2 Corinthians 1-7
As you began Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth this week, I hope you noticed a change in tone. Paul’s relationship with the church in Corinth has become strained, and in this letter, he is working to set things to rights again (notice, for example, his reference to “not making another painful visit” in 2:1). And yet in the midst of this somewhat tense situation, we see incredible themes in this letter that speak so powerfully to us today.
When Paul speaks of his depression and suffering in 1:8-11, I find encouragement for challenges in my own life. Clearly, following Jesus faithfully does not mean that everything will be sunshine and rainbows; in fact, we can expect to have seasons of extreme difficulty and trial (like Paul did here, or like Jesus did in Gethsemane). The presence of those trials does not invalidate our faith; rather, it affirms that we have the opportunity to reveal our devotion and trust in Jesus even when it is most difficult to do so.
For those who are facing illness or sorrow or even end-of-life issues, the words of 4:16-5:4 are a challenge and comfort. Whatever the magnitude of our sorrow in this life, it is but “a slight, momentary affliction preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” This is the great Christian hope; not that we will be spared suffering, but that when Christ returns and raises us to new life with him, all our suffering will be insignificant compared to the joy he will freely give. So Paul, like many Christians, wrestles with the twin desires of faith. He wants to serve God and people in this life, and he longs for that heavenly life of pure joy. How does your understanding of the promise of heaven help you live faithfully today?
In 7:10, Paul asserts that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” As you reflect on your sins and shortcomings, do you respond to them with a godly grief that leads to change and life, or a worldly grief that leads to shame and that cycle of sin, repent, repeat? What would godly grief look like in your life?
2 Corinthians 8-13
Paul speaks a good deal in these chapters about generosity, as he is taking a major collection (offering) from his congregations to support the church in Jerusalem.
Also, he continues to defend himself against some of the accusations of the church. Notice, that when Paul boasts, he focuses on how he has suffered for the gospel. Why does he brag about this, instead of his accomplishments?
Keep at your reading! You’re doing great :)
Grace and Peace,