often becomes self-centered and begins to feel sorry for himself. He sometimes begins to feel self-pity and apathy and to want special attention. He may even become bitter. A believer must never let this happen. This is what these two verses are all about. Note that both the affliction and the comfort are for the same purposes.


God uses both suffering and comfort in a believer to stir four things in other believers,

1.     God uses suffering to stir consolation or comfort in others who suffer.


2.  God uses suffering to stir salvation. A person cannot trust God today and not trust Him tomorrow. A person cannot bless God when things are going well and curse God when things go bad. A person who truly believes in God trusts Him no matter the circumstance. He continues with God throughout life...

•  through the good times as well as the bad,

•  through suffering as well as health,

•  through rejection as well as acceptance,

•  through persecution as well as honor.

The point is this: when a believer sees another believer being comforted through some suffering, he is stirred to continue in the faith. He is stirred to continue on in the way of salvation no matter how great the suffering he has to bear.


3.  God uses suffering to stir others to endure. Very simply, when we suffer and allow God to comfort us, others are encouraged to endure through their sufferings.


4.  God uses suffering to stir sharing among believers. Believers who suffer are not to become self-centered, bitter, discouraged, apathetic, nor are they to begin complaining. They are to allow God to comfort them. This should be the hope and expectation of every believer. God expects us to suffer with the right attitude, to allow Him to share His comfort with us. We are to share the comfort of God with others, and believers should be able to expect us to bear up under suffering. They should be able to expect us to know the comfort of God so that we can share His comfort. How can a person share the comfort of God unless he has suffered and experienced the comfort of God? God uses our suffering to stir sharing with others. We are all to be busy in sharing God's comfort with each other. This is to be the hope and expectation that we have in each other.


We said, number one that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, secondly, God comforts the sufferer so that he might be a testimony to other sufferers, third God matches the comfort to equal the sufferings, and fourth God uses suffering to stir up other believers,


#5) God uses suffering to teach trust.

2 Corinthians 1:8-10, “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: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.”


God allows great suffering. He allowed Paul, probably the greatest missionary of all time, to experience terrible suffering time and again. What was the suffering that is referred to in these three verses? We do not know. There is no record of it anyplace in Scripture. At first reading, it seems to be referring to the mob violence in Ephesus in Acts 19:23-41. However, this is unlikely, for Paul apparently escaped the particular trouble mentioned in the account of Acts.


The point to see is that God allowed Paul to suffer some terrible trouble. And note the intensity of the trouble: He says, "We were pressed [weighed down, crushed by a very heavy weight]"

-We were pressed………

• Out of measure.

• Above strength.

• We despaired even for our life.

• We had the sentence of death in ourselves (sensed he was going to die).

 

Why does God allow His dear servant to go through such suffering, especially when he is such a great servant, a servant who labors so faithfully for God? There are two primary reasons,

          1. Note that God is called the, "God which raises the dead." The one thing that man must learn is that he cannot save himself; he cannot raise himself up from the dead. Only God can save man and raise him up and give him eternal life. Suffering teaches man that he is helpless to save himself. If he wishes to be saved, he must trust God. Therefore, suffering teaches man that he is not self-sufficient. He must have the presence and help of God if he wishes to conquer the sufferings of this world—the sufferings that eventually end in the suffering of death.

2. God allows suffering to teach a daily trust for deliverance. Note: Paul says that God continued to deliver him through the trials of life and that he continued to trust God to deliver him. The point is that we must trust God daily, trust Him to deliver us from daily sufferings.


We said, number one that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, secondly, God comforts the sufferer so that he might be a testimony to other sufferers, third God matches the comfort to equal the sufferings, fourth God uses suffering to stir up other believers, and God uses suffering to teach trust and lastly,


#6) God uses suffering to teach prayer and thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 1:11, “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.”


This is a great lesson on suffering and prayer. Paul was saying that the prayers of believers "helped" him. Prayer causes God to move in our behalf and to deliver us through our suffering. And when we are strengthened and delivered, everyone praises and thanks God. Intercessory prayer, prayer for others, works. God hears and answers prayer, and He hears and answers our prayers for others.


"Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints" (Romans 15:30-31).


"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Ephes. 6:18).


"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Col. 4:12).


"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).


*Next lesson: “Paul Answers Charges Against Himself: A Minister's Answer to His Attackers” II Cor 1:12-22.



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