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Monday, March 31, 2014

Worship and Suffering Pt 3; 2 Corinthians 1.3-11

{The Sermon Audio File is here for you to listen to while reading through the notes below}
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Worship and Suffering - 2 Corinthians 1.3-11
{As we wade into this passage, Father, show us things we easily miss, and drive home the great things we find it hard to believe. Amen}

The fictitious world many Christians and many Churches seem to be living in is reflected in books and preachers from Houston, Dallas, Tulsa and Tampa. They promote the notion that if you follow their plans, repeat their “Faith-Formulas”, kneel on their little Jesus Prayer Rugs, etc., and then everything will go A-OK. And many churches act as if the dirty little secret we should never talk about is suffering, and so their worship and communal-psyche is all PolyAnna-ish, running around looking for the glad verses in the Bible and ignoring the harsh, scummy, devilish realty that muck happens and it happens to God’s people – even the most godly and most saintly. And that’s what you see here in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthian Christians. So we’re going to deal in detail with 1.3-11, and see the crud Paul sloshed through and the constant remedy Paul held on to.

1. General Principle: 1.3-5.
Who is God? (3). Paul, just like many of the Psalms, begins with a confession of uncrushable, unrevisable, indestructible, unstoppable facts-Here’s who God is!

Why this Crud? (4). Then Paul describes clearly that there *is* a purpose for this crud, this grief, this pain, this betrayal, this agony. It is not senseless, pointless nor futile. Because of the God declared in v.3, Paul has to see things the way he does in v.4. This is hope (the same kind of hope echoed in Psalm 94.18-19), and hope is the Christian virtue of defiance! Defiance against hopelessness and the hollow despair of a rootless age.

Where is God? (5). Here we enter a whole new realm. Almost every religion I can think of views God as distant from suffering, far away. Christianity is the only religion that says that by the incarnation God is enmeshed in it. God is in the upper room knowing that Judas is about to betray Him. God is in the garden, almost overpowered by the darkness of hellish suffering, staggering under the weight of doom. God is being slaughtered on the cross, has become the target for every human cruelty that can be offered in the name of religion, justice and efficiency! And God is, 3 days later, raised from the grave, triumphant over death, devil and doom. So where is God in your trouble? If you belong to Him, united to Him, then He is right there in the middle of it. and your grief and grit and gore and agony is somehow His and His consoling triumph is yours! 2 Corinthians 4.7-12 and 4.16-18

2. Relational Example: 1.6-7
Dynamic Fellowship of crud and consolation. Paul applies the above and shows how we, the Church, are knit together if we are knit to Christ; and crud and consolation flow back and forth, in and out. [a] you are not the only one to have walked thru the valley of the shadow of death and [b] God helping Paul is an encouragement to fuel our confidence in this God; to fortify in us the Christian virtue of defiance.

3. Personal Experience: 8-11
Painful Particular (8-9a). “Utterly burdened beyond our strength” “despaired of life itself” “and received the sentence of death” “deadly peril” (10a). This moment, this condition Paul is describing is the black hole that sucks all confidence dry and spits out the desiccated bones of death onto the beach. This is the moment when all personal positive mental attitudes melt into one molten mass. No resource left in me. No breath left.

Purposeful Particular (9b). This stripping down to the mere metal, the sanding down through the old finish to the bare, naked wood of Paul’s soul was to raise him up with utter confidence in the God who raises the dead. In the words of Ed Welch in his book “Running Scared”, this is God’s deliverance after hope dies…The kind of deliverance God works in the resurrection, after hope dies on the cross of Christ.

Hope in the Particular (10-11). This resurrects Paul’s confidence in God, the God he started out confessing in v.3-5. His reliance is and continues to be in the face of future crises, in the God who raises and will raise from the dead. Now Paul can be a weak, fragile, unadorned, resurrected instrument in the hands of the crushed, crucified, resurrected Redeemer. 12.9-10


The message of 3-11 is clear: Crud happens and Christ is deep in it with us! By our union with Christ, then these sufferings are Christ’s suffering, and wrapped up in Him. He gives it reason and He is the remedy (“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;” Isaiah 53.4a)! The goal is 2 fold: (1) to bring us to cast off our false gods and thrust our confidence onto Him. Here’s what I mean: I want what the serpent promised Eve-I want to be god. I want to be the focal point of pleasure; I want to be God’s dumping ground of peace; I want to be the center of God‘s existence! I want ! But the hot, melting event that is plowing up your heart is the opportunity God gives you to come clean and own up to your idolatry and self-centeredness and turn back to Him [thus, suffering is a worship issue!!!]. (2) That In this dynamic fellowship of crud and consolation, you are tasked with being the weak, fragile, unadorned instruments of healing and joy and hope and defiance in the crushed, crucified, resurrected hands of the Redeemer. “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6.2)! 

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