Text: 2 Corinthians 1:3-10
Those of you who were here this morning will remember that we started the message this morning on the Ministry of Trouble. There are two ways to bear any wounds that you receive. Whether they are spiritual, mental, physical, financial, etc., it really doesn’t make any difference. Anytime that a problem, a difficulty, a hurt, or a pressure comes into your life, it is sent from God to minister. There are two ways to bear them. One is to bear it the world’s way. That always brings about death. The other is to bear it God’s way. That always brings about such a change of heart Paul says that you don’t regret having the wounds.
I could not help but think tonight as some of these testimonies were given (some of the difficulties that were encountered, some of the pressures that were experienced) how true that teaching is of the Word of God. When a problem, a difficulty, a pressure, a wound, a hurt of any kind is borne God’s way, it produces a change of heart so great, so tremendous that you do not regret having the wound. The way to bear it God’s way so as to produce this change of heart is to see it as a minister sent from God for our good to do a work in us that God has preplanned before the foundations of the earth. We saw this morning that the first reason that God allows these things to come into our life is that you and I may experience the comfort of God.
Beginning with verse 3,
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 (The word literally means all our pressures. We always have the idea of physical pain, but that is not the primary meaning of the word. If we understand it as any kind of problem or pressure, it will be more meaningful to us.), that we may be able to comfort them which are in any (every kind of) 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 steadfast, knowing, that as you 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, in so much 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 trouble to come into our lives not only that we may experience his own comfort but that we may be equipped to comfort others.
Notice what he says in verse 4. Let me read from the New English Bible which I think makes it a little clearer than the King James Version.
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 we ourselves receive from God. As Christ’s cup of suffering overflows, and we suffer with him, so also through Christ our consolation overflows. If distress be our lot, it is the price we pay for your consolation, for your salvation, your wholeness. If our lot be consolation, it is to help us to bring you comfort and strength to face with fortitude the same sufferings we now endure. Our hope for you is firmly grounded for we know that if you have part in the suffering, you have part also in the divine consolation.
In that statement Paul is making a tremendous revelation. The reason God comforts us, and the reason God comes to us in those times of distress and pressure, and makes himself real, and stands over us, and overshadows us with his strength and encouragement is not that that comfort might terminate within ourselves, but that we might become a channel through which God may be able to comfort others also. The key word in verse 4 is the word that. It is a purpose clause in the Greek language. It means simply this: the reason that God comforts us in all of our trouble is for the express purpose that we may be able to comfort other people in every kind of trouble with the same comfort that we ourselves have experienced. That is one of the main principles of the Christian faith. It is that you and I receive something from God that we may pass on to someone else. God blesses us. Why?–that we in turn may be a blessing to someone else. The most distorted view of the Christian life is that God blesses us simply that we may be blessed, and that God comforts us simply that we may be consoled.
If you will check out the Old Testament, you will discover this is why God had to temporarily set aside the people of Israel and to graft in another branch into the tree. The Israelites in the Old Testament had the idea that they were the end of all of God’s purpose. God had given them blessing upon blessing just because they deserved it, just because he wanted to bless them. They did not see this tremendous principle that the reason God chose Israel was that they might be a channel through which he could reach other people. They were to simply take what God gave to them and pass it on to other people. They were blessed in order that they might become a blessing.
There is nothing that will sour the fruit on the tree of your godly life any quicker than thinking that the reason God gives you fruit is that you may enjoy it simply for yourself. It is only when you take the fruit that God gives in your life and pass it on to somebody else that it flourishes and reproduces itself. The chain of events here is so interesting. Paul was in Asia and had serious difficulty. Perhaps this trouble had absolutely not a thing to do with the Corinthians. It may have come from some other direction. It may have been occasioned by something that was not even related to the Corinthians. Paul says here is the way God works. Here is the chain reaction. God let us get into a tight place—pressure, tribulation so intense that we even despaired (word despair means we were in doubt of survival). Phillips translates it like this: we thought this was the end. Paul is literally saying we thought our number was up. We thought we were going down for the count. It had nothing to do with the Corinthian situation. Paul says God let us experience that so that in turn he might be able to comfort us that we might experience God’s ability and adequacy to meet every need. The reason he did that is so that we might be able to pass on to you our experience of God’s complete adequacy in every need.
Why does God let it come? How does it minister to us? You stop looking upon that as a hospital; you look upon it as a seminary in which God has enrolled you to train you and equip you and prepare you to minister to someone else. He says that God has allowed this to happen to us that we might take that very same comfort, encouragement that we have received of God and share it with you. He says in the fifth verse that as the sufferings of Christ are overflowing the banks of our lives so also is the consolation. When God pours out his comfort and comes with his adequacy, there is so much of it that there is enough for you to share it with somebody else. There is always more than you need yourself. God never gives you simply enough to meet your own needs; he always gives you enough to meet your need and the needs of others.
By the way, that’s true not only of spiritual encouragement; that’s true of money. If you will read in 2 Corinthians, chapter 9, he says that he gives us enough so that we can be generous for every situation. How about that? The thing that stagnates the Christian’s life financially, spiritually, emotionally and every other way is when he gets the idea that God has given him just enough barely to get by himself. That’s how most Christians live. They don’t have time to minister to somebody else. They think they are just going to barely be saved by the skin of their teeth themselves. They don’t have time to help someone else, to comfort someone else, to give to someone else in need. God never works that way. If you’ll read the Scriptures, you’ll find that every time God gives, he always uses words that have the idea of giving lavishly and freely and overflowing. God never gives you anything that is simply adequate only for yourself. He always gives you enough to meet the needs of somebody else.
Now I want to tell you a tragedy. I have seen it happen so many times in the seven years that I have been here. I have seen it happen in my own life, and I stand condemned tonight by my own memory. A pressure comes, a heartbreak comes, a tragedy comes and I bear it the world’s way. I resent it. I get bitter. I feel sorry for myself. I begin to mumble and gripe and complain. There is no comfort, no blessing, no victory. Then suddenly one day my path crosses with somebody who is in desperate need of ministry, of comforting. That person goes unhelped, uncomforted because I was unable to share with them anything but my own bitterness and resentment. I don’t know how many times I have seen somebody in a need, and I’ve thought of somebody else. I thought to myself, oh, if so-and-so had just reacted to that problem in a Christian way and found victory, how they could minister to this other person. The tragedy is that there are a great number of people tonight who are not being helped, and encouraged and ministered to because their ministers never learned the secret of receiving burdens in the way God intended us to receive them.
Every time God leads me into a new area of truth, or every time God teaches me something new about himself, every time there is some problem and I learn how to solve that problem, without failure, sooner or later God brings somebody across my path that needs exactly what I’ve learned. Every time God has led me into the area of a new truth from the Word of God, I’ve thought he is just trying to expand my understanding of the Word of God. But somebody either comes to my office or I cross paths with somebody who needs exactly what I have just learned. Isn’t that amazing?
Why do you suppose as Peter was resting and dozed off while they were preparing his meal that God came to him in a dream. God showed him a vision of a four cornered sheet. Upon that sheet were unclean beasts. The sheet was lowered to Peter. And a voice said, rise, take and eat. Peter, being a good Jew, said I can’t eat that. That’s unclean. God had to deal with Peter and wipe away his prejudice about certain kinds of food. God knew there was a Gentile named Cornelius who needed ministering to and God could not use Peter until first of all he had been equipped.
Are you going through some difficulty right now? Is there some heartbreak that you are experiencing right now? Do you have a problem right now? By the way, if anybody here doesn’t have a problem, will you please stand up? I surely would like to meet you. I want to get to know you before you lose that innocent state. To transform your situation, simply rejoice in the midst of it. One day you will meet someone who is going to need encouragement and comfort and you can tell that person that God is adequate for their need.
There are two kinds of authority. There is the authority of the Word, and there is the authority of the Word backed up by experience. It is one thing to be able to tell a person that the Word of God says he is adequate, and you’ll come out of this problem okay if you just trust in him. It’s another thing to say that this Word is true and I want to share with you what I went through. I was surrounded and thought there was no way out but I discovered that God’s Word is true. I want you to know what God has done for me.
2) The second reason that God allows trouble to come to us is that we might be equipped to minister to others. The ability to comfort a broken heart is more to be desired than the ability to give large sums of money and preach great sermons. What the world needs is not greater givers and preachers, but greater comforters. It is easier to learn how to preach than it is to learn how to comfort. It is easier to give away your money than it is to learn how to comfort. The only way you can learn how to comfort others is to go through it yourself. So Paul says that God has done this that we may be able to comfort others in any kind of trouble. They don’t have to have the same kind of trouble you had. It may be it different kind of trouble altogether but you have learned that God is adequate for any kind of problem. You can share this with them. God will minister life through your experience.
3) That we might be emptied of all self reliance. That God might eliminate all self confidence. Look at what he says in verses 8 and 9:
For we would not brethren have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia (He doesn’t tell us exactly what it was. He just describes the intensity of it.) 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, in so much that we despaired even of life. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves (I don’t know what happened to Paul but it was something he was not able to bear. It was a problem, a situation in which he thought actually he was going to die. It was as though he had the sentence of death in him but notice what he says. Verse 9 is beautiful.), in order that (that purpose clause again) we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
I was in the office this afternoon working on this, and I almost skipped this point because to be honest with you I am a little bit embarrassed. It seems as though every other Sunday and twice on Wednesday I’m up here saying to you that what God wants to teach us is that we can trust him. I’ve said that, haven’t I? I was sitting there and thought to myself, Lord, I am being repetitious. Then the thought occurred to me that it’s not me that’s being repetitious, it’s the Lord that is being repetitious.
Paul said that we had the sentence of death within us. The sky fell in on us. The rug was pulled out from under us. Why? So that first of all we would not reply upon ourselves. If God is going to teach us that he can be trusted, the first thing he has to do is to destroy our faith in ourselves. Now I know that cuts across the grain of a great deal of teaching that goes on in our world today—have faith in yourself, have confidence in yourself, believe in yourself. Moses believed in himself, and he made a mess of everything. Abraham believed in himself, and he made a mess of everything. Simon Peter believed in himself, and he ended up denying the Lord and cursing. Paul is simply echoing the teachings of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. First of all, God must knock the props out from under us and show us that we are utterly helpless. Then in that desperate moment, we reach out and grab hold of God and learn to trust in him. Most people will not trust in God until they have to trust in him. Very few people will just voluntarily trust in the Lord. God has to work in such a situation that we are forced to rely upon him. That is what Paul is saying. He sends us trouble. That point at which you think you are strong, and that point you have confidence in and are relying upon, that is the point at which God is going to have to deal with you. God sends the ministry of trouble that he might eliminate all self confidence.
I have two more points. I am going to mention one and go on to the third one.
4) That we might exhibit the power of God.
I’ll give you the Scripture reference, and you can get your own sermon on this. Chapter 4, verse 7, Paul describing in this chapter all his sufferings says, but we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not us. Let me read this out of the New English Bible translation. He says, we are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure, and this proves that such transcendent power does not come from us but is God’s alone. God wants to be glorified, and the Bible says over and over again that he will not share his glory with anyone. Paul says this treasure I have (What treasure? Eternal life, Jesus.) is carried around in an old broken down clay jar. Why would God let such weakness come to a man like the Apostle Paul. He says we are the off-skirting of all flesh. We are despised by the world. The world snubs its nose at us. The world looks at us and counts us as nothing. Why does God do that? When Paul gets up and preaches and people are saved, or when Paul is able to rejoice in the midst of suffering, then everybody knows that Paul’s power must come from some other source other than that old clay vessel. The reason God allows the ministry of trouble to come into our lives is that we might exhibit the power of God—that it is God’s power and not ours. Now the last point.
That there might be expressed in our lives the very life of Jesus himself.
Chapter 4, verses 10-12:
Always bearing in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us but life in you.
When you read the chapter and context, Paul is describing his tribulations, his troubles, his pressures. Why?–in order that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in this flesh. So then death is working in us, suffering, sacrificing, tribulation in order that life may work in you. When Jesus hung upon the cross, that life-giving blood flowed from the wounds of his body. I want you to know that the life of Jesus still flows only from the wounds of his body. And you and I are his body.
When Bro. Schoeppey was talking about this 62-year-old man that was saved last Sunday night I was so glad he mentioned that for four years the missionaries had worked, sown, and labored. The reason that 62-year-old man received life is because for four years that missionary couple had been giving death.
That’s the only way you can minister. There is no other way. The life of Jesus resides in this body, and it wants to get out and touch the lives of others. But there is only one way that the life of Jesus can flow, and that is through a wound. God allows hurts and wounds and troubles to come into our lives. Why? So then death is constantly working in us so that life may work in you.
I never forget when somebody walks down this aisle on Sunday morning, and says, I want to give my life to Jesus. I know that somebody somewhere has died. I know that somebody somewhere has allowed death to work in their body so that life might work in this person. That’s the law of the spiritual harvest.
You say I wish that I could minister to people. I wish that I could release the life of Jesus that is within me. Jesus said unless a kernel of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. The life of Jesus is released when the alabaster box is broken. When the alabaster box is broken, then the fragrance is released and fills the room.
Everywhere I see a cross upon which
the sons of God yield up their breath.
There is no gain except by loss.
And there is no life except by death.
When God allows tribulations, troubles, hurts and wounds to come into your life, it is in order that your life might become an expression of the life of Jesus. And that the life of Jesus might flow from you and touch and minister to others.
There are two ways to bear the hurts and the wounds. One is that you bear it the world’s way. It will kill your joy. There will be the death of bitterness throughout your life. If you receive it God’s way, there will be such a change of heart there will be no regret. The way to receive it God’s way is to look upon it as a minister sent from God to do you good.