A Voice in the
Re: Hope for Sufferings?
"And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the comfort." (2Co1:7)
Please, before we get into these thoughts, read this passage: vs3-7+
What is Paul saying here? That he 'hopes' for Corinth to have sufferings? That he 'wishes' this for them?
Jacob says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfecting work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (Jac1:2-4)
How is love tested? How are the depths of compassion plummeted? How is the strength of something ascertained? How is a person's limits of endurance discovered? How is a person's breaking point found?
I've not been in the military (the Lord kept me from scenarios of shedding blood because He had another purpose for my life); but have heard and read that, depending on which branch, and what specific service a person goes into, the training can be downright excruciating. They push their bodies and minds to the limits...do they have what it takes for those special ops missions? What if they were captured? Some go through 'training' to both 'experience' what torture might be like, as well as to determine whether they have what it takes to bear up under it. If they don't have what it takes, they don't get assigned.
How is the strength of a bolt or wire ascertained? By 'stressing' them. A wire is stretched until it breaks, and measurements taken. A bolt is stressed until it snaps, or the threads strip, etc. Does it meet the design criteria for its intended application?
How do you know another's compassion for you? How 'low' were you when they reached down and offered you their hand? How messed up were you? How despicable? How undesireable? Maybe in their compassion they slapped you in the face till you were silly...getting your attention? Shaking you till it hurt, to get you to see reason?
What is the depth of another's love for you? How badly had you hurt them, and they were still there? What dirty, disgusting, filthy, vile things did they know about you, but they stuck by your side?
With wire and bolts representative 'samples' are destroyed to test a 'batch' of product; when you go to the store to buy wire or bolts, you are really buying untested product; but they are assumed to be good, because samples from their batch were tested, and it was assumed the entire batch was, thus, good.
But when it comes to compassion and love, we are talking about -actual- 'people'. How do I know God's love for me? Because I was at a certain 'bottom' point in my life, and He was 'there' with me. If I had life to do over, would I again make the same life choices (sin) that took me to that 'bottom' place? OF COURSE NOT! But also, if I hadn't been there, would I know God's love in the same way I do now? Possibly. But it would not be the same. For those who love God, God certainly -does- have a way of making "all things work together for good" (Rom8:28) I am living proof of it.
Paul speaks of the "sufferings of Christ" that "abound". (vs5) Notice the same verse also says, "our comfort also abounds through Christ".
A person who is sitting on the side-lines has nobody cheering for them, encouraging them on. Nobody says, "You go! Way to go! You can do it! Stand there! Sit there! Relax! Keep at it! You can do it!" And then, when they are finished sitting/standing, to gather around, patting them on the shoulder, "Hip, hip, hooray! For he's a jolly good fellow..!!" etc Silly!!
The one who is cheered along is the one whose lungs are ready to burst, their muscles are aching, they have just pulled a tendon but they are going anyway even though the pain is shooting up their leg. And when they get to the finish line, they collapse in total exhaustion. But they also got the cheers, yells, claps, shouts, praise...and triumph. Would they have gotten those accolades sitting on the bench? Well...ask the person sitting there. How many did he receive?
Paul also says, "Now if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation, being effective in the endurance of the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are encouraged, it is for your comfort and salvation." (vs6)
Whatever we might understand about the pagan associations to the Olympic games, Paul spoke of them, so we can, too: there is something "Gold" athletes typically respond, and you see it in their faces as they stand on the podium with their national anthem being played. They typically speak of the joy and emotions at hearing -their- national anthem being played. They went through all that excruciation (just described a couple paragraphs above) and received praise for themselves. But they also swell with pride on behalf of their nation. They went through all that pain, not only for their own glory, but also for the glory of their homeland.
Well...as any individual Believer may suffer affliction because of Christ, they do it also for their 'nation', the Church... the Kingdom of Heaven. Their praise is for themselves (1co9:24), but also for the entity they represent before the great "cloud of witnesses". (Heb12:1) The saints who have gone before, and the angels are cheering us; but satan and his demons are 'booing' us.
Paul's afflictions were on behalf of Christ, as he would say, Filling up what was "lacking in the afflictions of Christ, on behalf of His body, which is the Church" (Col1:24) But as the Church at Corinth was apparently beginning to experience some afflictions, Paul encourages them, that while there may be affliction, there is also the resultant "comfort". And, ooooh what a comfort it is, too!
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Rom11:33)
Thus, as Jacob says, to be "joyful" at afflictions. The early Church held in high regard those who risked their lives for Christ. (Ac15:26) If you see affliction coming, welcome it and embrace it; knowing that Christ's love, comfort, strength, growth and wisdom (and so much more) follow. Just pray for endurance. (Heb10:36)