Praising God For Overcoming Troubles; When We Are Comforted In Our Troubles We Can Comfort Others; The Degree Of Suffering And Comfort Are Related; Troubles Teach Us To Rely On God; We Are To Pray For Those Who Serve God And Are In Danger
Paul and his team had experienced tremendous opposition, even deadly opposition from adversaries in Ephesus and elsewhere. And they had experienced disheartening opposition from people in Messiah’s Community in Corinth. But God had helped them overcome the opposition! The opposition from the non-believers in Ephesus had lessened. The man in the Corinthian Community, the ringleader who was creating division in the community by stirring up opposition against Paul, had repented of that very damaging sin. The rest of the community was now loyal and devoted to Paul – as they should have been all along. It was right to thank God for helping them overcome the opposition and use their experience of victory to encourage others. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
In some ways, those who are saved will experience fewer troubles in life because many troubles are avoidable. There are troubles that result from not ending our part in the great rebellion against God. There are troubles that result from disregarding the wise teachings found in the Word of God. Those who end their rebellion against God and are obedient to His Word should not make many of the same foolish mistakes, which create troubles, as those who rebel against God and His Word.
However, the followers of Messiah will experience other kinds of troubles, troubles that the world will not experience. Messiah told us that following Him means taking up our cross. Taking up our cross means trouble. Those who follow Messiah will experience the opposition of a world that is in rebellion against God. The world hated Messiah and the world will hate us. The servant should expect to be treated the same, or worse, than his master.
God does not promise to eliminate troubles from our lives. He promises to help us through our troubles and comfort us in our troubles.
It is normal for us to ask God to help us avoid troubles. He may answer our prayer and enable us to avoid some troubles. But He will not enable us to avoid all troubles.
Then, when we experience trouble, it is normal for us to ask God to immediately remove the trouble from us. God may or may not do that. He may remove the trouble, or He may allow the trouble to continue for a while; or even a longer period of time.
It’s normal for those who are experiencing troubles to think that God does not care about them or is not concerned about their suffering. That’s not true. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. God the Father is the “Father of Compassion.” He is the source of compassion. He created compassion. He knows compassion. He has compassion. He is aware of our troubles, our hurts, our suffering. He feels our pain and wants to do something to alleviate it. That is His nature. He is the Father of Compassion.
His compassion is not limited to some troubles. His compassion extends to all of our troubles. He is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles. No matter what trouble we are experiencing, the God of all comfort can alleviate the suffering, diminish the pain, help us deal with the troubles, give us comfort in our afflictions.
Most people think that experiencing trouble is all bad. That’s not true. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. If we remain faithful to God through our troubles, and He enables us to overcome our troubles, like He did with Paul and Timothy, we come out better, stronger, holier than we were before. And we have more experience enduring troubles; and we become more compassionate, more sympathetic to others who are experiencing troubles; and so we are better able to comfort others who are experiencing trouble. Knowing this enables us to endure, persevere, even praise God in our troubles. And that is a great thing.
Paul and Timothy teach Messiah’s Community in Corinth more about suffering as a follower of Messiah. Just as those who are forgiven much love much, those who suffer much for serving the Messiah receive much comfort from the Messiah. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Messiah, so also our comfort abounds through Messiah.
There are different kinds of sufferings. Christians and Messianic Jews will suffer because we live in a fallen world that is under a curse. In a fallen world that is under a curse, bad things happen to everyone – including the followers of Messiah. The sufferings of the Messiah are a specific kind of suffering. The sufferings of the Messiah are the same kind of sufferings that the Messiah Himself experienced. Yeshua, although perfectly righteous, and although He only spoke the truth, was opposed by the majority of His generation. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.
If we serve the Messiah the way we should – by living like Messiah lived; by proclaiming the same truths that Messiah proclaimed – we will suffer like Messiah did. That is the sufferings of the Messiah. That is what Paul and Timothy experienced – and not to a small degree, but to a great degree. They shared abundantly in the sufferings of the Messiah. And they are letting Messiah’s people know that to the degree that they shared in the sufferings of the Messiah, they experienced the comfort of the Messiah.
Suffering for Messiah has a way of bringing people closer to Messiah. Paul and Timothy found that the more they suffered, the closer Yeshua was to them. The more His Spirit filled them. His promises of life in Heaven with Him and the rewards He will give to those who serve Him became even more real to them, more precious to them – and that comforted them. Suffering for Messiah has a way of bringing us closer to Messiah – which comforts us. And suffering has a way refining us. It burns away the impurities and we come out more like our holy Messiah – and that comforts us. So, just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Messiah, so also our comfort abounds through Messiah. And this has been the experience of the followers of Messiah throughout the centuries. To the degree that we share in Messiah’s sufferings, we share in the comfort that Messiah gives. The more suffering, the more comfort.
Suffering isn’t enjoyable. Our natural inclination is to avoid suffering. Because of this, many Christians and Messianic Jews don’t serve the Lord the way they should; proclaim the Gospel the way they should; stand for the truth the way they should. But knowing that to the degree that we share the Messiah’s sufferings, we will share Messiah’s comfort, frees us to be bold; to be courageous; to be fearless; to stand against the majority; to proclaim the Good News about the Messiah the way we should to world that opposes God and will be hostile to us; to have values that are different from the world; to live lives that are different from the world.
Paul and Timothy give more encouragement to Messiah’s people based on their experience of suffering and receiving comfort. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. This is great! It’s so encouraging to have leaders who are so courageous, and who let those they lead know that no matter what happens to those leaders, whether they experience troubles or victories, the people they lead will benefit. Here’s what they’re saying: If Paul and Timothy had to experience more suffering for the sake of Messiah, they would receive more comfort from the Messiah, which would enable them to comfort the rest of Messiah’s people. They would be able to help God’s people so that they would be better able to remain firm in their salvation; better able to patiently endure the same sufferings Paul and Timothy patiently endured. No matter what happened to Paul and Timothy – distress or comfort, God’s people would benefit. How encouraging!
Paul and Timothy expressed their confidence that Messiah’s Community in Corinth and God’s holy people in Achaia were prepared to suffer, endure and be victorious. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. Paul and Timothy believed that any sufferings the Corinthians and Achaians would experience would not defeat them; cause them to deny the Messiah or renounce the Faith. If they experienced the sufferings of the Messiah, like Paul and Timothy did, they would receive the same comfort that Paul and Timothy did, and they would be victorious like Paul and Timothy were. How encouraging!
Paul and Timothy shared more about the degree of their sufferings. How much trouble did they experience? How bad can things get for the servants of Messiah? Very bad; very-close-to-death bad; despairing-of life bad. But they also may experience amazing victory. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. Asia is the region east of the Agean Sea. It is the same area as present day Turkey. Ephesus, which was a major city in the area, was there.
After Paul and Timothy left Corinth, they went to Ephesus and proclaimed the Gospel there. In Ephesus, Paul’s life was in constant danger. He fought wild beasts there – either literally – by being arrested by the authorities and placed in the area to fight wild animals; or figuratively – the wild beasts referring to vicious people who were trying to kill him. He faced life-threatening danger there. What follows may refer to that, or if might refer to another deadly trial they experienced in Ephesus or somewhere else in Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure (we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength (ESV); we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength (NASB), so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. Paul and Timothy were under so much pressure; were so utterly burdened; things were so dangerous they were sure they were going to be killed. They felt like a judge had sentenced them to death.
Why does God allow those who serve Him so well to suffer so much? To experience great danger? To come so close to death? To teach them to rely on God. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. When things are going well for us, we think we are in control and rely more on ourselves and less on God. When we are experiencing troubles that are beyond our ability to control; troubles that threaten to overwhelm us, we realize we are not in control and we rely more on God and less on ourselves. And this is a very important lesson for us to learn because the truth is that apart from God, we can do nothing. He created us. He sustains us; He redeems us; He empowers us: He protects us. He guides us. The more we understand this, and the more we rely on Him and not on ourselves, the closer we will be to God; the more wisdom and strength and endurance we will have. The more effective we will be. The more successful we will be. God uses trials, troubles, suffering to increase our reliance on God, and reliance on God is one of the valuable things, most necessary things.
The greater the danger; the closer we come to death – and God saves us from that situation, the more we grow in our reliance on God and the more we are aware that He is God who raises the dead. This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. The more desperate the situation from which we are rescued, the more confident we become that God has great ability to save. He can rescue humans beings from very bad situations, even the worst possible situation – like death. If God can save someone from death, can He rescue you from your situation? Of course He can! That’s encouraging!
Why does God allow those who serve Him to experience deadly peril, and then save them from it? He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. The soldier who has faced one great battle and won has more confidence when he is facing a second great battle. The Lord’s servant who has been delivered from a very deadly peril has more confidence that God may choose to deliver him again – and that confidence gives him courage to face the future.
God does not want to be the only one involved with the rescue of those who are serving Him. We are too, by means of our prayers. He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Those Christians and Messianic Jews who are out there, taking risks, giving their all, facing opposition and danger, are to be helped by God’s people through their prayers. Our prayers are important. Our prayers can incline God to save people like Paul and Timothy from the most deadly peril. This should motivate us to pray for our brothers and sisters, especially those who are putting themselves at risk: missionaries, evangelists, ordinary Christians and Messianic Jews living in countries that oppose our Faith – places like China and Pakistan and Cuba and Iran and Saudi Arabia. God and His people are to work together for the help and deliverance of those who are serving Him.
And when God answers our prayers and helps those we are praying for, we give thanks. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Thank You, Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, that You helped Paul and Timothy, those two great Messianic Jewish leaders of their generation, to be rescued from the very serious and deadly dangers they were facing. You helped them overcome deadly dangers from outside the community and the danger of division that was inside the community in Corinth.
Father of Compassion, You don’t promise to eliminate troubles from our lives. You promise to help us through our troubles and comfort us in our troubles.
God of all comfort, help us to learn this lesson about suffering: that to the degree that we suffer in our service for Messiah, we are comforted by Messiah.
Help us endure our troubles until we overcome our troubles. Help us then comfort those who are experiencing troubles.
Father of Compassion, help us to learn from our troubles to rely more and more on You, and not on ourselves.
God of all comfort, Thank You that You are a God who wants us to pray. Help us to do our part – to pray for those who are serving You and who are experiencing trouble and danger.