After some intense instruction concerning the cost of discipleship in Pauls second letter to the Corinthians, he speaks a blessing. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” These are the closing words of the letter.
In prior notes, Paul had talked about the toughness of ministry entrusted to him. Prison, flog, left for dead, reputation challenge, multiple times lashed with whip and beat with rod. Paul’s life regularly included an exposure to death. Paul’s life regularly included dangers from countryman, friend, foe. Paul’s life was threatened in the city, on the road travelling, and in the country. This was not an easy call.
Yet, before Paul talks about the challenges, he makes a strong faith reference. In chapter 4 the first verse he states, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” Some versions declare, “we are undaunted.” The next few sentences talk about his commitment and the commitment of those that work with him to stay clear and concise with teaching and not resort to trickery or fancy methods of speech. No, this needs to be simple clear message and demonstration of the power of God.
Pressed and not crushed. Perplexed but not despair. Persecuted but not abandoned. Struck down but not destroyed. Carrying death for Christ that others would life in Him.
The pain and antagonism and death that plagued Paul all had one purpose. Let others see the light and life of Christ that they might live a better existence. Bring grace and love and fellowship to another person, another home, another neighborhood, another community, another city, and another nation. Paul would let every pain attack for the release of full healing salvation and balance in Christ.
These were not days of doctors and dentists. A stone against a tooth, meant a broken tooth for life. Lashes cut deeply into the skin and scars would be left only to opened with the next beating and scars widened. Paul had to have a certain pained look about him from so many attacks physically and emotionally and mentally. How did he do it? Paul’s ministry after 17 years of training lasted 16 years. For 16 years he took beating after beating after beating physically, emotionally, and mentally. How did he do it? Why did he do it?
The beginning and end of this section of letter gives us a clue. By the mercy of God, he knew he would be empowered to endure. For the joy of seeing grace and love and fellowship with God in other people, he endured all. The compassion of Christ poured through him over and over and over to ensure others would meet the Christ that was so gracious and loving and kind and present in his life.
The pain of Paul brought healing for others. In fact, the pain of Paul brings healing for us. This pain provoked great writings which today give us strength through that grace and love and fellowship in God. This persistence to preach and demonstrate the gospel exposes truth for a full healthful life for us.
It is also a challenge. Maybe it is our pain that brings healing for another. Maybe from the suffering we endure and from which we learn, another is made whole and finds joy in life. No maybe. It is certain. When we comfort others with the same comforts we receive of God in our pains and trials, we are built. Others are built. Healing pours out in grace in Christ, love in God, and the ointment of fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
Pray: Father, that is life. Life is meant to be lived and experienced and engaged. Not all is beautiful as we go through. Yet, all becomes a source of healing and love and grace on the other side of pain. Teach us. Engage us. Help us to lay aside our worries and fretting when life is tough. Help us to learn and get ready to offer health and joy to others from our experience.