What does it mean to not trust in ourselves?

The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – Chapter 1

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. – 2 Corinthians 1:1-5

Paul starts out this letter with a greeting and the fact that the letter is from him and Timothy. This has the benefit of blessing Timothy and giving his ministry apostolic authority and improves his reputation within the church. Paul starts the letter with the theme of suffering and comfort and this will be a reoccurring theme in the letter. The Greek word for comfort is parakaleō which is the same as the name given to the Holy Spirit, the comforter. Jesus is said to be our comfort (Phil 2:1) and also as it says here God is the God of all comfort. The word comfort in the Greek has more then meaning of strengthening and empowering rather that sympathy as we take it to mean today. All our comfort comes from God and He alone can strengthen us during times of suffering and trials. He will use the members of the body to minister to us but He alone is the only one who really knows our pain. As we are comforted so we can comfort others with the comfort God has given us. He blesses us abundantly:

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21


6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:6-7

Paul is continuing the theme. He believe that all he experiences is for the benefit of others, if afflicted of comforted. He encourages patient endurance. James said:

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

And Peter said:

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:12-13

We are not on this earth to live for pleasure but to get to know God. C S Lewis put it like this: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.” meaning that pain often draws us near to God or is a warning that some thing is wrong. Some times we suffer due to our own poor choices, some times we suffer because this world if full of accidents, sickness and disease and some times we suffer for no apparent reason. Ravi Zacharias gave an example: A man lost his horse and was sad but two days later it returned with 20 wild horses following it, so he was blessed. Then while caring for the horses his son broke his leg and the man was sad but two days later a rebel group came to capture young men to fight for them but they left his son alone because his leg was broken. The man was blessed. We never know what the outcome will be but God does. Patient endurance, waiting on the Lord, builds faith and steadfastness. We will be glad and rejoice when His glory is revealed.


8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

I have my suspicions that Paul may have been feeling a bit depressed when he wrote this letter. He would have felt all the range of emotions we all face especially as he was also abandoned frequent by his brothers in Christ. We will see through out the letter that he refers quite a bit to his own personal suffering. Don’t get me wrong he had every right to boast in Christ, who got him through so many dreadful situations, but especially at this time I wonder what he was feeling? The letter has an emotional message. The wonder of it all is that Jesus teaches us through suffering and here we have that wonderful verse:

Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, – 2 Cor 1:9 (NKJV)

I have used this verse so often in sharing my faith with others. We can not rely on ourselves because we will die. We need to trust in the Lord:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
– Proverbs 3:5

As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
– 2 Samuel 22:31

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. – Psalm 18:2

As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
– 2 Samuel 22:31

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. – Psalm 18:2


10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Praise God that it is He who delivers us in all our perilous situations. We set our hope on Him and will not be ashamed.

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:20-21

Paul had a wonderful attitude that in all Christ would be honoured. But, God wants us to be involved through communion with Him. He wants a close loving relationship so that when we call help it is His ears that we want to hear it. When we want a hug it is His arms that provide it, when we need advice it is Him we turn to first. Yes, the body may supply that need and that hug and advice comes form a brother or sister but we ask it first from Jesus, that He will supply every need.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19


12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand-
14 just as you did partially understand us-that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. – 2 Corinthians 1:12-14

It looks like Paul had been accused of being, on one hand, unreliable and on the other manipulative. He defends himself stating that he is simple and honest. Paul had no “in between the lines” message but his audience was cynical and lacked trust. Poor Paul. Maligned and missunderstood from the very beginning he always seemed on the back foot needing to allay people’s fears, “I’m not going to persecute you, I’m not going to take over your church, I’m not trying to manipulate you”. Satan will try all he can to stop us trusting in the Lord and prevent us trusting in His anointed servants. We need to discern what is good:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

Not only will the Holy Spirit discern our hearts but enable us to discern the motives of others.

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, – Philippians 1:9-10

Love……leading to knowledge and discernment so we can know with assurance what is of God.


15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace.
16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.
17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?
18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. – 2 Corinthians 1:15-18

Oh dear. Yet again Paul is having to explain himself to a crowd who want to believe the worst. Looks like Paul had to change his plans. Although he desired to come to Corinth his plans were altered by the Holy Spirit. Now they were saying “you can’t believe a word he says, didn’t he say he was coming here?” But, Paul starts to explain that his yes means yes and His no, no. Guzik suggestes that Paul’s first visit to Corinth was so uncomfortable because of confrontation that he may have been reluctant to repeat the experience however I do not think he would shy away from conflict. He has already said he was afflicted in Asia. Maybe he needed to recover. If the church was disappointed there was no reason that they should blame Paul of being unreliable. How do we deal with disappointment? Do we immediately blame God that He has not provided for us as He said He would or do we praise Him because we know his character, that He is faithful and true beyond our comprehension.

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. – Revelation 3:14

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. – Revelation 19:11

Our God is so much bigger than our tiny disappointments. O come let us adore him.


19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.
20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,
22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 1:19-22

O the rich promises of God He has made known to us through His Word. His promises are yes, positive, to build us up, to reassure us of salvation given to us because of the cross of Christ. The promises are yes and amen, let it be unto us according to His Word. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. We are established in Christ set in the Rock hid in the Fortress. Anointed with the Spirit. Guaranteed to be with Christ in heaven for eternity with the divine seal that proved ownership;

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. – Ephesians 4:30

he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:12

May the redeemed of the Lord shout with joy today and through all eternity.


23 But I call God to witness against me – it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.
24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. – 2 Corinthians 1:23-24

I must say I struggled to understand what Paul is getting at here. He has been accused of being insincere and changing his mind but here he gives the reason he did not visit at this time – to spare them pain. He has already said the last visit was painful. It is hard to imagine how a visit from Paul could be painful but in the next chapter he expands on his reason. Here he carefully notes that he has no right to have dominion over the church. No one has that right, to have dominion over any other believers walk with the Lord. Even an apostle! We all stand or fall before God and it is He that has dominion over us and Him alone. We are to edify and lead people to Jesus and the joy that is found in Him, not to rule over others. To encourage others to stand firm in their faith. To lead them to a place where they can be fed and they choose to fall on their knees before the Lord and know the joy of the Lord.

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.