Thursday, November 8, 2012

Good suffering?

You gotta get up early for this one...
     I was looking at 2 Corinthians 1 and mulling over a post on suffering... the content of the chapter is pretty straightforward, and many superior expositors to me (in other words, just about everybody!) have profitably dealt with that topic.  But one nugget/connection did pop its head out of the text as I looked, and I thought it worthy of passing on to you...
     "For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation..." (2 Cor 1:5-6)  Paul's immediate meaning in context is the particular struggle/trial he had recently endured (which is unknown to us) and was a rich source of ammunition for his enemies;  their logic was that of many even today:  [good things] happen to good people, and tragedy to the wicked.  So Paul's affliction was, to them, proof positive of his counterfeit calling and authority.  In fact, the opposite was true:  God's sovereign burden of pain on Paul (and on us) only made him more qualified to minister.  He was now tailored to pass on God's comfort to all saints in pain (vss. 6-7), and more exclusively reliant on God's strength, as he was forcefully convinced of his own inadequacy (vss. 8-9).
Panning the river of God's Word
     So where's the nugget?  I was struck at the equivalency between Christ and Paul, and thus Christ and us...  Christ suffered to benefit others.  The character of His pain was sacrificial, and while He did have God's glory as His primary motivation, our "comfort and salvation" took precedence over His.  The upshot, I believe, is that as a key component of our "being transformed into the same image" (2 Cor 3:18) of Christ, God wills that we suffer for the benefit of others.  This conforming suffering can take many forms, even in our modern world:  the typical joys of parenting (placing midnight feedings and nightmares above a good night's sleep for you!), the good but hard discipling that should take place in our church body, the quiet patience displayed in the face of abuse and scorn.  It is fitting that God makes us, just like He did with Christ, perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10).  Thus if we adopt Christ's mindset as ours, and meditate on the end result of our predestined pain (our sanctification and joy in Christ supremely), then we enjoy the comfort He did, even on the Cross, namely the Person of the Holy Spirit... He isn't called "the Comforter" for nothing!  This is what Paul experienced, and what how he blessed the Corinthians;  may we be forged into beneficial sufferers.

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