Text: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Introduction: A number of years ago we went through a difficult time. Katrina and I took a getaway trip to Chicago. We stayed at the Westin Water Tower, and every morning I went down to the courtyard at the Hancock Building, got a cup of coffee, and read through 2 Corinthians. Seldom has a book in the Bible spoken to me like that. I felt as though the Lord placed 2 Corinthians in the Bible just to be there for me during those days. In 2 Corinthians, Paul was very frustrated in ministry and he talked about it quite openly. It is the most autobiographical of his writings. He really opens his pastor’s heart and shared his frustrations and aggravations and disappoints and struggles and pain. If you are going through frustration in your life, I’d recommend living for a while in 2 Corinthians. If I could memorize any one book of the Bible, I think it’d either be Ephesians or 2 Corinthians. I’d love to know this entire book by heart. Paul resorts to honest self-disclosure as he describes his experiences. Let me show you some examples here of Paul self-description of his frustration.
Paul didn’t wallow in his frustration. He handled it in a spiritual way. One of the best summaries of his attitude is at the beginning of the book—the five verses that make up 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
1. Practice Praise – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (v. 3). Compare this to Paul’s opening of the Ephesians letter in Ephesians 1:3-10. These two letters were written to the two churches in which Paul most invested himself and his time. One was a disaster; the other exemplary. But in writing to them, Paul began both letters on the same note—praise! Some days are good and some not so good; but we can always begin with praise.
2. Draw from the Comforting Ministry of the Comforter – “…who comforts us in all our affliction” (v. 4a). When I was a boy, my parents commissioned a desk for me for my birthday. My Uncle Tom, who was a craftsman and woodworker, made a students desk from walnut. I don’t remember how old I was, but I was only a boy. The thing I remember about it is that my parents wouldn’t let me go into my room. They said there was a surprise there for me, but my Uncle Tom gave it away when he dropped by and asked me if I liked my new desk. I later learned that my some of my other relatives were upset that my parents had given me a desk for my birthday instead of a toy or a bicycle or something. But they knew what they were doing. I still have that little desk, and now that we have an empty nest and the kids are gone, I’ve put it in a little alcove in one of the upstairs bedrooms. There I begin and end almost every morning at my old desk with my open Bible. I’m not looking for sermons. I’m not studying for books. I just want to stay fresh in the Scripture, for that’s how God comforts us. You may not have a childhood desk or a quiet alcove in your house, but somehow you need a place and time of quiet solitude each day to feed on the Scripture and draw in the comfort of God.
3. Recycle God’s Comfort to Others – “…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” (v. 4b).
4. Think in Terms of Christ’s Abundant Life – “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we hare abundantly in comfort too” (v. 5). Jesus came to give us life and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10). Paul had an interesting twist to that verse, saying that the abundant life of Jesus included abundant suffering but also abundant comfort. For a great blessing, look up the occurrences of the word “abundant” in the Bible. It occurs over 100 times in the English Standard Version. Check out these references:
- Psalm 31:19
- Psalm 37:11
- Isaiah 33:6
- Isaiah 55:7
- John 10:10
- Romans 5:17
- Ephesians 3:20
5. Choose to Exercise Patient Endurance – “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (v. 6). The word “endurance” comes from the word “endure,” which means “to hold out against, to undergo. Sometimes there is no easy way out of a situation, and you have to “endure” until the frustration resolves itself.
6. Think Often of Heaven – “Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” (v. 7). Set your minds on things above (Colossians 3:1). Read and study Revelation 21-22. Paul loved the word “hope.” See what he later said in 2 Corinthians 4:17, and compare it to Romans 8:18.
Conclusion: I’d like to close by telling you the story of a surgeon named Evan O’Neill Kane. This was in the 1920s when medical science was advancing in terms of surgery and anesthesia, and Dr. Kane was renowned in his hometown of Kane, Pennsylvania, which was named for his father, a Major General in the Civil War and a prominent abolitionist. Dr. Kane’s mother was a physician, which was unusual at the time.
Well, Dr. Kane was convinced that too many patients were being put to sleep during surgery when localized anesthesia should be used. He thought the hazards of general anesthesia were underestimated, and he suggested that many surgeries could be performed using only a local anesthesia.
Of course, many patients – I would be one of them – would rather be asleep during an operation. I don’t want to be awake and aware of my own surgery. But Dr. Kane set out to teach us skeptics a lesson.
During his distinguished career, Dr. Kane had performed nearly 4,000 appendectomies. And so Dr. Kane decided he would perform his next appendectomy using only local anesthesia. On February 15, 1921, the patient was rolled into the operating room. Dr. Kane administered local anesthesia and went to work. He deftly cut open the skin and tissues, found and removed the appendix, clamped the blood vessels, and the man was sewed up. The patient experienced only minor discomfort and experienced a complete recovery and was released from the hospital two days later.
The name of the patient, by the way, was Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane. The doctor and the patient were the same. He propped himself up on the operating table, with three other doctors present in case something went wrong. He operated on himself and removed his own appendix. And he proved his point by creating a story for the medical textbooks for decades to come.
My point is that sometimes we have to operate on ourselves. Sometimes under the guidance of the Great Physician, we have to open ourselves up, look at ourselves, improve ourselves, and help ourselves be healthier. We need to humble ourselves. We need to edify ourselves. We need to encourage ourselves in the Lord. We need to turn frustrations into fitness by practicing praise, drawing comfort from the Lord, recycling His comfort to others, thinking in terms of Christ and His abundant life, exercising patient endurance, and thinking about heaven.