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By: Larry Shaffer
Let’s Play Jeopardy
2 Corinthians 1
If you haven’t read the background to 2 Corinthians that I wrote in the post, “The Four Letters,” please do so. Just when things seemed somewhat settled in the church at Corinth, false teachers made their way into the church and began to plant doubts about Paul’s character, intentions and teachings. As the false teachers gained some listeners, their verbal attacks become louder and bolder. 2 Corinthians is Paul’s response to these attacks. In some ways, this book of Paul is like the game show Jeopardy. We read Paul’s responses and we can surmise what the criticisms were. Paul responds to the criticism being spouted by the false teachers plus he responds to some specific questions that the Corinthian church had sent him. Paul gives the answer, we quess the question.
Why all the affliction?
First, we assume his opponents were planting doubt by saying something like “if he is from God, why is he enduring such afflictions and threats to his life?” The response is in 1:1-11. Other verbal attacks may be “how does he sleep at night? He has no conscience.” Response is in verses 1:12-15. Also, “he says one thing and then does another. He’s not reliable and therefore, how can we rely on this message (gospel) that he preaches?” Response in verses 1:16-24.
Let’s consider Paul’s affliction. Why was Paul so afflicted? It goes back to Paul’s conversion when Jesus made it clear to Paul that he would suffer much for His (Jesus) sake. Paul was destined to suffer. He will talk about it in vivid detail in this book. But in these opening verses he makes it clear that it’s not because God has abandoned him but just the opposite. God has a plan and a reason.
Pass the comforter
First, in his affliction, Paul learns how to be a comfort to others who suffer. It enlarges his heart as a pastor and it allows him to be a greater comfort to others. Secondly, it causes Paul to not depend on himself, but to rely completely on God. In this context, I’m drawn to Paul’s simple phrase, “…He, on whom we have set our hope,” verse 10. In affliction, trials and difficulty, we set our hope on Him. How often we stray from this simple and foundational principle of “our hope is in Him.”
Fret, regret or fear?
When it comes to daily trials and frustrations (job uncertainty; strained relationships; loved ones disappointing us; financial strain; Geo-political unrest; etc.) do we fret, regret, or fear? Or do we place our hope (in all areas of life) in Him, surrender to Him in prayer and then take bold action accordingly? We place ALL our hope in Him because:
To thine own self be true
Also, it seems Paul was receiving criticism that he had ulterior motives of some kind; that he was manipulating them for self-serving reasons. In verse 12 Paul responds, “for our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” The best defense against criticism is to know in your heart and conscience that you are sincere. We can’t control what others think and say about us, but a conscience surrendered to God is the judge that matters. A clear conscience is the most wonderful gift we can give to ourselves. Be true; be sincere; be humble.
Today Lord, may we renew moment by moment, our hope in You. Our hope will be tested so I ask that you’d be gentle with us and always bring our hearts and minds back to You. Amen.