|We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2Corinthians1:8-11)|
What we can agree on is that the hardship was significant: Paul experienced intense pressure that overwhelmed him and caused him to fear for his life.
There are a few things Paul takes from his own hardship:
- Being stretched causes us to rely on God and not ourselves. God is not the author of pain and hardship, but they bring us to a place where we discover our insufficiency. Adam and Eve wanted to be their own gods and so do we. None of us like being at the point that we are out of strength or out of answers or both. Hardship and trouble can jolt us out of narcissism and the all-consuming independence of ego. It put things in perspective: as cute and clever as we are, we are mortal, frail and fallible. We can't raise the dead - but God can!
- God is faithful - He will deliver us. Paul reiterates this thought four times:
- He raises the dead
- He has delivered us in the past
- He will deliver us as we put our hope in Him
- He will continue to deliver us as you pray
We can't always say how or when, but God will work in our situation!
- Prayer helps. This is a mystery and it can be brain-bending to try and figure it out. For example: Do we thwart God's plans if we fail to pray? I like to think of a son helping his dad to push the lawn-mower. Dad can and will do it by himself (the lawn needs mowing) but enjoys doing it with his son... God inspires prayer, He assists our prayers through the Holy Spirit, His Son Jesus also prays for us and God answers prayer. Prayer is more about relationship than results and God chooses to include our prayers as a factor in His working in the world. I like Paul's view: Prayer helps and by prayer we get to participate in God's deliverance.
- Thanksgiving and God's glory is important. When we are overwhelmed and come through it, it is not of ourselves, but because of God's deliverance and we should resist the temptation to pretend that it was our cuteness or cleverness that got us through. Let's give all the glory to God!
Sunday worship is a good antidote to the narcissism that threatens us, it is a good reminder of God's faithfulness in the past, present and future, it is also a place where we can pray for others and joyfully give thanks for all the times we have been delivered. Don't miss this Sunday Celebration!!!