“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in face.”—Mike Tyson
IV. Three good things that come out of suffering:
Body: I. It reaveals the limits of our ability.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.
(2 Corinthians 1:8) A. God’s working in our lives does not always mean lack of stress.
1) Paul’s 3 years in Ephesus were his most fruitful and painful.
a) THE RIOT OF DEMETRIUS OVER ARTEMIS (Acts 19)
b) THE MURDER OF MARCUS JUNIUS SILANUS IN 54
i) Agrippina the Younger, mother of Nero
ii) She had his brother killed on her wedding day (49)
iii) Poisoned Claudius to put Nero on the throne (54)
iv) Poisoned Silanus in Ephesus to avoid revenge
2) 2 Timothy 3:12-14
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. B. Intense pressure and tragedy can change your brain chemistry.
1) C. H. DODD AND PAUL’S “SECOND CONVERSION”
2) Galatians 5:10-12
The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty . . . I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! 3) Philippians 1:18
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. II. It forces us to redefine success.
Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again.
(2 Corinthians 1:9-10) A. Suffering hardship does not mean we have done something wrong.
1) False leaders in Corinth were questioning Paul’s apostleship.
a) Three times he went over to visit Corinth.
b) Luke does not mention the “painful visit.” (2 Cor. 2:1)
2) 2 Corinthians 11:23-25
Are they servants of Christ? . . . I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones.
3) JAWS—SHOWING EACH OTHER OUR SCARS
B. Both deliverance and endurance are God’s power at work.
1) Paul didn’t consider his sufferings a disqualifier, but a mark of his obedience and fellowship with the sufferings of Christ.
a) Greek philosophers did not value suffering as a virtue.
b) Jewish writers understood it to be the call of Messiah.
2) Colossians 1:24-25
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s [Messiah’s] afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
3) PAUL UNDERSTOOD FULL WELL THAT HIS LIFE WAS THE MESSAGE
a) We cannot add to what Christ did on the cross.
b) But we can show the world what sacrificial love looks like.
III. It shows us what real grace is.
On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:10-11)
A. Everyone has something that forces them to draw close to God.
1) 2 Corinthians 12:7-8
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
2) THORN IN THE FLESH—PAUL’S MACGUFFIN (HITCHCOCK)
a) A physical disability?
b) A chronic injury?
c) A personal adversary?
B. We don’t understand what grace is until it is all we have left.
1) 2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2) SOMEWHERE BETWEEN HYPER-SOVEREIGNTY AND HYPER-FAITH
a) God is in charge and there is nothing I can do.
b) I can control the outcome if I just pray hard enough.
3) MY DAD THE MISSIONARY—PUTTING ALL HIS TRUST IN GOD
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
2 Corinthians 4:7-8
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:11-12
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.