Thursday, 21 May 2015
Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:6
Paul’s words continue on from the thought of the previous verse. There he noted the logical chain of events from Christ’s sufferings to the sufferings of the apostles. In their sufferings, they also abounded in Christ’s consolation. In turn, he notes that there is a reason for their afflictions. It is “…for your consolation and salvation.”
One thing leads naturally to another. Paul shows this explicitly in Philippians 1 –
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14
It then is for a good purpose that the apostles were afflicted. The lessons learned by those who saw their sufferings led directly to their consolation and even salvation “which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer.” We learn by example and we can remember other’s courage during afflictions which can then strengthen us in our walk. This is a natural human pattern, be it a soldier learning from his platoon sergeant, or a cow-hand on the range learning from the older hands. To see that others can take difficulties shows us that we too, having a like nature, can take them as well.
Finally, it isn’t just sufferings that we receive benefit from. It is also times of comfort. As Paul notes, “Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” The Corinthians were able to see both sides of the coin through Paul’s afflictions and through his times of comfort. Because of this, they were able to process what happened to him and apply it to themselves and their own spiritual walk.
This progression is seen from Paul’s hand in Romans 5 –
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5.
Life application: Those who are wise will learn from those who go before them. If we pay heed to their times of trials and their times of rejoicing and grasp how they were affected by them, we can follow their examples when similar times come upon us. To think that we are experiencing something new which is unique to the human condition is naive. And to think that we can handle such an instance better than those who have already experienced them without learning from them is only begging for greater troubles than we need to face.
Lord God, help me to be wise and discerning concerning the difficulties that come my way. You gave me parents who have faced similar trials in the past. You have put mentors in my life who have also experienced things I have yet to face. Help me Lord to look to their examples of what to do and what not to do instead of just trying to do things better on my own. I know that I’ll be a lot better off if I just learn the lessons of the past and apply them to my here and now. Grant me such wisdom Lord. Amen.