It should go without saying that there are hurting people all around us. Sometimes we are guilty of piling on rather than helping them up. It is clear from the text (2 Cor. 1:2-11) that we have all been called to be ministers of comfort. God expects us to comfort one another.
The sufferings of Christ are designed to cause us to trust Him and not ourselves. The most awful plight in the world is for someone to be without God and thus without hope in this world or the next.
In the text we find the Who, What, When,Where, and How of comfort. Of course, the What is “affliction” and the When is “now.” Most of us would agree we are now afflicted in one way or another.
Who: The Person of Comfort – 2 Corinthians 1:3
God is the Person of Comfort and our starting place is praising Him simply because He is God. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. His full name is most comforting in itself for it reveals the sovereign deity, saving death, and supreme destiny of Jesus as Ruler over all things. What a comfort that should be! Paul’s purpose here is to reveal the God of Comfort and he does so by saying God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.
This means He gives mercy for every circumstance (cf. Lam. 3:22-25). There is no comfort outside of a personal knowledge of and relationship to God through Christ.
Sadly, the typical response to trials is to focus on ourselves, our feelings, and our problems. We often excuse it by saying, “I can’t help how I feel.” But we can! We must get the focus off of our issues and on to the God of all comfort (cf. Psalm 37).
Why: The Purpose of Comfort – 2 Corinthians 1:4-7
a. The Comforting of the Saints (v. 4)
There are actually two reasons given for affliction: to be able to comfort others and to learn not to lean on ourselves (see v. 9). Let’s face it. We live in a fallen, evil world and trouble happens. God uses these things for our maturity in the faith and our ministry to the faithful.
Suffering is a normal part of the Christian life. Paul uses carefully chosen words here, tribulation and trouble. Both mean “affliction,” literally “a pressing together” or pressure.
Do you sometimes feel like you are in a pressure cooker? Our unrepentant sin and the sins of others both bring oppression.
The cure for demonic and worldly oppression is the blood of Jesus! For personal sin, there is the goodness of God which leads you to repentance (cf. Rom. 2:4). For the sins of others, there is the victory of extending forgiveness.
Sometimes we suffer simply because we are part of this evil world. Often it is because of our willingness to serve God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). When we suffer in these ways we become qualified to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I recall a time when I was in personal despair. Crying out to God, I asked, “Why?”
You may have done this yourself. Then in that still small voice God said, “Why not?” I could not give the Lord sufficient reason as to why, as the Lord of Glory, He should not do what He deemed best. A flood of comfort overwhelmed my soul and I was then able to press on and actually be a comfort to others. We often suffer simply so God can use us as a channel of comfort to others.
b. The Consolation of Suffering (v. 5)
If we are His we should expect to suffer (cf. John 15:18-27). The idea behind the word abundance, which Paul uses frequently in Second Corinthians, is “above and beyond,” or “superabundant.” Our consolation also abounds through Christ, meaning that Christ has given us His Spirit Who is indwelling us, and His ministry to and through us abounds with grace and mercy sufficient for our trial and need.
c. The Consolation of Salvation (vv. 6-7)
We find here two first class conditional statements. If we are pressured, or afflicted, the result is that we will be consoled by the Holy Spirit. The salvation spoken of here has the sense of sanctification. Your experience will definitely be a help to others so you can encourage them.
The text literally says, “Since you are comforted!” In other words, God will see you through. He never fails, He never forsakes, He never leaves you!
This is where our hope lies. As we experience God’s comfort we will be more effective when sharing Christ with others.
How: The Pattern of Comfort 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
a. Burdened Beyond Measure to Deepen your Faith (vv. 8-9)
Paul speaks of his personal trouble, something that occurred in Asia of which the Corinthians must have known. He thought they were going to die. It may have been a literal sentence of death, or it may have been that Paul simply thought, God has brought me this far and this is the end. What we know is that God delivered them!
He will deliver us from every trial and heartache. If God can raise the dead He can handle our problems! We trust in the Name of our God. He is great and awesome and we face nothing that He cannot strengthen us to overcome. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us.
b. Blessed Beyond Measure to Deliver you from Failure (vv. 10-11)
Look at the delivery method here – did, does, will – past, present, future! He doesn’t provide comfort the same way in every circumstance. For example, Peter was delivered from prison (Acts 12) but James was beheaded. The truth is, both were delivered! And you will be delivered too!