From Feelings to Reality

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 4/4/2021

Happy Easter everyone! By this time a year ago, most Springfield churches had stopped gathering. It’s crazy how quickly time passes! This Easter will mark the first time many people have come back to church (in person). If that’s you, welcome back! Everything is beginning to normalize. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, even medical masks are in abundant supply. People are emerging from isolation to gather with friends, neighbors, their families, as clubs & organizations, for activities.

We feel this is the perfect day to kick off our new series, Hope Rising. Throughout this Spring and Summer, were going to work our way through the New Testament letter of 2 Corinthians. Each book of the Bible has a particular emphasis, or application. 2 Corinthians is all about Comfort and Hope. I’m sure there are a few exceptions. Maybe if you are Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or Joe Biden last year was pretty great. But for the majority of us, last year was quite difficult.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul kicks off the letter talking about his own “afflictions.” For example, consider 2 Corinthians 1:8, “We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life itself.”

How many people are aware of the affliction that took place in your life, in 2020? Over here, about a mile west of the church, is a yard filled with bright colored signs: “Isolation kills.” What completely overwhelmed you this past year? What stole your strength? What maybe caused you to despair of life itself? Is that too strong of language? These words weren’t written by an unbeliever, but by the Apostle Paul himself. These same sentiments were expressed by men of old, like Job, who couldn’t make sense of his profound losses, his painful suffering, and mental agonies.

This New Testament idea of “affliction” is not foreign to us. This word refers to “suffering,” “tribulation,” “trouble outside,” “our fears within.” Trials. Disappointments. Hardship. Anxiety. Restlessness. Discouragement. Temptation.

We shouldn’t suppose that “true Christians” and “true believers” are somehow exempt from affliction. Paul certainly wasn’t! In 2 Corinthians 1:9 Paul says, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. . .” And let’s not so quickly forget about Jesus in Luke 22:42 praying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” For hours, Jesus anguished in prayer. Luke 22:43-44 says, “Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Later, in 2 Corinthians 7:5 Paul writes, “In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears within.” In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul lists being beaten, imprisonment, riots, endless labor, sleepless nights, times of hunger, being slandered, being overwhelmed with profound grief. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul adds being flogged, nearly being stoned to death, being lost at sea, being shipwrecked, being swept away in rivers, facing robbers, starvation, thirst, nakedness, braving the elements, facing down often violent enemies of God.

Don’t be afraid to make people “aware” of your list—Paul certainly does. I actually agree with the message of the signs up the street, “Isolation Kills.” The only thing worse than going through affliction is the sense of going through it alone without God, without loved ones, maybe without your Church family.

Paul actually says something quite profound in 2 Corinthians 1:9. I'll read the full verse this time: “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” It's quite likely this Easter is different, because maybe the thing you most learned in 2020 is not to trust yourself, but to trust in God (a God who by the way, raises the dead.) And maybe you’ve realized it's not just God who you need, but His Church too?

Okay. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 Paul alludes to four truths about God. First, God is the Father of Mercies. 2 Corinthians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” Jesus, the Son, most profoundly introduced us to the Fatherhood of God. A Father loves his children, is attentive, and cares for his children. He knows what they need before they even ask! He sees, hears, and knows them in their secret place. But Jesus also taught us that God causes his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous, his sun to rise on the good and the evil.

In the midst of tribulation, God showers us with mercies. When the ungodly experience God’s mercies, they refer to it as good fortune, good luck. But Paul is telling us that every little mercy we receive comes from the “Father of Mercies.” James says every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights. What mercies did God rain down on you this past year? What is your testimony? Don’t call it luck. Call it what it is. Mercy. God showed you his love, his concern, his faithfulness. He strengthened you. He provided for you. He blessed you in tiny, small, and perhaps great ways!

Second, God is the God of all Comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

This word comfort isn’t as ethereal or mystical as it sounds. The idea of comfort is to stand alongside someone. God doesn’t just send us a “footprints in the sand” hallmark card, wishing us comfort. No, he actually stands beside us in affliction, strengthening us by his Holy Spirit (our comforter, our counselor). God stands beside us helping us to stand, to persevere, to endure. Alone you would have fainted from grief, despair, weakness. But you weren’t alone! Yes suffering overflowed to you, but so did God’s presence, the very comfort of Christ!

2 Corinthians 1:6-7 Paul testifies, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort.”

Third, God is a God who Delivers. Here is Paul, all allusion of self-reliance decimated, completely overwhelmed beyond his own strength, despairing of life, driven to trust God. In 2 Corinthians 1:10-11 Paul writes, “He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.”

I thought Bear Guerillas was an amazing dude. Remember him? You read Paul’s list of afflictions in 2 Corinthians 1, 6, 7, 11. . . Paul prayed, the Church prayed, on how many occasions did Paul get delivered? I’ve lost count. Dozens? Hundreds of times? Pay very close attention. In affliction, God showers us with mercies. God’s comforting Holy Spirit presence, strengthens us. And God in his power, capably delivers us from trouble. We thought we’d received the sentence of death, but God came through BIG!

Now its at this point that we must address the elephant in the room. There are times when God’s mercies seem to have evaporated. There are times when we search for comfort, but feel as if God has abandoned us, and left us isolated. There are times when plead for “deliverance,” but God’s deliverance doesn’t manifest, and what felt like a sentence of death became actual sentence of death. Do you know Jesus prayed for deliverance but got a cross? We all eventually face death.

Fourth, God is a God who Resurrects. The verse that sticks out most to me, is 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”

At the end of the day, for what are we believing in God for? I believe on God for mercies, every ounce of grace and kindness he can send my way. Thank you God. I believe on God for comfort, fill me with your Holy Spirit. Psalm 94:19 says, “When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.” I believe on God for deliverance. Psalm after Psalm, is there anything so spectacular as the joy of deliverance? God calmed the storm. God snatched us from the flames, the river, the shipwreck, our sickbed, our deathbed, the pain, the trauma, the cancer, the pandemic, the isolation.

But friends do realize that all these mercies, comforts, and deliverances are just a prelude, a kind of preparation, for an even greater miracle? That greater miracle is resurrection. At some point our death sentence will stick, and be carried out, and on that day, it will only be us standing before our Heavenly Father who raises the dead!

Do you agree? It would be quite amazing if all that’s happened this past year has taught us not to trust in ourselves… but to more profoundly trust in God who raises the dead.

I’ll end with 2 Corinthians 4:10-14, “We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. 14 For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you.”

Comfort each other with these words.

Scripture Verses

2 Corinthians 1:1-14; 7; 6; 11; Luke 22:42-44; Psalm 94:19

Worship Playlist

Rise Up by Cain

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

Christ Is Risen by Matt Mauer

Jesus Paid It All by Worship Circle

Study Questions

  1. How does knowing that you have a death sentence affect your daily life? How does this change your thinking, actions, and priorities?
  2. Have you placed your hope in the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort? Write a prayer offering God your thanksgiving for your resurrection hope.

Apply It!