2nd Corinthians 1
I’m going to invite us this morning to 2nd Corinthians, the book of 2nd Corinthians. If you picked one of these up, that’s all that is in this book. So, you can open a blue book to 2nd Corinthians, the very beginning of chapter one, or if you’ve got a Bible and you want to follow along with that, you can join with me there. But 2nd Corinthians, we’re going to dive into this new series together. We’ve just finished the book of Ester, which I think is one of the most underappreciated books in the Old Testament. A lot of people don’t like to deal with it because Esther doesn’t talk about God. It was an interesting book to go through together. It was to learn about the Lord through a book that doesn’t even talk about God. And today we’re going to engage in a New Testament book that people treat similar to the Old Testament book of Esther.
There is probably, I’m going to guess if you’ve been grown up in church, you’ve probably not spent a whole lot of time studying the book of 2nd Corinthians. In fact, this might be the first sermon series you’ve ever gone through in the book of 2nd Corinthians. And there’s a few reasons for that. One, there’s not a lot of detail on some of the background to what Paul is addressing here. There is some information about what Paul is addressing in this book, but when you study any book of the Bible, it’s important to understand the context of what’s happening surrounding any particular book you jump into.
A lot of people, when they study God’s word, if they’re doing it in a wrong sense, they immediately start reading verses and start making application. And anytime you do that, you always run the risk of misinterpreting what scripture says, all right? It’s important to remember, anytime you open up a book of the Bible, to answer the question, what did this passage mean to the people there and then, before you make the interpretation of what the passage intends for you to the here and now. Right? When the first century authors are writing the New Testament, they’re addressing issues happening in the first century. So it’s best to understand what’s happening in the first century before we then jump to the application for own lives, as it relates today. And in 2nd Corinthians, you meet one of those complex positions where some of that information we can’t entirely know with the life of the apostle Paul is directing the book of 2nd Corinthians.
In fact, 2nd Corinthians, most of theologians believe that 2nd Corinthians is likely 4th Corinthians, meaning, the apostle Paul wrote four letters to Corinth and two of them we have in the New Testament, two of them were not intended to be in the New Testament. And the reason is because we don’t have them in the New Testament, but 1st Corinthians is actually most likely 2nd Corinthians. And 2nd Corinthians you have in the New Testament, it’s most likely 4th Corinthians. It’s kind of like, as you study these epistles, these letters that the New Testament authors wrote, it’s kind of like tuning in to a phone conversation from just one side of the discussion and you need to know what’s happening on the other end to really get the full picture.
And the second thing that makes this book not so much always the preferred book of the New Testament is that, this is the most personal letter Paul wrote in all of the New Testament. Which is incredible to me, because you think, Paul wrote the book of Philemon or he wrote to Titus or to Timothy, all personal letters to individuals, but it’s 2nd Corinthians that is the most personal book that Paul has written. And when you look at the apostle Paul, you think to yourself, well, Paul is an apostle, right, and I am not that. And so how in the world can a book written by a guy who’s in full time ministry as an apostle relate to me? Right? And so, people see that and they think, well, since this book is so personal with the apostle Paul, I don’t see a lot of application.
But when I read this book, I get all sorts of excited about what’s contained in this book for two reasons. One is that all of us are called into ministry and Paul might have had the title of apostle, but everyone that follows Jesus is called to live on mission for Jesus. And I think, as Paul lives his ministry, how incredible it is that we have a book that he gets so personal about the things that he encounters in life and he relates as he’s living his life for the Lord. Some of the adversity he goes through in the most intimate of ways he describes for us. And so, as we think about our own personal ministry and the struggle we have, we have a brother and the Lord who’s going through similar things and we can connect to him and better understand our own lives as we try to live in light of the Lord.
Now, when you read this book, some of you look at this and think, well, Paul, he’s the perfect Christian, and I can’t fully relate to him. There’s no one better in Christianity, other than Jesus, than the apostle Paul. Right? But I think it’s important to remember, as you open this book that as many people cherish the apostle Paul, especially in the first century, he had just as many enemies, if not more. Paul, even the last few letters of Paul’s life, if you get to the end of the book of Timothy, you start to see Paul give me a laundry list of people that love him and that he loves and people that absolutely hate him. And it’s like a 50/50 split for Paul and how extreme that gets for him.
And when you read about Paul’s ministry in Corinth, he establishes this church in his second missionary journey. So Paul at least had four missionary journeys we know of. The book of Acts, we find three in that. You can read how he established the church in Corinth in Acts chapter 18, how it started. He worked there with Priscilla and Aquila. But the church of Corinth, after he started the church in Corinth, the church in Corinth went through a period where they hated Paul.
In fact, we’re going to find in this book that rather than follow the apostle Paul, the church in Corinth started to follow what they titled, people that were not just apostles, but super apostles, right? You got to take that to a whole new level, super apostles. Paul, we don’t listen to you. You’re level one. We’re at 2.0 now. That’s how they treated… They had this disdain for the apostle Paul. But Paul, even though he’s maligned by this first century church, and when you read about the church of Corinth, this is the most messed up church in all of the New Testament, and yet when you read about Paul’s interaction with them, Paul never gave up on the church.
And for me, I just ask the question, why? Why would you go through that? Why did you not say, you know what, let’s start over. Hey, we’re going to go to the other town down this street. Why did you stay in such a mess as Corinth? And I think as this book starts, Paul really begins to reveal for us just a few reasons. And I want you to see this in 2nd Corinthians chapter one, verse one, he says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God and Timothy, our brother. To the church of God that is at Corinth with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia, grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
A few reasons I think the apostle Paul stayed and fought for this church, he not so much fought with the church as he fought for the church. And one is how this book begins when Paul acknowledges who he is, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. Now this is a normal introduction for the apostle Paul. But I want us to see here that he is connecting his position, which is a unique position in the church, right, an apostle. We’re going to talk about in the series, what that title means, whether that’s a title for today or not. We’re not going to talk about it today, but it’s an issue Paul addresses, because the church fought against him in this position, right? He’s an apostle and they say, well, we quit following those. We follow super apostles now. Right?
And it begs the question, what is that title? But I want you to see, when Paul describes this title, he connects it directly to Jesus and the will of God. And what it’s correlating to for us is this understanding, to reject Paul is to reject Jesus’s message and to reject Jesus altogether. And he knows how important it is for us to follow Christ in this world.
And so therefore, because his identity is directly connected to the message of Christ and Jesus himself, he wants the church to really understand who Jesus is. Second thing I want to point out is how Paul continues to treat this church. He loved these people, even though these people had a disdain towards him, at least some within the church did, he loved them. In fact, he continues to refer to his relationship with the church as saints. He looks at a church that’s living dirty and rotten and he calls them saints. Right? That’s what it says at the end of verse one. He refers to them as saints and his desire for them is grace and peace.
Now, some of us may look at that title, Saint, and think, I thought that was a word reserved for people like Mother Teresa caliber, right? But the truth is, in the New Testament, the word Saint is for any believer that has placed their faith in Christ, you have been set apart and you belong to the Lord. And because all of us have been redeemed and washed clean in Jesus, when God looks at us, he sees the perfection of Christ. And so therefore, it makes us all belonging to him and saints in the ideas of the Lord. And that is how Paul continued to refer to as the church. You’re saints.
And to be able to understand what that means in Jesus and my desire for your life is grace and peace. And then on top of that, he sees the opportunity of what God can do in this church if this church’s heart is completely bought in to him. He loves them where they’re at, but he also loves them too much to let them stay there. And he wants them to understand the potential of what God can do in their lives if their lives are fully surrendered to him. That’s why he’s saying, look, to you, the church in Corinth and to all those in Achaia, meaning, Corinth is the major metropolis of this greater region, and when you start to influence the city, so goes the countryside. You want to know where any country is going, look to the major influence cities of a nation. And pretty soon that’s where the rest of the country will be.
And when Paul did his ministry, that’s why he went to the large populated areas throughout Rome, is because he knew if he could start to influence the city, he could get to the countryside. And he’s thinking that the city of Corinth, it’s an up and coming city. It’s a city that’s that’s growing. Today, you could even Google the city of Corinth and you can see the monuments and the buildings that were built during Paul’s ancient day. When Paul did ministry here, he did ministry as a tent maker with Priscilla and Aquila. You can still see the marketplace where Paul did ministry. The ruins of that still stand. This city was a place of incredible influence. And Paul wanted the church to see this. And when he enters into this church, knowing this church does not think favorably of him in every way, Paul goes into this broken moment, not as a brute force, but to communicate how to watch God work mightily in our weakness.
Paul doesn’t come to them beating on his chest, trying to face the next challenger. But Paul’s demeanor is poised with this grace and humility and servant-like attitude that it’s continued to be reflected throughout the book, which is why we created these banners that we did to remind us that there’s some great thoughts that Paul shares, where he refers to us as just these jars of clay, just able to be broken, but God can do some incredible things through us as he makes use of us in this world. And he says in Corinthians that God’s power is made known in my weakness.
Paul’s attitude, it reminds me of a prayer of David Brainerd, which I’ll share a little bit about him a little bit, he was a minister in the 1700s, but David Brainerd’s prayer, much like Paul’s in this book, was this, “Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.” And guys, the reality is when you think about doing anything in this world and you consider just the darkness of what life is and what life can be. And yet Jesus calls you to be a light in this world, I mean, the tendency of all of us is to think, who am I? And how in the world could God ever expect me to be a part of any difference made in this world? Does he not know how difficult this situation is or how complex things have become, or does he not know the trajectory of how things are going right now, that we’re in a situation that may not feel as positive as I would like, and I just feel like a little a drop in the bucket.
But 2nd Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians is about God’s power made known in darkness. And that was David Brainerd’s prayer in the 1700s, doing ministry in some of the most complex circumstances. God, if you are that power and God, if you can work in that way, Lord help me to make a difference that’s completely disproportionate to who I am. Lord, let that strength work in my life. And Paul demonstrates that. And that’s the question we want to ask this morning, Lord, how can I live a life utterly disproportionate to who I am?
When I think about the call of Christians around this world to live on mission, and I just broad glance look at this world, and I guess, as the world continues to grow, one of the things that’s easy to recognize is the amount of Christians in this world are not keeping up with just even the population increase, let alone reaching the lost world around us right now, the world continues to grow and Christianity is not growing on that same trajectory. And yet the message that we carry is so important to knowing the purpose for which people exist, the relationship that God calls them into in him, that they can find hope, not only in this world, but for all of eternity.
And God has handed that gift of that message to us that brings light to darkness and lives transformed, both now and forever. God, how can I make a difference that is disproportionate to who I am. And you think about your own personal circumstance, that wherever you are in life, that God calls you to be a minister of his truth, his gospel. Every one of us have a place of influence in this world and all of us are called in that place of influence to be a minister for the Lord. And God, when I think about that, that responsibility and that gift of that opportunity, it feels overwhelming, lest in that somehow I can connect to you and you, Lord, can be my strength. How can I do that?
Well, Paul starts off verse three, “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” Paul’s introduction here is a liturgical formula. It’s not uncustomary to begin this way. In fact, this is the norm to start a letter off this way. I think if I were the apostle Paul, maybe in the flesh in this moment, I would probably not start with the posture of such niceties to people that don’t like me. But Paul chooses to, right, because he’s walking with Jesus rather than the flesh. And then he takes this liturgical formula here of the idea of, bless the Lord, bless the Lord. This means, praise the Lord. And what Paul is saying here is, look, if you want to begin this journey in the midst of this complex world, with the darkness around us, to be a light for Jesus and to influence for good, that the gospel may set people free, here’s where you need to start, and point number one of your notes, start with worship. Start with worship.
And he’s saying to the church, look church, we are not on the same page together. In fact, you have this frustration towards me that I am not going to reciprocate towards you, but if we’re going to do anything for Jesus in this world, what we need to do is we need to do it together and we need to do it in worship. And this is why Paul said, “Blessed be the God and father,” and look at this, “of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He’s including this church to engage in this worship with him. That if we’re going to do anything for God that matters in this world, we need to see the greatness of who our God is.
Any step that we take, you read anything Old Testament, New Testament, any great Saints of ages that you say, man, if my life could be like that believer in the Lord, if I could just model half of what they’ve done in their life, I can promise you, anyone that’s ever accomplished anything great with Jesus, their journey with God started in seeing the greatness of who their God was. God, let my soul be enamored with the glory of your goodness.
And this is where Paul’s prayer begins for the church. Blessed. Let’s start with the idea of fully surrendered and worship to God. Because as my soul is fully surrendered to the goodness of who God is, it will start to attribute my worth in his presence. Anything that you worship in life, you’re worshiping because you want to find your value from it. And that’s where the journey begins with us.
God, if I am to live my life this way as you call me to in this world, I need to see and be reminded of continually in my life of your goodness and greatness in this world and over me. God, blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then he goes further from that. And let me just ask, if you look at the life of the apostle Paul, and you think, man, if I could just model some of that in my own life, if you want to be any caliber of Paul at all, reflect him in any degree in your life, you also have to be willing to do point number two. Point number two in your notes is this, be willing to pay the cost. Be willing to pay the cost. I told you in the beginning, we look at Paul today and we think, greatest Christian to ever live, but you remember first century, Paul had as many enemies, if not more, as he did friends, because of his great love for the Lord, because his life is over enamored with his greatness.
In fact, in Acts chapter seven, verse 15, this is what the Lord said to Paul. Before he even started, he says this. He sends someone to go speak to the apostle Paul before he’s fully converted. And he says, “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and Kings and the children of Israel, for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.? How many want to sign up for that? Right? And in Acts chapter 14, though it says of the church in verse 22, “Strengthening the souls of the disciples,” Paul was doing this as he went on his missionary journey, “he was strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God.”
In fact, if you go read the fullness of this section, verse 13, “Blessed be the God of our father, the Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction and with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” Now, when it talks about Christ’s sufferings here, it’s not saying you need to add to anything that Jesus did for us on the cross. That’s not in what it’s referencing to. In fact, I think what Paul is alluding to talk about Christ’s sufferings is, the Jews understood that when the Messiah would come, they had this term called birth pangs and they understood that when the Messiah would come before the fullness of the kingdom would be realized, that there would be a birth pangs that the children of Israel or God’s people would go through.
In fact, Jeremiah 22, verse 23, talks about it. Hosea chapter 13, verse 13, talks about it, that there would be a struggle of God’s people before the fullness of that kingdom would be realized on this earth. But there are affliction that God’s people will endure simply for following after Christ because of your faith. Now I’m not advocating as believers because this passage says there are inflictions in pursuing Jesus that all of you need to go find a painful road to walk, right? Torture yourselves when we leave, right? I’m not saying that is something that we need to just run towards, right? But I will say in following after Jesus, sometimes there becomes a choice between what is convenient and what is of Christ. And James says it this way in James chapter one, “Consider it all joys, my brother, when you endure various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect work.”
What James is saying and what Paul is connecting us to is, how do you know that your faith has any true substance to it, lest it be willing to struggle for the sake of Jesus. If you give up on Jesus, simply because it’s not convenient for you, did you really ever have faith in Jesus? See, the afflictions that we pay in pursuing Christ is also an opportunity to demonstrate to this world and even to ourselves that before anything else in life, what matters most to me is Christ. And the reason that matters is because of the worth of the Lord that I’ve come to know as I’ve worshiped him.
Struggle, affliction becomes the opportunity in our life to see if our faith is genuine in Jesus. And when Paul writes about this struggle in Corinthians, there’s about 10 words in Greek, that deal with struggle or hardship, and five of them are used in 2nd Corinthians. And this word affliction here means, one as pressing you from the outside, this pressure placed upon you because of your faith in Jesus. This is not just simply pressure from just general life, this is Christ suffering. This is pressure because you’ve identified yourself as a follower of Jesus.
So the question, how much are you willing to pay for your faith? Is Jesus worth it? Is the cause of Christ worth it? One of the ways it helps us to make the decision as a yes in pursuing Christ is to see the greatness of who God is as we worship. But also the second thing that Paul mentions to us within the context of these verses is that, he is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our inflictions. Verse five, “As we share abundantly in Christ suffering, so through Christ, we share abundantly in his comfort too.”
I can’t give you a reason for why every bad thing happens in life. I cannot give you a reason for why every bad thing that you’ve experienced, you’ve gone through in life, but Jesus will give an account to that for us one day, he will help us see the greater picture of the struggles that we have experienced in life. But in this section of scripture, Jesus starts to help us understand a few things. And one is this, the promise of comfort is so important to the struggles that we face. The idea of comfort in this passage is saying to us, when I go through hardship, I want to know, I want to know at the very least that God cares. And the thought of his comfort meeting me in my hardship is communicating that there is a God who cares and there’s a God who wants to be near me and there’s a God who wants to work through me, and there’s a God who wants to help me accomplish what he has called me to in this world.
In fact, this word comfort that Paul chooses to use here is connected in Greek to the same word, Paracletes, which is the word for the Holy Spirit. It’s in John chapter 14 to John chapter 16. You remember the Holy Spirit’s referred to as the great comforter. And he’s saying as he is the comforter that God’s promised you as being the Holy Spirit, as he indwells you, that he will comfort you in your affliction as you live for the Lord in this world. And this idea of comfort, it means more than just coddle you. I’m really to be quite honest, not too much interested in a God that just simply wants to coddle me. Right? That just does not feel masculine for what I feel like the Lord calls me to in this world.
I remember as a young kid, my grandfather at one of my football games, he says to me, “Now, son, if you ever get hurt in a game, no matter what, you crawl off that field,.” Right? You get off that field. That’s the way I was ingrained. My grandpa played, he played college football and wrestling and so, tough guy. He says that to me. And as a kid, I already knew that. Anytime I got hurt, there was no time out for me. I’m getting off that field. Right? I remember playing football, I broke my leg in the middle of the field. And I remember, I’m just crawl, trying to crawl. I know my grandpa’s in the stands. He has just said that to me. I got to get off this field. It was so gross that one of the coaches, first one in the field sees it, he just yells, “It’s out of place.” And he throws up. It was not the best response when you’ve got an injury, all right? Like, oh, I should panic. It’s the kind of…
But I’m not interested in just this coddling. There’s a place in life where when you think about comfort, it’s good to have that empathy, right? You do want to be coddled. You do want to know someone’s on your side, pat your little head and wish you well. But it’s more than just coddling here. This idea of comfort’s also empowering. I mean, it carries these two positions of God meeting you in your greatest need to comfort you there, but also understanding that God has called you to more, that he’s called you not to simply just be at a stalemate with darkness, but he wants to empower you and strengthen you to live the mission for which he has set you on in this world.
And so the God of all comfort meets us in our need to not just be even with the darkness, but to overcome it. And so this idea of what the Lord is saying to us is look, we may not have the full picture of every struggle that we’re going through in life, but God is doing something. And the reason we know that is because he meets us in his presence, in that struggle, to strengthen us, to do whatever he’s called us to in the midst of that hardship that we’re enduring. And not only that, he says to us in verse four, look at this, there’s further reason beyond it. He says, “So that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we, ourselves, have been comforted by God.”
Some of the greatest ministry you will ever do in your life will be birthed from some of the greatest pain you have ever endured in this world. You will learn something in your struggle that will give you empathy and compassion towards those that have walked a similar road. God is, saying, not only does he want to work through you, but he doesn’t wait to work through you when everything feels kosher in your life. But God can work through you in the mess right now.
Now, it’s not saying to us, look, before you can help someone, you have to know exactly every struggle that they have gone through before you can… I’m not telling you, you can’t meet someone in their problems and hear what their problem is and be like, you know what? I haven’t gone through that. God be with you, and just walk away from it. Right? If you’ve just struggled in life at all, you don’t have to know the detail of every struggle that there is to experience in this world to minister to someone else. But having struggled in this world, it starts to help you learn how to have empathy towards those that fight some of the similar battles that we all go through in this human experience.
And Paul’s saying, in those inflections, become an opportunity to be a light for Jesus as the Lord meets you in that struggle to provide his comfort, his strength for you in this world. The cost has a purpose. And so he goes on and says this in verse six, he says… Maybe I don’t have any ability to click. There we go. “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. And if we are comforted, is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comforts.”
In the early church, they had the tendency sometimes theologically, and I think we tend to do this, we can do this sometimes too if we’re not careful, that just because bad things happen, that must mean therefore, that God is not with you. I mean, they could look at the apostle Paul and be like, look, Paul, we could follow you as an apostle, but why would we do that? We can follow the super apostles. They seem to have a much easier life. Your life looks very hard and God must hate you because it looks hard. Right? I mean, if we go through bad things, we want to ask the question, God, where are you? Like as if all of a sudden we’re no longer connected to God or somehow it’s God’s fault that we’re going through these difficult circumstances. Let me just remind you that when you go through adversity in life, you are not distant from God. In fact, I would say the scripture says the exact opposite, that God is near the broken hearted.
I mean, when you look at the life of Jesus, there’s no one that struggled more than Jesus in order to connect his life to you, to show how he desires to meet you in your greatest hour of need and provide his strength for your life to connect with you relationally. When you go through adversity in life, it is not opposed to God. Your disdain for hard things in life, it is not contrary to God. It is the very thing that God came to war against. And God has placed you on mission in this world to be the demonstration of his goodness in the midst of that darkness.
And that’s what Paul’s saying here. They’re looking at Paul, and they’re thinking, Paul, you’re going through hard things. You can’t really be following Jesus. He’s saying, are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? The reason I’m going through hard things is all only for you. I’m laying my life down in this moment because your life is that important to the Lord. And I am modeling the very heart of Jesus by doing this. Well, I mean, if it was just about me, I would just take my ball and go home. I was living a posh life before this. I was the Hebrew of Hebrews. I gave it all up. You think this is for me? But this is for you. I’m doing all this for God’s people, the church.
Because when you think about doing ministry for the Lord, the church is not a perfect place. It’s messy. Sometimes it even hurts. But it’s Jesus’ bride. It’s Jesus’ bride. And I don’t want to meet Jesus face to face saying, you know what, I’m glad you love the bride, but I felt the need to just smack her and get rid of her. Right? This is Jesus’ bride. And Jesus’ call to his church that makes up the bride, is to help the bride look more lovable each and every day as we meet one another in those needs and point them to Christ and living for that purpose and discovering the God of all comfort. This is for you.
Paul did this for you and for me to see the greatness of who the Lord is. In fact, in Romans chapter nine, I love this heart of Paul, Romans chapter nine, verse one, listen to this, and talking about his Jewish brothers he says this, “I am speaking the truth in Christ. I am not lying. My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsman, according to the flesh. They are Israelites and to them belongs the adoption.” Paul’s saying, if I could just give over my spiritual life so that you could have life, I am willing to go that far.
So here Paul gives us in verse eight, in the example of his life, “For 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.” Let me just say, if someone ever says to you, God will not give you more than you can handle, you quote 2nd Corinthians chapter one, verse eight. All right? Because it plainly says in this verse that, “We experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired for life itself.” That is certainly beyond what he can handle. And in verse nine, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, but that was to make us reliant not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dea. He delivered us.” I love that.
When you think about the idea of God, Paul makes no mistake as to which God he is referring to here. He says, it’s not just God, I believe in God. Right? It’s the God who can raise the dead. That’s the God where I have put my faith. The God who raises the dead is where my trust is in. “He delivered us from such a deadly peril and will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayers, that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayer of many.” Verse 10, Paul’s saying, look, here’s what happened to my faith. He goes, I go into this moment, I am despairing of life. God meets me in that moment and he supplies. And not only did I see God’s supply for that circumstance, but I know now he will continue to meet me in my struggles and supply. He is the God of all hope.
And when we journey with God and we place that kind of faith with him, every step that we take is we find that he is faithful. It continues to strengthen us, to perpetuate that same faith in the Lord with great hope. You think about, what is hope? Well, hope for us, it’s established on the past precedent for future expectation. I mean, we’re not asking anyone here to blindly just put hope on God and gee, let’s just hope it works out, right? We have the evidence of God’s repeated character, continuing to show up throughout scripture and then giving us the promises that he will continue to show up because he is the same God today. He’s the God of all hope. The past sets the precedent for the future, so that our hope is secure.
And then he says something interesting in verse 11, “So pray, pray with me.” Right? He says, “You must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through prayers of many.” And so here’s the question, it’s like, wait, if Paul is so dependent upon God and God is going to supply for him, is he all of a sudden changing course and taking a step back and now asking us to be the source of help? I thought God was supplying it. But what Paul’s beginning to help us recognize is that when God moves in this world, the way that God most often desires to move is through the ones in which he has placed his spirit to dwell. Meaning, when God does things in this world, his first place that he desires to make a difference, is working through his own people. And the reason he desires to work through his own people is because you become the voice to give him glory as he makes a difference in this world.
The greatest miracle God works, and God’s done many great miracles, is the miracle of what he does in your heart. And as God works in your life and transforms your life, he then works through your life to make a difference in the lives of others. That is the primary place God desires to let his hand move, is through people, because the reason Jesus came was to rescue people. And so he is asking the believers here, why don’t you pray? Pray to see if God might move in your heart to be the answer for what the need is in the circumstance. And Jesus did that with his disciples. He said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into this world.” And in the gospels, the very next thing Jesus says after he says that is, “Now go into this world.” Because as the believers are praying for God to move, God was doing a work in their own heart to be the answer to that problem.
And the same thing’s true for us, that God’s desire in your life as you engage this world, is to work through you in such a way that he shows his faithfulness in your life, but also uses you to be the mouthpiece to give him glory as he works in hearts of others.
God help me to make a difference that is utterly disproportionate to who I am. It starts with worship and the willingness then to pay the cost as we trust in the God of all comfort. David Brainerd said it like this, one of his prayers, “Let me forget the world and be swallowed up in the desire to glorify God.” Now, I thought some of you would like David Brainerd because he’s obviously business in the front, party in the back, kind of a guy here. But David Brainerd died at… That’s what you call a mullet, okay? In case you didn’t get that. All right.
David Brainerd died at the age of 29. He was alive in the 1700s. He became a missionary to the native Americans. He saw the atrocity that happened to them and his heart went out to them and he ministered to them, died at the age of 29. But his heart so sold out to God that if you were to make a list and say, over the last 200 years, what are some of the greatest Christians to live? I will tell you this, your list will not neglect the souls of people David Brainerd impacted.
Let me just read a few here for a moment. If you go back in church history, last couple hundred years, and you asked some of the great Christian leaders, who was someone that made a tremendous difference in your life? They’re quick to say, David Brainerd. And they’re people like this, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Jim Elliot, Leonard Ravenhill. All he was, 29 years old, all he really was, was just a heart fully given over to God. And the things that the Lord did through his life, incredible. And the reality was, it had nothing to do with his strength, but everything to do with the God that worked through him. Lord help me to make a difference that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.