Introduction A. 2Cor.1:3–5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. B. Now we’re here. And I can’t tell you what a joy it is to bring you such precious messages from this letter I love so much, this letter from which I have benefitted so greatly, this letter through which God has spoken to me so powerfully! C. It might seem like I preach a lot about suffering. The fact is that the Bible talks a lot about it. D. It’s not an accident that this is how the letter begins. It sets the tone for the whole letter, for one of the charges which had been brought against Paul by those in the Corinthian church who were undermining the genuineness of his apostleship was that he had suffered too much: like Job. II. Explanation of 2Corinthians 1:3–5 A. “we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings” 1. Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous...” 2. Acts 14:22 “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 3. If the Lord Jesus suffered, we His followers will suffer too. If the world hated and rejected Him, they will hate and reject us too. (John 15:18ff.) 4. Suffering is not a sign of divine displeasure or of divine unfaithfulness! In fact, in one sense it is a sign of God’s love. And part of the outworking of our faith is acknowledging and accepting this. B. God’s comfort comes along with the suffering. 1. Pain sermons 2. What is this comfort? a. Comfort: 6 times in 3 verses b. In the context of suffering, it’s easy to think of comfort as something like anesthesia. c. But this comfort is a lot more than anesthesia. d. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16) e. PARACLETOS, or Paraclete, the word translated “Helper” in John 14:16 above. f. Jesus means Someone who is going to come and fill His shoes in His ministry to the disciples. g. This word has caused a lot of problems for translators. The problem is that we don’t have an English word big enough to translate it properly. Various terms have been used: (1) Counselor/Advocate (which is too limited because it refers mainly to the legal sphere) (2) Comforter (3) Paraclete (which is merely a transliteration of the Greek word parakletos) (4) Helper (which is the only word that makes sense in every context, but it still doesn’t capture the richness of the Greek word) h. Well, the word here in 2Cor.1 is PARACLESIS, not PARACLETOS, because it refers to the help itself as opposed to the one bringing the help. i. I don’t complain about the use of the word comfort in translating this, but it’s much more than just comfort. j. Healing, guidance, a shoulder to cry on, a morale boost, instruction, protection, companionship, correction, one who reminds us of what’s true: Whatever you need, that’s what I’m going to be. k. E.g. Your mother coming to live with you when you have your first baby (1) Your parent coming to the scene when you have your first accident (2) What we do for my dad now that he can’t do much for himself 3. However, this help God gives us when we suffer doesn’t take the suffering away. But it makes the suffering infinitely more manageable. It’s like a friend by your side when you go through serious surgery. They don’t take the surgery away — because you need the surgery, but they’re there to smooth the process and do whatever they can to help you through it. 4. There’s an ancient saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” 5. Friendships are forged in the context of need. 6. God comforts us in all our affliction, for as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 7. This is what’s so great about being weak and needy. This is how our relationship with the Lord is forged. a. Suffering actually enables us to receive God’s help and comfort. b. It’s where we meet Jesus. (1) Going to God with your pain. (2) Even when He does not remove it, He meets you with grace in the midst of it. 8. But a lot of times instead of running to God in our pain, we instead run from our pain, we try to escape from our pain instead of coming to Jesus in our pain. a. Eat, drink, drugs, TV, video games, sports, porn b. Or being preoccupied with praying that it be removed: like Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2Cor.12) 9. But when we escape the pain, we also escape the comfort. 10. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” a. It’s actually a privilege to suffer! Because of the large dividends. C. “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” 1. Not “the Father of suffering and God of all comfort” 2. Is He not the God of suffering? a. Well, He certainly ordains and engineers suffering. b. Isaiah 45:7 “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.” 3. But He doesn’t identify Himself with afflicting suffering in the same way He identifies Himself with comforting. 4. He doesn’t call Himself the God of suffering, because it would not be an accurate description of who He really is. 5. He doesn’t want to give the impression that He causes suffering in the same way He gives mercy and comfort, as if they were equally ultimate in His mind. 6. One He brings to pass in order to bring the other to pass. He brings suffering to pass IN ORDER TO bring comfort and healing and restoration to pass. 7. Here’s another way to look at it: He doesn’t delight in human suffering. He does delight in human comfort. 8. You can see this in the way God expresses Himself in His word: a. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And it says something like that hundreds of times in the OT. b. He delights in being the helper of His people. But His word never says He delights in bringing suffering. In fact, it says the opposite: c. Lam. 3:32–33 “Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” (1) “He does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” (2) Notice what this does and doesn’t say. (3) It doesn’t say that God does not afflict or grieve the children of men. He certainly does. (4) It says He doesn’t afflict or grieve the children of men FROM HIS HEART. 9. This is why we don’t speak of God as the God of suffering. a. God is a fixer, a helper, a healer. b. Why then does He cause suffering for His people? Two reasons: (1) It brings about wonderful dividends for His people. (2) The cure is better than if you never had the disease in the first place. III. Conclusion A. I hate pain, and I don’t think I’m alone. Pain sometimes makes me angry with God. 1. But what if this thing I so hate was actually one of God’s most precious gifts to me? 2. What if God instituted pain out of His great love for us? 3. What if the thing we have been cursing all along turned out to be one of our chief blessings? 4. Once man fell into sin, it was necessary to introduce pain into the world in order for man to be able to meet God, since without pain, we don’t feel need. 5. What if everything God sends, everything God ordains in our lives, is a new opportunity to meet Jesus? 6. Am I in pain? Maybe that’s good. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying so desperately to break out of my prison of pain. Maybe there’s Someone I need to meet there in that prison. 7. Isaiah 43:2–5 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you... Fear not, for I am with you.” B. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 1. Rest in the midst of trouble doesn’t just happen by itself. It happens by coming. It happens by coming to Jesus. It happens by coming to "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." It happens by calling for your daddy, your “Abba, Father!” 2. He knows our trouble. His great arms are a place of shelter from the storm. He is the God "who comforts us in all our affliction." 3. "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb.4:15-16) 4. 1Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 5. Our problems may seem big, but the Christ who strengthens us in our problems is much bigger. In this world we have tribulations, but He has overcome the world (John 16:33). 6. Even when we have forgotten our pain, He remembers it still, for He puts our tears in His bottle and writes them in His book (Ps.56:8). 7. Story about Scott and Patty going to Richmond 3 times in the first week because their daughter was in her first week of college at VCU and was very homesick. They went to be with her, to encourage her, to pray with her. But they didn’t bring her home. They didn’t say she should drop out. That’s the way God is with us. C. We left out the part about how we comfort others with the comfort we receive from God. Next week we’ll talk about how God sends suffering not only to bless us, but to bless others through us.