Where are you in relationship to the storms that come into our lives? No one is immune from storms. People with a deep love for God face painful and intense trials in life just like those outside the body of Christ. Being a Christian does not immunize us against the difficulties and trials of this life. Just last week Dr. Fannin repeated a truth we all know: Everyone falls into one of three categories—(1) You’re currently in a storm. (2) You just came through a storm. (3) You’re headed into a storm. As I write this, scattered thunderstorms and rain storms are moving through our area. How apt! We are either in a storm, just finished a storm or one is coming our way! We can’t avoid them! Storms in life can be physical, relational, financial, vocational, or spiritual. Storms of life generally surface with no warning.
Trials can be fertile soil for spiritual growth if handled God’s way. God never wants His people to waste a hurt or trial. Joseph faced hatred from his brothers. God placed Joseph in a place of authority. He had the chance to get even with his brothers. However, Joseph pursued a redemptive path, saying to his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about…the survival of many people” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph saw God’s hand in his suffering.
The Corinthian church was dysfunctional and filled with hurting people. The church needed to know God’s nature. In times of trials and storms, God’s presence was with them. God’s comfort equipped those suffering for ministry. Trials and storms serve as theological classrooms for God’s people!
Read 2 Cor. 1:1-2.
Our focal passage today reveals how we can apply what we learned these last two weeks about our spiritual gifts and the characteristics of love God desires to show others through us!
1. To whom do you turn for comfort during times of stress or distress?
2. What object or activity most comforts you?
Paul’s experiences placed him in the category of one who needed comfort. He shared with the Corinthian believers what he had learned, so they could be comforted.
Comforted! Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
1. What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples in Matt. 20:23, “You will indeed drink my cup.”? (His followers would suffer as He suffered. As we know now, looking back on Christian history, suffering as Jesus did is common for Christians throughout the world—even to being martyred.)
In verse 5 Paul says we will experience suffering as Jesus did but we will also be comforted as He was.
2. How does a person’s attitude when facing suffering influence others? (Jesus said, “Not My will, but Thy will, Father.” From the cross.)
3. How might the sufferings of a believer be used by God to impact the lives of others?
4. What hope did Paul offer those who are suffering? (We will share in the same comfort also. Another name used for the Holy Spirit is “Comforter.” He lives within us and will bring comfort to us!)
5. The disciples were in an epic storm one night on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). Where was Jesus? (He was not only in the boat with them but was asleep! The amazing lesson to learn here is: if you’re in a storm, whether self-inflicted due to sin or brought on by outside circumstances, Jesus hasn’t abandoned you.)
God allows trials in the lives of His children for a reason. Paul listed situations that highlighted his weakness as a human in contrast with God’s power as demonstrated through the gospel.
Tested! Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
1. What emotions did Paul say he had as he faced this most trying storm in Asia? (Completely overwhelmed, beyond our strength, despaired of life, and believed he was going to die.)
2. Do you ever feel guilty, like your faith is too weak, for being completely overwhelmed by the situation in which you find yourself?
3. What situation might cause a person to feel completely overwhelmed?
4. What positives can come from these situations? (When we are at the end of ourselves we have nowhere else to turn but to God. It is then that God teaches us the greatest lessons about trusting Him!)
Though many have speculated about this experience Paul had, there are no details on what he endured. After relying on his own strength, Paul remembered the power of God to raise the dead and turned to God for help.
5. How were the Corinthian believers involved in Paul’s experience? (They were praying for Paul. He understood intercessory prayer’s power in our lives!)
Paul passed a test of faith, growing as a result of what he faced in Asia. Believers can celebrate a testing of their faith, knowing that God will strengthen them and demonstrate His power.
Accepted! Read 2 Corinthians 1:12-14
Paul called for the Corinthian believers to accept him as a proven apostle, even though he had been delayed in his visit. His integrity seemed to have been at stake. Even though Paul had poured his life into this church, they still only partially understood him and his ministry among them.
Paul wrote that he had been straightforward with the Corinthian believers about everything. There were no hidden meanings or agendas.
1. In what sense can we take pride in those to whom we are called to minister? (Pride in what God is doing in the lives of those you minister to and how God is using them for His kingdom! The emphasis is always on God’s activity and power.)
2. What would be a greater source of pride—being a person of integrity or being recognized by others for the work you do? (Our integrity should be our greatest concern here.)
Paul wasn’t boasting in himself or his own human wisdom. Rather, he admitted that anything good and praiseworthy is because of God’s grace. Read 1 Cor. 15:10.
Summarize and Challenge!
1. How is God using someone who is suffering and the way they are facing that suffering to encourage you? (John DeHart! Linda Boston! Chuck McMillen! Angela Leu! Ben Owens!……….)
2. What can we do to be encouragers to others?
People need our empathy. If you’ve battled cancer, divorce, the death of a child or spouse, the heartbreak of a prodigal child or an addiction, and you’ve been touched by God’s comfort, other people need to hear your story. Your works have power and relevance. You can speak to others from experience. That’s an amazing platform for ministry!
As you face trials and storms, remember that you’re in a theological classroom for a divine reason. And always remember, the Lord comforts and uses broken people.
3. How is God testing your faith?
4. What are you learning about Him and yourself through that test?
5. Who can encourage you through your difficulty?
6. With whom can you share insights you gained from this lesson?
7. How can you share those insights in an encouraging way?