2 Corinthians 1:1-4 (KJV) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:  Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
Some of you may think that life has been good to you, and that your suffering is little. But everyone suffers. Everyone I know or have known has suffered, is going through suffering, or will suffer. The writer of this Book, Paul the Apostle, suffered. Now you would think that someone as blessed as Paul would never suffer. The Bible tells us that ..
Acts 19:11-12 (NKJV) Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
The Apostle had an unusual gift of healing, as did the Apostle Peter. The Bible says that when Peter’s shadow passed over a sick person, that person was made well (Acts 5:15). These powers were the gift of God to these men. It did not come from their own abilities, but through God flowing through them. You would expect that the Apostle Paul would never be afflicted. You would expect that if anything came his way that Paul could just heal it.
“Physician, heal thyself (Luke 4:23)”
And yet the Apostle suffered. He said:
2 Corinthians 1:8 (KJV) For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
Trouble pressed down on Paul and those who were with him so much that they were pressed out of measure. It seemed the burden was too much to bear. They despaired even of life. There are times when trouble can press down on you to the point where you pray that God take you home, that this life is but a curse and the next the blessed hope. “Oh Lord, I am so ready to come home. Take me, dear Jesus. Take me.” This is nothing to be ashamed of. Even the Apostle was that way at one time or the other. Trouble can weigh us down to the point where we feel like the axle on the old truck is about to break.
Why would God allow such a burden to be placed upon us? Why does trouble at times seem to weigh us down so? Is there a purpose in suffering? Yes, there must be. The Apostle tells us in another place:
Romans 8:28-29 (KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
If “all things” work together for our good, then “all things” literally means “ALL things”. That is a theologically profound statement but one we need to carefully examine. Either “ALL things” work together for our good, or “ALL things” do not. Either God is true and every man a liar, or God a liar and every man is true. I declare with the Apostle:
Let God be true but every man a liar! (Romans 3:4)
If all things work together for Good, for our Good, for the Church’s Good, for Christ’s Good, for the Father’s Good, then all things are good. If you love God:
The Dark is as GOOD as the Light
The Tears are as GOOD as the Smiles
The Illness is as good as the Health
The Disappointments and Losses are as GOOD as the Victory and the Win
There is a purpose behind each of the valleys of our lives. The purpose is never negative, but always positive. The Apostle said:
2 Corinthians 1:3 (KJV) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
He blesses God. The God Who permits trials and tribulation is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the loving Father Who sent His Son to suffer and die for us. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. His suffering was not for nothing, but that we might be redeemed from sin and satan. This same God Who sent His Christ is also the Father of mercies. God did not have to send His Son. He could have allowed us to die in our sins. But our Heavenly Father is the Father of mercies. His love is limitless. His salvation is perfect and permanent. His love endures forever.
1 Peter 1:3 (KJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Romans 9:16 (KJV) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
The Father of Christ is the God of all mercies and the God of all comfort. It is He Who allows trials for purpose.
Trials Allow Us To Be Like Christ
2 Corinthians 1:4 (KJV) Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, THAT we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
It is the desire of God that every Christ follower be like Christ. God uses trials to form Christ in us. In His ministry Jesus was constantly reaching out to the suffering, encouraging the discouraged, and lifting up the crippled. God allows trials in us so that He can comfort us and see us through the trial, but also that we may comfort those around us going through the same thing.
Most all of us have experienced death and suffering from a distance. You may have a friend or a co-worker who has suffered the effects of sin and death. You may have been touched by this, but do not grow in the experience until you yourself have the experience.
As a pastor I have gone through suffering with many, but it was not until I had experienced suffering myself that I was able to minister as Christ to the suffering. I have lost a son name Stephen to death. I have experienced not only the suffering of his death, but the foolishness and crassness of people. People ask me “How did he die?” which is not Christlike nor particularly helpful. “How did he die?”
If he died in a traffic accident
or was shot down by a bullet
or was taken hostage and killed by terrorists
or fell out of a pine tree and was taken by gravity
… what difference would it make? “How did he die?” is not the response of Christ to the grieving. But having gone through his death with his mother and knowing he professed Christ as Savior and was voluntarily baptized prior to his death I know that we came through that valley knowing that God is good and God had a purpose. One year later I began to minister at a small but sweet little farm Church called Okapilco Baptist, and during that first year ministered to 9 families as they went through the Valley of the Shadow of death. Stephen’s death equipped me to minister to others as God ministered to me.
Some of you have lost parents, some children, and some spouses.
Each valley is different.
Some of you have experienced disease.
Each valley is different.
You were not brought into this valley to be tortured of God, but to be ministered to by God so that you, like Christ, can some day minister to others. Do not wallow if your grief, but through His Word and prayer grow by it. Let God’s promise minister to you. And then you reach out and minister to others.
I have experienced the loss of mother and father, and THE FATHER guided me in my grief through that valley. But I have never experienced the loss of my Beloved Sherry. I have never been through this valley. If you have, and have experienced the comfort of God as you have walked through this valley, reach out to others who are similarly afflicted. Be the hands and feet of Christ. Be the encourager. The Bible says that we are interconnected:
1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (KJV) And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
There is none who can speak the words of encouragement to us like someone who has been through the same valley. Those who have suffered understand. Our Jesus suffered. He understands. Be like Christ to those in need.
Trials Draw Us Into The Embrace Of Christ
2 Corinthians 1:5-7 (KJV) For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.  And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.  And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
We do not experience the maximum blessings of Christ while on the mountaintop. No, we must venture into the valleys. I remember one of the hardest Churches I ever pastored. It was a sweet community, but the power of God was not in it. Week after week I preached, but it seemed as if none would join. The well was dry. The pump was busted. Critics abounded.
Then I fell to my knees. Daily I would lay praying on the carpet before the pulpit, begging Christ to enter that place. The members harbored bitterness and anger, and though satan did not rule, he kept the rule of the Spirit out. So I prayed. I prayer walked. I walked through the community seeking Christ, and Christ found me. And He found that little Church, today a successful and vibrant Church. Because of me? No. Because of Christ.
Trials drive us into the arms of Christ.
Before trials come we need a flat screen TV.
We need another piece of property.
We need a shiny new truck.
We need another boyfriend or girlfriend.
We need more money in the bank.
We need a steak dinner.
We need. We need.
But when trials come we need above all else our Savior. As the child with the skinned knee needs his or her mommy’s embrace, we need the arms of the Master wrapped around us. As we partake of suffering, we partake of His consolation. When we suffer the things of this life do not matter, but the Creator of life does. We need the Lord! We need His Grace. And God is sufficient. If I have nothing else, God is enough. Knowing that He is there is all that matters.
The Prophet Job – suffering as no man ever suffered – losing all that he had – said:
Job 1:21 (NKJV) … “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Trials bring us into the awareness that Christ is enough in our lives. There was a time in His ministry when people chased after Jesus for the temporary things that He could provide. They wanted the dinner on the grounds, the free meal they didn’t have to pay for. Professional moochers, many plague the Churches today seeking sustenance without spirit, mammon and not the Magnificent God we serve. When Jesus told them they weren’t getting any more free meals they “went away, and never came back” (John 6:66). When they left – these snowflake sons of satan – Jesus asked His remaining disciples, “Will you leave Me also?”. The Apostle Peter said it best:
John 6:68 (NKJV) … “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
To have God’s presence in the valley is what matters most. One of my favorite passages in Isaiah is:
Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Why are we not to fear? Because Christ is with us. Why should we not be discouraged? Because my God is with me. He stands by my side. His hand is over me, under me, all around me. I am embraced by Him Who cannot fail. He will stoop to help ME. He will bend over to hold my hand. His nail scarred hand is in my hand. I need to know this. I need to feel this. Trials prove this.
In the midst of the trial we can look downward and moan, or we can look upwards and praise Him, inviting Him into our midst. What did Jesus say?
Come unto Me all you who are on vacation and at unburdened, and I will give you rest!
No! No! No! He said:
Matthew 11:28-29 (KJV) Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Who were Christ’s followers when He walked this earth?
The rich white collar people?
The Herod in the palace?
The self righteous Pharisees and the Scribes who thought they had it all together?
Christ’s followers were fishermen, struggling to make a living.
Christ followers were lepers who were outcast.
Christ followers where stumbling blind people.
Christ followers were hated tax collectors.
Christ’s followers were questionable women, and crippled men.
Christ’s followers were the broken. The lonely. The lost.
It is in the trials that we experience His Presence, if we would hear Him. He waits that you might come to Him. Praise Him in the trial. Billy Bray, the Cornish evangelist, used to say:
“If they were to put me in a barrel I would shout
glory to God through the bung-hole!”.
Pastor Martin Rinkart buried 4480 people in his life, many dead by war (the Thirty Years War) and epidemic. Rather than be discouraged he sought the embrace of Christ, and finding it, wrote a song in our hymnal (Page 638) Now Thank We All Our God:
Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
Trials Teach Us That We Are Not God
2 Corinthians 1:9-10 (KJV) But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:  Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
Trials draw us into a place where we cease being God, and begin to trust God as God. We are to trust in Him, the God which raises us from the dead. It is God Who gives us life, God Who grants us eternal life, and God that we should glorify forever.
In verse 10 we see three tenses that remind us of God’s great provision.
God DELIVERED us from so great a death.
We have been delivered from death, sin, and hellfire because of God’s great salvation in Christ. As we are told in 2 Timothy 1:9:
For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time–to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
God saved us – past tense. But also ..
God DOES DELIVER.
He is currently saving us, protecting us, loving us.
Psalm 46:1-5 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. 4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
God has been with me every day since the day He saved my soul. God will always be with me … even to the end.
God will yet deliver us.
What God has begun, He will not leave unfinished.
2 Timothy 1:12 (NASB) For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
God is with His people. God loves to save His people. May God lift up your hearts to Him this very day.