Text: 2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
I am going to do something a little differently this morning. I am going to read this verse from the New English Bible. The past few weeks I have been reading the book of 2 Corinthians over and over from different translations, not looking for sermons, but just for my own edification and devotion time with the Lord. I highly recommend that as you take a book of the bible such as 2 Corinthians and read it over and over again from various translations to open up to you a truth that perhaps you have not seen before. To me this is one of the great values in reading the Word of God with variety. The New English Bible is a very capable translation of the Greek text, one of the best. It seems to me that this translation, such as no other, has captured the thought of the apostle and expressed it better than any other translation. Let me read this same verse out of the New English Bible.
2 Corinthians 7:10
For the wound which is born in God’s way brings a change of heart to salutary to regret, but the hurt which is born in the world’s way brings death. Then he goes on in verse 11 to say, you bore your hurt in God’s way, and see what its results have been.
I want to read that phrase again because with that phrase turns the entire message of 2 Corinthians. Paul has written to these Corinthians a very severe letter rebuking them for sin in their lives. The Corinthians have been greatly troubled and have gone through a great deal of tribulation. Paul is writing to them concerning all that they have gone through–the wounds, the hurt, the trouble that they have experienced. Notice what he says: The wound which is born in God’s way brings a change of heart that is so good you don’t have any regret for the wound. You gladly receive the wound, the hurt, the trouble because since you bore it in God’s way, it produced a change of heart. This change of heart is so great that you have no regret for the wound.
Now notice: but the hurt which is born in the world’s way brings death. The difference between happy people and unhappy people, between people who are rejoicing and people who are down in the mouth, is not the absence of trouble. Oftentimes, we think this is what makes all the difference. We look at a person and everything seems to be running smoothly for him. He seems to be such a happy person. There seems to be such peace and joy in his life. Sometimes just looking on the outward appearance, we say, well, if I had it as easy as he has it then I could be as happy as he is.
One of the amazing discoveries that we continue to make is that everybody, no matter what they look like on the outside, has problems. You would be completely astounded if you knew some of the deep, deep wounds and troubles of the people sitting around you. The difference between people is not the absence of trouble. The difference is in the attitude towards the trouble that comes to them. If the Bible makes anything clear, and really you don’t need the Bible to make this clear, it is that trouble and hurt come to everybody. The difference lies in what you do with it.
In this congregation, the difference in the people whose lives are characterized by victory and rejoicing and triumph and those whose lives are characterized by depression, self pity, defeat and bitterness lies in what they did with the hurt and trouble that came their way. The reason that this particular translation of this verse captivated me is that it states so plainly that there are two ways you can receive the wounds and hurts and troubles that come to you in life.
One is God’s way, and the other is the world’s way. Paul says that when you bear it God’s way, it brings about a change of heart. It ministers to you and brings about such a transformation of your heart, the control center of your life, the steering wheel of your life, that you have no regret. You welcome that hurt and that wound because of the result it produced.
He says if you bear this hurt the world’s way, it produces death–the death of bitterness and resentment. I can’t help but think of a number of people I have met through the years who are outstanding illustrations of this truth. People who received a wound, a hurt, trouble dumped into their lives the way the world receives it—with resentment and bitterness. Do you know what? It has produced death in their life, death to their spirit, death to their joy, death to their happiness. Yet, I’ve seen many people who have received equal hurts, and even deeper wounds, in God’s way, and it has produced in them such a joy and peace and abundance that they have no regret for what happened. There are two ways to receive the problems that come to you. One is to receive them the world’s way, and I tell you it produces death. This is the reason some of you have a dead spirit, and your joy is dead, and the peace and contentment of your heart has been slaughtered.
How do you bear this trouble in God’s way? I want us to look in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1, and I want to share with you this morning how you receive this trouble, this problem, whatever it is, in God’s way so that it creates in you a change of heart.
1 Corinthians 1:3-5
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.
There are other verses of Scripture throughout 2 Corinthians I want to share with you. I am going to start this morning and finish tonight.
Paul uses the word tribulation in the fourth verse. It is a very strong word that indicates being pressed down. It indicates any kind of pressure that comes to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be physical pain; it can be emotional or mental. It is a slipcover type of word. It fits any chair or couch. It simply means pressure of any size, kind, or color. He says that these Corinthians, as well as Paul and Timothy themselves, have received a great deal of various kinds of pressure. Throughout the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul is giving his personal autobiography of the tribulations that he has experienced.
In these opening verses, he gives to us the way to receive them in God’s way so as to bring about a change of heart so that we really won’t regret it. When trouble, distress and hurt come to us–pressure of any kind, it simply means that God is up to something in our lives. God, through this trouble, is perfecting his eternal plan in our lives. The way to bear it is to realize that it is a minister sent from God to us.
If you are looking for a title to the message, it is The Ministry of Trouble. You thought you had a strange minister. Here is yet a stranger minister, a minister whose name is Rev. Trouble. God has sent him to us to do us good. There are about five things I want to share with you. I will probably get to one this morning, and the others tonight.
What is the purpose of this trouble that God himself allows to come into our lives? Realizing that it is a minister sent from God to us will enable us to bear it God’s way and therefore transform our heart.
God sends these troubles to us that we might experience the comfort of God.
Let me read those verses out of the New English Bible.
He says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the all merciful Father, the God whose consolation never fails us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we in turn may be able to comfort others in any trouble of theirs, and to share with them the consolation that we ourselves receive from God.
Verse 5 is a tremendous verse:
As Christ’s cup of suffering overflows, and we suffer with him, so also through Christ our consolation overflows.
Paul is saying that when trouble of any sort comes, it is that we might experience the comfort of God. The word for comfort is the same word that Jesus uses in Matthew 5:4, the beatitude, blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. That’s a tremendous word. It’s a rich word. Really, you cannot translate that word into English. You can come close to it. It is the same word that is used of Jesus being our advocate in 1 John 2:2 as he stands before the Father on our behalf so that when we sin, we do not lose our salvation. The reason we do not lose our salvation when we sin is because Jesus Christ himself is our advocate before the Father. He is standing before the Father as our advocate. It is the same word that Paul uses here for God’s comfort. It is also the same word that is translated the comforter in John 14, 15, and 16 where Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, when he comes to us, to indwell us, to be our Comforter.
What does the word comfort really mean? The word actually means one who comes to stand beside us, to champion our cause, to encourage and strengthen and comfort us. It takes that much and more to translate that Greek word. It is someone who comes to stand beside us in our time of need, to take up our cause, making it his cause, and stays there to encourage, strengthen, and comfort us.
Paul says that God is the God of all consolation and the reason that he allows trouble to come to us is that we might experience God’s presence in this way. I don’t know of anybody in all the world that would not want the comfort of God. Can you imagine any person who is saved, any Christian not wanting to experience God’s presence?
How many of you this past week thought to yourself, I wish God were as real to me as he is to so-and-so. How many of you in the past few days or weeks, perhaps reading the biography of some great saint of God has said to yourself, I wish that I could experience the strength and the power and the encouragement of God in my life as that person has. All of us want to be comforted.
Do you realize what the prerequisite to comfort is? It is amazing to me how shortsighted we are. We want to be comforted but you can’t be comforted until first of all you mourn. That’s what Jesus said. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for they shall be filled. Many of us want to be filled with righteousness but first of all you have to be starving for it. Many of us want to be comforted but we don’t want to mourn. We don’t want to have hurt and trouble. The prerequisite to experiencing the comfort and consolation and encouraging presence of God is first of all that we know tribulation, pressure, hurt. God allows these various kinds of trouble to come into our lives so that we may experience firsthand the comfort of God.
By the way, Paul is uniquely qualified to speak on this subject. Let me encourage you to read through 2 Corinthians and see what a rough time he had. In chapter 1 he says we had the sentence of death within us. Christian, have you ever had that feeling? Have you ever had the feeling that God has absolutely forsaken you, that he no longer cares about you; he has really forgotten where you are, and has misplaced you somewhere? You are at the mercy of the devil and the mercy of the world and whatever fate there is out there against you. Paul said we got into so much trouble that we actually had a sentence of death within us. You can’t get into a valley that is any deeper and darker than that. Yet Paul says through all of this we came to experience firsthand the encouragement and comfort of God.
Notice he says that he is the God of all comfort. This basically means that God’s comfort and encouragement and strength is complete. He is the God of A-L-L comfort. That is simply Paul’s way of saying that God’s presence and God’s overflowing strength are adequate for whatever you need. There is absolutely no hurt, no wound, no pressure, no trouble that comes into your life that God himself is not adequate for it. Some of you don’t know this and don’t believe it so God is going to have to let you hurt enough so that you will come to know that God is adequate.
There is a great song, Through It All, and I know the second verse. I’m not going to sing it. Don’t worry. I’m just going to quote it. It has come to mean so much to me.
I thank him for the mountains,
I thank for the valleys,
And I thank him for every storm he’s brought me through,
If I’d never had a problem,
I’d never have known that God could solve them,
I’d never have known what faith in His Word could do.
Isn’t that great? If I’d never had a problem, I’d never know that God could solve them.
Some of you do not believe that God alone is adequate for your every need. The only way you will ever come to know it and believe it is when you have the sentence of death in your selves, and then you’ll learn that God is adequate. That will create such a change in your heart that you won’t be sorry for the troubles that came. Learning that one secret that God is the God of all comfort will be worth whatever it costs. That means he is adequate. I will tell you something else that it means; it means he is the only source of comfort. You see, if he is the God of all comfort, then that means outside of him there is no comfort. How often we’ve seen this illustrated. I want to repeat that over and over again. I want you to really understand this. Outside of God, there is no other real comfort and strength. He is the source of it all.
Trouble, hurt and pressure come into a person’s life, and they bear it the world’s way. They begin to complain, to fuss about it, feel sorry for themselves, resent it, and grow bitter. What are they doing? They are cutting themselves off from the God of all comfort. They are turning away from the God who is the only source of comfort. When they turn away from the God who is the only source of comfort, they will never find any comfort for that problem. We know people who in times of problems and distress have borne it the world’s way. They have wallowed in self pity, resented what God has done, grown bitter, and to this day there is still no comfort in their lives. Why? Because God is the God of ALL comfort. If you turn away from him, and don’t see his hand in it, and praise him in the midst of it, you cut yourself off from all strength and comfort. There will be none. His comfort is complete.
There is something else about this comfort. It is a conquering type of comfort. Let me read two or three verses. This comfort that Paul is talking about, this strength that God gives, this experiencing God’s encouraging presence in the midst of trouble does not enable the Christian simply to endure the trouble (that would be pretty good if that is all there was to it, all right, a bargain—if it stopped there just to enable you to endure it) but to rejoice in it.
2 Corinthians 7:4 says, in all our many troubles my cup is full of consolation and overflows with joy. The thing that really impressed me so much about 2 Corinthians is that all the way through it there is a parallel note struck, a parallel theme. There is that dominant theme of suffering, hardship, trouble, and tribulation. Paul talks about being stoned, scourged, forsaken, lied about, betrayed, his own people turning against him. But the parallel track that runs right alongside the theme of suffering is joy, victory, rejoicing and happiness. Paul says in all our many troubles our cup of consolation and joy overflows. Isn’t that amazing?
Listen again to what he says in 2 Corinthians 6:9: we are disciplined by suffering but we always have cause for joy. Paul is not saying praise the Lord anyhow. I don’t care much for that phrase praise the Lord anyhow. I don’t think that is scriptural. What you are saying is that everything is bad, but in spite of everything, I can still squeak out a praise the Lord anyhow. Paul didn’t praise the Lord anyhow; he praised the Lord—period! He is not saying he has joy in spite of all these troubles; he is saying joy in them and because of them. There is the difference. A Stoic, a humanist, a person with a great constitution and strong will could praise the Lord in spite of the circumstances but only the comfort of God can enable a Christian to praise the Lord because of the circumstances. Until you get to that place, you haven’t known the real victory that God has for you. He says in our sorrows we have always cause for joy.
It is a joy: God not simply enabling a Christian to endure the problem, but to rejoice in it, because of it. Why?–because it’s going to bring such a change of heart. You are going to taste the goodness of God in a way that you’ve never tasted it before. You’ve just been on a diet before but now God is going to set you down at a table spread with all of his comfort, strength and encouragement, and you are going to experience a feast.
There is one other thing about this comfort that I want to share with you before we close. It is the comfort of Christ. You are liable to miss something very important if you read casually or quickly over verse 5. Notice what Paul says. He is talking about the troubles he is going through. He defines those troubles, and he defines that comfort in verse 5. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. Now you have to see this or you’ve missed the whole thing. Paul does not say for as the sufferings for Christ abound in us. Paul is not saying that we are suffering for Christ. What does he say? For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us . . . . When you have problems as a child of God, that makes you something special in the sight of God. It qualifies you for a number of things. One of the things is to share in the very sufferings of Christ. Every time there is a hurt, a problem, a difficulty, a pressure, do you know what that is? That is the sufferings of Christ himself in your own body.
Isn’t this what the Apostle Paul said in Colossians, chapter 1: For I fill up that which is behind in the afflictions of Christ. Isn’t that what he said in Romans 8?—that we share with Jesus in HIS sufferings. Paul isn’t saying here that we are suffering for Christ; it’s not our suffering on behalf of Christ. It is actually the sufferings of Christ expressing itself through our body. Jesus could never redeem the world and change our hearts without suffering for us, could he? That proof and principle still are true today. The only way that God can still in this hour redeem the hour is through the sufferings of Christ but now Jesus has a glorified body. Which body is he going to suffer through today? It is the body of the believer. God’s plan of redemption has never changed. The world cannot be redeemed and hearts cannot be changed apart from the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings of Christ still go on through the believer. That’s exactly what Paul is saying in Colossians 1, Romans 8, and 2 Corinthians 1.
When you have any kind of problem, distress, tribulation, it is the suffering of Christ. That’s why you can bear it God’s way. You become a co-laborer, a partner. Isn’t this what Paul means in Philippians 3 when he says, that I may know the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable unto his death. The word fellowship simply means sharing alike. For Paul this was the apex, the climax of his Christian growth: that I may come to the place where I share the sufferings of Christ, being made conformable unto his death.
Just as the sufferings of Christ overflow in us so our consolation overflows by Christ. If what I am suffering is really the sufferings of Christ, then the comfort and consolation and encouragement that I receive are also that which belongs to Jesus Christ. In other words, I receive the same consolation, the same comfort that Jesus Christ himself received.