Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No PAIN...No GAIN



We know that in most areas of life growth usually occurs through pain. When will we realize that this is also true regarding trials in our lives? Pain doesn’t have to make us bitter…it should make us better. That is Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. In verses 3-7 we see that suffering results in our being able to come along side of others who are suffering. But in verses 8-11, we see that suffering also comes into our life in order to bring about spiritual maturity.

Paul begins by speaking of his own suffering. He wanted the church at Corinth to be aware of the suffering that he and his fellow companions had endured in Asia which was the Roman province on the west coast of Asia Minor. The specifics are unknown but may have involved being beaten (11:23-25), imprisoned (11:23) or both. Whatever the suffering was, it was severe. He and his companions were burdened excessively, beyond their own strength. They were unbearably crushed to the point of depression. They faced an adversity seemingly beyond their strength to endure. They despaired even of life, having a death sentence within themselves. The word “despaired” literally means, “no passage, no way out or no exit.” They saw no escape from their desperate situation that threatened their own lives. The word “sentence” appears only here in the New Testament and refers to an official judgment or legal decision. In their own minds they had been passed the sentence of death meaning that they believed that they would die.

Why does Paul want his readers to know about his suffering? I believe it was because he didn’t want his words which were about to come to seem hollow or empty. He was about ready to share the principle that God uses our trials to grow us. He didn’t want his readers to think he was just throwing around religious clich├ęs. He wanted them to know that he knew what it was like to suffer and see God use it to cause spiritual growth in his life. He then proceeds to show four ways he grew spiritually through adversity.

First, his suffering resulted in not trusting in himself (v9). One of the greatest mistakes we make when adversity comes into our life is leaning on our own strength. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that we are to do three things. First, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart. Second, we are to be sure we do not lean on your own understanding. Finally, we are to acknowledge Him in all our ways. And if we do these things, He will make our paths straight. He will fulfill His will and purpose in our lives. I really do not believe we will ever truly learn this lesson until we are facing suffering eyeball to eyeball.

Second, Paul’s suffering resulted in his depending on God (v9-10). He depended on the power of God who has the power to raise the dead. He also depended on the pattern of God. God had previously delivered him from affliction so he was sure He would do so again. Third, Paul’s suffering resulted in extraordinary prayer (v11). There is no greater sign of spiritual dependency than prayer. Finally, Paul’s suffering resulted in greater thanksgiving to God (v11). We will never really learn how to be thankful until we find ourselves in the pit of suffering. The greater the suffering…the greater the thanksgiving.

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