Note from Jesus
Dear Precious Child of the Father,
My people have had to face hostile trials for their faith all throughout history. I’m not talking about the challenges, agonies, and suffering that sometimes go with being mortal or about loving broken people who can disappoint you. These difficulties are part of being human. These burdens of mortality are part of the reason I came to earth and lived among you as one of you (Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 4:14-16). The trials I am addressing today are ostracism, the seizure of property, the loss of jobs, imprisonment, beatings, persecutions, and martyrdom because you entrust your life to Me.
I want you to read and be changed by what Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians. I want you to notice what is in today’s verses as well as in the parts of 2 Corinthians you will be reading over the next several days. Paul faced many difficult challenges in his life of ministry (2 Corinthians 11:16-30). Some of these difficult challenges nearly cost him his life (Acts 9:22-31; Acts 14:19-20; Acts 23:12-35) years before his actual death (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
There are things in 2 Corinthians that Paul wrote after having faced severe challenges in Asia Minor, especially in Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 1 Corinthians 15:32). He was close to losing his life and endured many hardships that are not reported to you in the book of Acts. But if you carefully read Acts and 1 and 2 Corinthians, you get a glimpse of his living through very difficult ordeals while faithfully serving Me and My people. Paul came to realize that he had no power to protect his own life or to deliver himself from death. He had no choice but to rely on Us — Father, Son, and Spirit — to deliver him from death and deliver him back to ministry.
In the middle of his horrible ordeals and in spite of the long time he had spent in Corinth, Paul felt the need to explain and defend himself to the Corinthians. He explained how the money for the church in Jerusalem was being handled (2 Corinthians 8:10-24) “so that no one can claim that we [Paul and those with him] are mishandling the funds we’ve collected” (2 Corinthians 8:20). He explained the change in his plans to visit Corinth and that he was sincere in wanting to be with the Christians there again (2 Corinthians 1:12-24). He defended himself as being really as good of an apostle as those who were claiming to be “super apostles” — also called “great emissaries” (2 Corinthians 11:5 The Voice). In particular, he explained that his message and God’s power were the important things. It was not important that he was not an imposing physical presence, not as accomplished an orator, or not as successful by human standards as these “super apostles” who demanded support from the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 10:1-12; 2 Corinthians 11:4-20).
Paul demonstrated in 2 Corinthians the character of a true Christian leader. This person finds his or her sufficiency in Me by serving like Me, depending upon Me, and living for Me. A leader’s outward appearance, charisma, and worldly success are not indicative of being My chosen instrument. Too often, because of the representations of Me in your movies and paintings, people forget the great prophet Isaiah’s statements about Me as the Suffering Servant of the Lord:
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
(Isaiah 53:2-3 NIV)
When Paul spoke of his qualifications as an apostle, he pointed to Me as the Suffering Servant of the Lord. The Corinthians were being lured away by those who appeared to be very talented and charismatic leaders. These false leaders called themselves “super apostles.” Paul challenged the Corinthians to see that their “super apostles” did not measure up to My life and ministry as the Suffering Servant of the Lord. My strength is made perfect in those recognizing their weaknesses, those who know that their strength is found in trusting in My power and relying on Me as their all-sufficient Lord!
Verses to Live
As you enter into the world of 2 Corinthians in the third passage below, I want you to understand the path that Paul had endured. He had walked a very difficult path as he journeyed through Ephesus, other parts of Asia Minor, and Macedonia, as noted in the first two passages. In the end, Paul realized that there was only One on Whom he could truly depend. He discovered that he could trust “solely in God, Who possesses the power to raise the dead”!
As soon as the uproar ended [in Ephesus], Paul gathered the disciples together, encouraged them once more, said farewell, and left on foot. He decided to pass through Macedonia, encouraging believers wherever he found them, and came to Greece. He spent three months there, and then he planned to set sail once again for Syria. But he learned that a group of Jewish opponents was plotting to kill him, so he decided to travel through Macedonia.
And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I [Paul] face death every day — yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
(1 Corinthians 15:30-32 NIV)
Paul, an emissary of Jesus the Anointed pressed into service by the will of God, and our brother Timothy to God’s church that gathers in Corinth and all the saints in the region of Achaia.
May grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, surround you.
All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. For even as His suffering continues to flood over us, through the Anointed we experience the wealth of His comfort just the same. If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share, unshaken and unshakable. That’s because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so you will also share in our comfort.
My brothers and sisters, we have to tell you that when we were in Asia the troubles we faced were nearly more than we could handle. The burdens we bore nearly crushed us. Our strength dwindled to nothing. For a while, we weren’t sure we would make it through the whole ordeal. We thought we would have to serve out our death sentences right then and there. As a result, we realized that we could no longer rely on ourselves and that we must trust solely in God, Who possesses the power to raise the dead. Miraculously God Himself delivered us from the cold hands of death. We again place our hope in Him alone, and we know He will deliver us. Join us in this work. Lend us a hand through prayer so that many will give thanks for the gift that comes to us when God answers the prayers of so many.
(2 Corinthians 1:1-11)
Response in Prayer
O Father, give me a faith like Paul’s faith. Help me develop the courage that comes from depending solely on You, the One Who raises the dead and Who pours resurrection power into the lives of Your children. I ask this humbly in Jesus’ name. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.