Posts Tagged With: dependence

2 Corinthians 1: Humbled by Suffering

Paul knew his fair share of suffering during his life.  We will hear about a lot of this in 2 Corinthians.  Paul also knew that the Corinthian Christians had and were going to face sufferings of various kinds.   We all do.  It is part of the human condition.

Naturally any time suffering is present we ask that nagging question why.  The truth of the matter is that there are many reasons why we suffer, and no one reason can explain all cases of suffering.  Sometimes we may have no clue whatsoever for why we suffer.

Paul shares with us what he had determined was the reason for his suffering, at least in the situation he was discussing:

You see, my dear family, we don’t want to keep you in the dark about the suffering we went through in Asia.  The load we had to carry was far too heavy for us; it got to the point where we gave up on life itself.  Yes: deep inside ourselves we received the death sentence. This was to stop us relying on ourselves, and to make us rely on the God who raises the dead. (1:8-9)

It would appear that at least sometimes God brings or at least uses hard times to humble our pride and cause us to face our own inadequacy.  Only then are we ready to really let God take over.

When my sons were quite young — toddlers, I guess — they would sit down determined to fix a toy, unravel some string, or do up a button. I would offer to help but they would have nothing to do with it.  Most of the time all that happened from their attempt at independence was that the toy became more broken, the string more tangled, or the button remained unbuttoned.  Only when they were thoroughly frustrated would they come to me for help.  It could have been much easier, but they had to learn their limits.  Sometimes we are no different from my sons: independent to a fault, only to end with frustration. Sometimes suffering is intended to show us we can’t do everything ourselves.

Paul also knows that no matter how much suffering may come our way there is as much or more comfort available in God as well.

Just as we have an overflowing share of the Messiah’s suffering, you see, so we have an overflowing share in comfort through the Messiah. (1:5)

God is willing to let us fall until we realize we can’t do life on our own.  But this same God who wants us to learn a lesson is also right there to bandage our wounds, help us get up, and carry us along.  God is as much a comforter as a teacher and master.

What caught your eye in a new way in this chapter?

Categories: 2 Corinthians | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

1 Corinthians 12: Edification, Not Competition

Have you ever met people who can turn anything in a competition?

My two sons are this way.  They race to get to the supper table first.  The race to see who can get in the front seat of the car first.  They one-up each other when tell stories about the day.  Everything is a contest to prove one is better than the other.  I have also watched with frustration the tears and lashing out that comes when one does not win or measure up or gets pushed down so the other can stand tall.

The Corinthian Christians were a whole lot like my sons.  Everything in the church had become a contest for superiority.  Who is the wisest, the most articulate, the most respected in society?  Who has the best education?  Who follows the best leader?  Who is a part of the best group within this fragmented church?  Who can show the most grace?  Who has the best food for the Lord’s Supper (a true meal at that time)?

Now it was the Holy Spirit, this great gift of God, given to us to make us holy and pure.  Yet the gifts of the Spirit were being used to create distinctions and airs of superiority.  How spiritual a person was had even become something that puffed up the Corinthians.

Paul reminds them that the whole point of the outpouring of the Spirit and the gifts that come with the Spirit is so “that all may benefit” (12:7).  They are meant to unify and draw people closer together in dependence, not split apart in competition.  There may be many different parts or “members” but there is only one “body” (12:20).  They together make up “the Messiah’s body” (12:27) and they need each other.  As we often see in the Bible, this point is emphasized by the use of repetition.  The word “all” is used 8 times.  “Same” occurs 7 times.  Ten times the word “one” is used to mean a complete entity.  Last, the word “whole” is repeated 3 times.  Let there be no mistake, Christians exist to be a part of something far bigger than what they can create themselves.

Then Paul ends this chapter in the most unexpected and seemingly contradictory way:

You should be eager for the better kinds of gifts.  Now I’m going to show you a better way, a much better way. (12:31)

Three times Paul uses the word “better.”  But if you say something is better to a bunch of hyper-competitive, pompous, attention-seekers of course they are going to want it.  Maybe this is something else they can use to divide and puff up.  What is this better thing?  What could be better than the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit?

What did not notice in this chapter? 

Categories: 1 Corinthians | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.