Todays readings.. 2 Kings 8, Lamentations 4, 2 Corinthians 1,2
“… WAS TO MAKE US RELY … ON GOD”
Today we started reading Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians. It is rather personal in several parts, but are not our own letters rather like that! Paul’s emotions are often directed toward those who had, in most cases, been converted. These emotions came from his heart – but that is the evidence of true love.
Paul told them that the “God of all comfort … comforts us in all our affliction” [ 1 v.3,4] The main purpose of God in this, Paul told them, and this is vital for us to note, was so “we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” [v.4]
This is the ‘intimacy’ that flows out from a true relationship with God. Let us remember how John the Baptist made the challenging observation! “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” [John 3 v.27]
Paul now had the same perceptions. What “afflictions” he had endured! Paul tells the Corinthians [v. 8] how he told them, “we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”
Why did the Lord allow this? Well, Paul then perceives, that it “was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope” [v.9,10] To “rely … on God” was to have the foundation of full faith in our ultimate future – Paul’s – and ours. We should know well some of the last words he wrote – in 2nd Timothy 4 v.6-8.
Paul’s faith is really strong, and he seeks to inspire them – and this is a lesson for us – the effect of our faith on each other! Look at how the chapter ends! “… we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.”
Wherever we can today let us follow the example of Paul, let us use every endeavour to show – in our whole spirit of living (not just in words) that “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” [ch. 2 v.15,16]
This is surely the greatest challenge we have today. Human wisdom observes that ‘actions speak louder than words’ – but words and actions – go together – and both are needed to show how we totally “rely … on God” and so, as a result, “God … through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” [2 v.14] That is what Paul saw himself as doing! Let us try harder to follow his example.