Today’s selected reading is found in the second New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage begins with the first verse of the first chapter and continues through to the fourth verse of the second chapter. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:1-2).
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounded by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despised even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will. Yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; as also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus. And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay. Nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay” (2 Corinthians 1:12-18).
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:19-22).
“Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:23-24).
“But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Corinthians 2:1-4).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth. Having already written one epistle unto this congregation seeking to provide correction, instruction and reproof concerning reports he had heard about what was going on in their midst the apostle Paul is now impressed to send a second epistle unto this congregation. It’s actually quite intriguing to consider this second epistle written by the apostle Paul for the apostle Paul only sent two epistles to do different churches. If you take the time to read the New Testament you will discover the apostle Paul wrote two epistles unto the Corinthian congregation as well as two epistles unto the Thessalonian congregation. In total the apostle Paul wrote thirteen epistles and of those thirteen epistles there were two sent unto the Corinthian saints, two which were sent to the Thessalonian saints and two which were sent unto his dearly beloved son in the faith—Timothy. It might very well be said the apostle Paul felt a tremendous burden to write a second epistle unto the Corinthian saints to follow up on his previous epistle and it’s actually quite remarkable when you take a look at this for this epistle almost seems to suggest that the instruction, the reproof, the correction and the like which was present in the first epistle was heeded by this congregation. Oh there is something incredibly powerful about the words found in this epistle for it brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the instruction the apostle Paul gave unto the congregation and how the Corinthian congregation seemed to take heed to the words the apostle Paul had written unto them.
As you come to the beginning of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul beginning with his customary greeting—namely “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” If you read any of the epistles written by the apostle Paul you will notice how he begins each of these epistles with a customary greeting which not only provides his name but also a description of his office as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. When you read the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians you will find Sosthenes being present with him as he wrote it unto these dearly beloved saints. Upon coming to this second epistle, however, you will find that at the time of writing Timothy was present with him. At the time of this writing the apostle Paul’s dearly beloved son in the faith was with him which is actually quite fitting considering Timothy had come unto the apostle Paul in Corinth after he had arrived there upon departing from Athens. The eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts describes the apostle Paul departing from Athens and coming unto Corinth where he entered into the synagogues and reasoned together with the Jews concerning the Scriptures and the kingdom of God. When Silas and Timothy arrived unto Corinth where the apostle Paul Scripture reveals how he was pressed in the spirit and began to contend and proclaim Jesus as the Christ. It would be there in Corinth where unbelieving Jews would both blaspheme and oppose themselves and would engage in resistance against the apostle Paul and the word and doctrine he preached.
What makes the tenure of the apostle Paul in the city of Corinth so incredibly unique and powerful when you think about it is that when the unbelieving Jews rose up against him in Thessalonica the disciples and brethren brought him forth from that city and brought him unto Berea. The apostle Paul would enter into Berea and as his custom was would enter into the synagogues and preach and teach the word concerning the kingdom and that Jesus was indeed the Christ. The New Testament book of Acts, however, describes how when those same unbelieving Jews heard the apostle Paul was preaching in Berea they came unto that city as well and stirred the people up against the apostle Paul. As a direct result of the actions of these unbelieving Jews the disciples and brethren would take and send the apostle Paul from Berea lest he be overcome by the envy, the resistance, and the actions of the Jews. It would be this opposition from unbelieving Jews that would cause the apostle Paul to come unto the city of Athens. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when considering the apostle Paul in the city of Corinth is that he was no stranger to unbelieving Jews who raised themselves up against him. As early as immediately after the conversion of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus we find unbelieving Jews which were present in the city of Corinth resisting and opposing the apostle Paul—and so much so that the disciples and brethren let the apostle Paul down from one of the walls of the city in a basket. Eventually this would bring the apostle Paul unto the city of Jerusalem where Barnabas would present Saul as being changed and transformed—and not only as changed and transformed but also as a wonderful and mighty preacher of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you take the time to read the Scriptures concerning the apostle Paul you will find that in many cities and places he traveled he encountered resistance and opposition from unbelieving Jews who would blaspheme and oppose themselves. The apostle Paul would indeed enter into cities and places arguing and contending that Jesus was indeed the Christ and that He had been raised from death to life. There were, however, several cities which had within them unbelieving Jews who not only blasphemed themselves and resisted the apostle Paul and the doctrine he preached but they would also stir up the people against him. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you consider the fact that when the apostle Paul came unto the city of Jerusalem in the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts the unbelieving Jews which were in Asia would once more rise up against him and incite the people against him there in the city. Were it not for the intervention of the chief captain of the guard the apostle Paul might have been torn asunder by the unbelieving Jews and those who rose up against him. Throughout the public ministry and apostolic calling of the apostle Paul we find him experiencing this tremendous resistance, revolt and opposition of the Jews and it was this response of the Jews that would eventually cause the apostle Paul to purpose in the city of Corinth that he would go solely unto the Gentiles. Having experienced continued resistance and opposition from unbelieving Jews in many of the cities whereunto he travelled the apostle Paul would deliberately and intentionally purpose to go directly and solely unto the Gentiles. Realizing the hardness of heart and the unbelief within the hearts of many Jews in the cities whereunto he traveled the apostle Paul would purpose to preach the gospel unto the Gentiles alone.
What we find in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, however, is that despite the resistance of the Jews in the city of Corinth the Lord Jesus Christ Himself would appear unto the apostle Paul. In a vision during the night the Lord Jesus would come unto the apostle Paul and would encourage and strengthen his faith. In all reality I am absolutely and completely convinced this is something which we must needs recognize and understand when reading the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. In order to truly understand this second epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we must not only understand that which the Lord Jesus spoke unto the apostle Paul but we must also understand what would take place as a direct result of this vision from the Lord Jesus Christ unto the apostle Paul. In the eighth verse of the eighteenth chapter of the book of Acts we find that despite the Jews opposing themselves and blaspheming Crispus the chief ruler of the synagogue believed on the Lord with all his house and that many of the Corinthians who heard believed and were baptized. In the ninth verse of this particular chapter you will find the Lord speaking unto Paul in the night by a vision and it is the words the Lord spoke unto him which must needs be carefully understood. In the ninth and tenth verses of this chapter you will find the Lord Jesus instructing the apostle Paul to be not afraid but speak and hold not his peace. As if this weren’t enough the apostle Paul would also be encouraged by the Lord together with his faith as the Lord Jesus would also declare how He was with him and no man would set upon him to hurt him for He had much people in the city. These words spoken by the Lord Jesus unto the apostle Paul take on an even greater meaning when you consider the fact that immediately after reading them you will find Luke recording of the apostle Paul that he continued there in the city of Corinth a year and six months teaching the word of God among them.
There is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words which are contained therein help serve as a background and foundation for what we read in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. As you read the beginning and opening verses of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul proclaiming grace and peace unto them from God their Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ as was customary in each of his epistles. What we find immediately after this is truly astonishing and must needs be considered for it serves as the foundation and backdrop for the entire epistle. What’s more is that not only do the words we find in verses three through eleven serve as the foundation and backdrop of this epistle but they also help us to better understand the struggle and conflict the apostle Paul faced in the city of Corinth and the encouragement and instruction he received from the Lord Jesus. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that even though the Jews blasphemed and opposed themselves in the city of Corinth the apostle Paul would remain in the city laboring among the people for a year and a half. Despite the tremendous resistance he faced and experienced he would continue to remain and abide in the midst of the city without departing. This is actually something we must needs recognize and pay attention to for there are times when we experience conflict, there are times when we experience resistance, there are times when we experience struggle in certain places where we find ourselves—even places we find ourselves according to the will of the Lord Jesus.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth that despite the conflict, despite the struggle and despite the resistance from the Jews there in the city of Corinth the apostle Paul would not depart from the midst thereof. Although the disciples and brethren had helped the apostle Paul escape and depart from Damascus, from Thessalonica and from Berea when the unbelieving Jews had raised themselves up against him in opposition and resistance this would not be the case in the city of Corinth. There in the city of Corinth the apostle Paul would labor together with Aquila and Priscilla as well as Silas and Timothy. For eighteen months the apostle Paul would labor among the Corinthians teaching and preaching the word concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. It might very well be said the Lord Jesus was unwilling to allow the apostle Paul to depart from the city of Corinth as he had done in previous cities whereunto he traveled. Oh this is something we must needs recognize for there are times when we experience resistance, conflict and opposition in certain places we are present and we move forward and from those places. Much like the apostle Paul who was brought forth from Damascus, Thessalonica, and Berea as a direct result of the opposition and conflict that presented itself in these cities there are times when we are permitted to transition from certain places we experience conflict, struggle, resistance, opposition, trials, troubles and the like. There are times within our lives when we do in fact experience trials and troubles in certain places whereunto we have come and we are either forced to move forth from those places or we make the conscious and deliberate decision to transition from those places.
With this being said—if there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts it’s that there are times when we experience conflict, resistance, opposition and the like in a certain place and the Lord Jesus does not grant us permission or leave to depart from that place. The apostle Paul had already been brought forth from Thessalonica and Berea because of the resistance and opposition of the Jews and yet even though he experienced resistance and opposition from the Jews here in the city of Corinth the Lord Jesus would appear to him in the night by a vision. It would be in this vision the Lord Jesus would not only instruct the apostle Paul to be not afraid and to speak and not hold his peace but the Lord also declared unto him that there would be no man in the city who would set upon him to hurt him for He had much people in the city. Oh there is something truly incredible about the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter for it’s almost as if the Lord Jesus was not willing to allow the apostle Paul to depart from Corinth as he had been forced to depart from Thessalonica and Berea. Instead of departing from the city of Corinth because of the resistance and unbelief of the Jews the apostle Paul together with Silas and Timothy would spend a year and a half laboring among the Corinthians together with Aquila and Priscilla. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something to be said about the apostle Paul who would not only remain and abide in a place where he experienced conflict and resistance but who would do so for an extended period of time. The apostle Paul would spend a full eighteen months laboring and toiling among the Corinthian saints that he might have fruit among them—fruit that would last in the kingdom of heaven and in the realmy of eternity.
There is a reason the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts are so incredibly important and powerful when you think about them for when you come to the opening chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring and proclaiming the words “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now it would be one thing for the apostle Paul to simply stop there and bless God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ for we know that God was indeed the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we find in this epistle, however, is the apostle Paul going on to describe of this God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as being the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous truth that is found in these words for not only did the apostle Paul speak of and declare that God was the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ but He also referred to Him as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. We dare not and must not quickly move past the words which are found here for the apostle Paul declares and speaks something truly remarkable and astonishing concerning the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, however, here in this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul speaking of and describing God as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. In the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews we find the author speaking of the Lord Jesus as being the author and finisher of our faith and here in this particular passage we find the apostle Paul referring to God as “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.”
Stop for a moment and consider the fact that in the person of the living and eternal God is not only mercy but also comfort—and not merely comfort but all comfort. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that here in this passage the apostle Paul doesn’t merely refer to God as being the God of comfort but the God of “ALL” comfort. Oh I have to admit there is something truly incredible about this concept—particularly and especially when we consider the days in which we are presently living. In the days in which we have been living there is a tremendous need for the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort to be present, evident and manifested among us. There is something truly captivating about the words and language the apostle Paul uses in this particular passage for He speaks of the living God as being a God of mercy and comfort. Not only this but as you continue reading in this passage you will find that immediately after the apostle Paul describes God as the God of all comfort he goes on to speak of him as the One who comforts us in all our tribulation. What a truly awesome and glorious truth this truly is when you take the time to think about it for not only is the living God the God of ALL comfort but He also comforts us in ALL our tribulations. Oh please don’t miss the use of that single three letter word “all” for that word takes the words which the apostle Paul is speaking in this passage unto the Corinthian saints and adds an entirely new meaning to it. The apostle Paul could have referred to God as the God of comfort who comforts us in tribulation and left it at that, however, this was not the case. When writing unto the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul emphatically declared and spoke of the living God as being the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulations.
Remember the words which the apostle Paul spoke which were recorded in the New Testament book of Acts and how he declared we must needs through many tribulations and trouble enter into the kingdom of heaven. Also, remember the words the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples when He declared how in this world we would have many troubles and much tribulation but to not be afraid for He had overcome the world. There is absolutely no denying or mistaking the fact that we can and will face many tribulations and troubles in this world. It is absolutely inevitable and unmistakable concerning our time in this world and that we can and will experience trials, troubles, tribulation and the like. In all reality if we are looking for a life—particularly a life in Christ—without and apart from conflict and struggle we are sorely mistaken and perhaps are even deceived. There would be those who would think that in Christ we have and find a life absent any conflict, any struggle, any resistance, any trials, any trouble and any tribulation. The truth of the matter however is that Scripture speaks of all who are godly suffering in the flesh in this life. Oh we must needs recognize and understand the truth that living and having a life in Christ does not mean we cannot and will not experience trials, troubles, tribulation, conflict, suffering and the like. Those who come to Christ thinking and expecting themselves to somehow live a life completely absent and free from conflict and suffering are sorely mistaken, misguided and perhaps even deceived. There is something we must needs recognize and understand concerning this particular truth for all who are godly can and will suffer in this world in way, shape or another. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. IF they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
Consider also if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of this same New Testament gospel beginning to read with the fourth verse:
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).
Find here the words which are written and recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John:
“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours alsol. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:17-27).
Here also are these words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus and are recorded in the sixteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John:
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:1-11).
It is absolutely undeniable that when reading the words the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples that He prepared and made them ready for tribulation, for trouble and for trials in this life. You cannot read the four gospel narratives written within the New Testament and not encounter and come face to face with the incredible and tremendous truth surrounding the truth that in this life we can and will have many troubles and trials. Those who make the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ are such who can expect to suffer in this life and suffer in the flesh. Oh we must needs recognize the powerful truth that walking with and following the Lord Jesus is not a “Get out of suffering” free card that we can take with us wherever we go and present it how and when we want it. Those who would think they can walk with, serve and follow the Lord Jesus and not experience suffering in the flesh are those who must needs recognize and understand how sorely misguided and deceived such a notion truly is. There are those among us in this world who have made the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus because of what they can get from Him and yet they fail to recognize that walking with and following the Lord Jesus is not about what we can get but rather about what we can give up. Oh you who might be reading these words please mark these words and mark them well for walking with and following the Lord Jesus is not about what we can somehow get from Him but about what we can give up. Walking with and following the Lord Jesus has never been and will never be about what we can receive from Him but about what we can offer and deliberately and intentionally give unto Him.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the tremendous truth surrounding walking with and following the Lord Jesus and I am brought face to face with the tremendous reality that those who make the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus must needs do so because they realize what they have been asked to give up. When the Lord Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow Him, when He called James and John to follow Him, when He called Matthew to follow Him, and when He called the other disciples to follow Him Scripture describes how these disciples immediately gave up and left everything behind that they might walk with and follow Him. James and John left their father Zebedee, the boat that had perhaps been an integral and important part of their life, their nets, and their life as fishermen that they might walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. Peter and his brother Andrew left their boat, left their nets, left their life as fishermen that they might walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. The reason the rich young ruler departed from the presence of the Lord Jesus sorrowful is because he had been invited into a place of delivering himself from those things which were consuming his heart. Scripture reveals how the Lord Jesus invited the rich young ruler to go and sell all he had, to give to the poor and then to come and follow Him that he might have treasure in heaven. The rich young ruler was given the opportunity to deliver himself from that which would choke the life out of his heart and soul and to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus and that which the Lord Jesus had asked him to give up was far too much for him to part with.
If there is one thing we must needs recognize when considering walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ it’s that it is not about what we can receive from Him as much as it what we can give up and offer unto Him. Remember the apostle Peter had spoken unto the Lord Jesus declaring how they had given up everything to follow Him. We know from Scripture that Jesus responded to Simon by emphatically declaring unto him that there was not a single person who gave up anything in this life who did not receive infinitely more from his Father who was in heaven in the next. What we must needs recognize is that while it is indeed true that walking with and following the Lord Jesus is indeed about what we can give up in this life we dare not assume that what we receive from Him can and will be experienced in this life. There are men and women who are looking to experience and enjoy the reciprocated blessings from the Father after giving up everything to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus in this life and yet many are shocked to find that it is not experienced in this life but in the next. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs understand when considering the words found in this passage of Scripture is that walking with and following the Lord Jesus has never been and will never be about what we can receive from Him in this life to somehow satisfy and gratify our desires, our pleasures, our wants and our needs. We have been instructed and invited by the Lord Jesus to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto us, however, we must needs recognize and understand that we have in this life been promised what we need and not necessarily what we want or think we should have. The kingdom of heaven and walking with and following the Lord Jesus is indeed about giving up that which we held and hold on to so dearly in this life that we might truly follow Him without anything holding us back.
Scripture makes it very clear that walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ does not eliminate suffering, struggle, conflict, opposition and resistance in this life. In fact I would dare say that walking with and following the Lord Jesus invites conflict, struggle, trials, troubles and tribulation in this life. Despite our best efforts to somehow walk with and follow the Lord Jesus absent conflict, struggle, suffering, trials and tribulation the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven and even the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the first and opening epistle written unto the saints which were scattered help to illustrate this point all the more. If we are to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ we must needs prepare and make ourselves ready to face and experience conflict and struggle in this life. Those who walk with the Lord Jesus hoping, expecting and somehow thinking they cannot and will not face any suffering in this life are such who might very well be classified as those who are offended when tribulation, persecution, suffering, conflict, opposition, troubles and trials enter into their lives. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider Jesus’ interpretation and explanation of the parable of the sower as well as the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle he wrote unto the saints who were scattered:
“…Hear ye therefore the parable of the sowr. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anone with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received the seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’ sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glory God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that he have suffered a while, amek you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).
If there is one thing I so absolutely love about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture in this second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints it’s how the apostle Paul not only referred to as the living God as the God of all comfort but how that comfort is available in all our tribulation. The words and language presented here in this passage seems to suggest that in this life we can and will experience much tribulation, trials, and troubles and how the God of all comfort comforts us in each and every one of those tribulations. In all reality I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of this particular epistle for when you turn and direct your attention to those chapters you will find the apostle Paul speaking of the tribulations, the troubles, the trials and the tremendous suffering, conflict and struggles he faced in this life. What’s more is how incredibly astounding it is for the apostle Paul to write these words—particularly and especially unto the Corinthians for while he was present among them the Lord Jesus appeared unto him and not only instructed him but also encouraged him in his faith. There in the midst of the city of Corinth where the apostle Paul would experience the resistance and opposition of the Jews the Lord Jesus would appear unto Him in a vision during the night declaring unto him that he was with him and that no man would set upon him to hurt him. This is even more remarkable when you consider the fact that when the apostle Paul was bound in the city of Jerusalem and in Caesarea the Lord Jesus once more appeared unto him and declared that as he had borne witness of him in Jerusalem so also must he bear witness of Him in the city of Rome. Oh you cannot read the New Testament book of Acts without witnessing the Lord Jesus appearing unto the apostle Paul in Jerusalem and in Corinth as well as the angel of the Lord appearing unto him in the midst of the sea as they were tossed to and fro by the Euroclydon—a tempestuous storm that threatened the lives of all those who were aboard the ship.
The apostle Paul in this opening chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints not only declared the living God was the God of all comfort and not only declared of the living God that He comforts us in all our tribulation but he would also go on to describe the comfort we receive from the living God must needs have an outlet and extension as we comfort those who are in any trouble. ALL OUR TRIBULATION! ANY TROUBLE! Oh please don’t miss the incredible significance of what is found within these words for the words presented here call and draw our attention to the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the comfort we receive from the Lord in all our tribulation is the foundation and basis wherewith we comfort all who are in any trouble. Knowing the comfort we ourselves have received from the God of all comfort in our own tribulations we are able to take what we have received and provide it unto others. Knowing that all comfort has its source in the living God and knowing that we have been comforted in all our tribulation we are then able to comfort those who find themselves in any trouble. Oh it’s interesting and worth noting the apostle Paul did not specifically mention the tribulation(s) we face in this life nor even the trouble(s) we experience while in these mortal tents of flesh and blood. In all reality I find this to be absolutely and incredibly astounding when you take the time to think about it for it leaves it open ended to cover absolutely anything and everything we experience. Not only this but as you continue reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this epistle you will find in the fourth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth chapters powerful language concerning the struggles, the conflicts, the trials and tribulations we face in this life. Consider the following words which the apostle Paul wrote in this very same epistle beginning with what is found in the fourth chapter:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus ahll raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the thigns which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when you obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
“I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft, of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ, above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) How that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
If you continue reading the words the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture you will find him going on to speak of the suffering of Christ abiding in them so that they conslation abounded by Christ. Furthermore the apostle Paul would go on to declare that if they were be afflicted it was for their consolation and salvation which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which they suffered. The apostle Paul would then go on to describe how their hope of them was steadfast knowing that as they were partakers of the sufferings so also would they be partakers of the consolation. This would immediately be followed by the apostle Paul speaking unto them of the trouble which came upon them in Asia when they were pressed out of measure above strength and even despaired of life. Paul goes on to write how they had the sentence of death in themselves that they should not trust in themselves but in God who raises the dead. It was this God who delivered them from so great a death and continues to deliver—the God in whom we trust will yet deliver us out of all our trials, troubles, and tribulations. Oh remember the words of the psalmist in the Old Testament who declared that many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth for everything in Scripture seems to point to the tremendous truth that we can and will face countless trials, troubles and tribulations in this life. Scripture seems to indicate that in this world we will have many troubles and yet that we are not to fear for the Lord Jesus has overcome the world. It was the apostle Peter who instructed the saints not to be surprised or shocked by their sufferings as though some strange thing were happening in their lives. Not only this but the apostle Peter also declared concerning the saints that our brethren across the world are enduring and facing the same struggles, conflict, suffering and affliction we face in this life. Oh that we would recognize and understand the powerful truth that suffering never takes place in a vacuum nor in a bubble but touches the saints of God as one body united together under one head.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words found in this passage of Scripture and how it perfectly demonstrates the tremendous truth that suffering has never and will never take place in a vacuum or a bubble. It was the apostle Paul who in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints declared that when one member suffers every member suffers and when one member rejoices every member rejoices. It was the apostle who in this second epistle spoke of that brother or sister who suffered and he did not identify with their suffering. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that suffering has never and will never take place in a vacuum or bubble and that when one member suffers all the members suffer. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are able to identify with the sufferings, the struggles, the conflicts, the tribulations, the troubles and the trials others face. The words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture not only speak of “all our tribulation” but also of “them which are in any trouble.” These words seem to suggest and speak of an intrinsic link and connection that exists between the tribulation(s) we ourselves face and the trouble(s) which others experience and how their suffering and our suffering are not isolated events exclusive and independent to us. There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to this for we must needs recognize and understand that we have indeed been called to be vessels and conduits of the comfort and consolation of the Lord Jesus Christ who is a faithful high priest who is and who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Although the Lord Jesus can never and will never suffer in the flesh again He is still a merciful and faithful high priest who can indeed be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Oh we must needs recognize and understand that for in this world we can and will have many trials and troubles and we have been called to be vessels and conduits of the consolation and comfort of the Lord Jesus Christ.