Spiritual Encouragement 2 Corinthians 7:5-7
Did you know that even the Apostle Paul knew what it was to get down? We tend to think that Christians should never get discouraged. Somehow despairing is always a sin. If the Apostle Paul was a prototype of what Christians should be, then he should never have been down cast or discouraged. This was not always the case. While Paul did not spend most of his life as a sad sack, he certainly did have times when difficulties came home to him and he needed encouragement. For example, when he learned about the deplorable situation in Corinth, under the influence of the Holy Spirit he fired off what we have in our Bibles as the first letter to the Corinthians. I Corinthians was a very direct and a very hard letter for the Corinthians to receive. Paul pulled no punches in dealing with their sin. Because it was so direct, the Apostle Paul became concerned about how this letter was received and about his own personal relationship with the people who were the church in Corinth. This is why Paul sent his colleague Titus to Corinth to check out the situation.
Paul described his condition and the struggles of the ministry while he waited for Titus, to come back to him. “For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Paul had conflict without and fears within. Does this ever depict our spiritual or emotional condition? How do we find comfort when we are down spiritually as Paul was? Paul pointed out three ways in which he was encouraged. He first emphasized that God is the source of our encouragement in verse 6. Second, Paul showed how encouragement came from Titus, his colleague in the ministry in verse 6 also. Finally, Paul drew encouragement from the Corinthians’ response to the truth in verse 7.
Although God used others to encourage Paul, the Apostle made sure the Corinthians understood that comfort ultimately came from God. Titus and the Corinthian believers themselves might have encouraged Paul, but he wanted them to know God was still the source of the encouragement. “Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” (2 Corinthians 7:6). Paul loved to give helpful descriptions of God. I particularly like the one he wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3. Before describing some of the dangers he faced for the Lord, Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”
God sees our desperate condition and takes steps to fix it. He also is the source of comfort in the midst of afflictions and trials in our lives. Back in 2 Corinthians 7, the Apostle described God as the “God, who comforts the downcast.” God delights in helping us when there seems to be nowhere else to turn. Although not knowing what to do or where to turn is never fun in our lives, God delights to step in and make a way for us in the darkest of night.
While God, Himself, was the source of Paul’s comfort, Titus was the first means God used to comfort the Apostle Paul in the ministry. Titus was sent by the Apostle Paul to see how the Corinthians received God’s instruction in Paul’s first letter. Earlier in this letter, Paul wrote about when he arrived at Troas. Conditions appeared favorable for his ministry, yet he could not walk through the open door for the Gospel because Titus was not there (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.” When Paul arrived at Macedonia, Titus came to him and he was greatly comforted.
Titus was an encouragement to Paul because Titus was committed to the Lord Jesus. In Philippians 2:19-21, the Apostle Paul refer to another of his colleagues in the work. “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” Although Timothy and Titus were different men, I am sure they had similar spiritual qualifications. When our hands are weak, we are encouraged through others who are sold out to Christ.
God, Himself, encouraged Paul. While the Lord was the source of encouragement, Titus, Paul’s colleague in the work, was the first means of comfort. The second means God used was the Corinthian believers themselves. They did not ignore Paul’s letter. Instead, they responded to God’s truth. “And not only by [Titus’] coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.” (2 Corinthians 7:7).
The Corinthians themselves consoled the Apostle Paul on three levels. First, they encouraged him by their earnest desire. We are not told what it was they earnestly desired. It may have been to obey God. It could have been a longing for God Himself. Whatever it was, their desire encouraged Paul.
The second way they encouraged Paul was through their mourning. Again, what they mourned, we are not told. Most likely it was mourning over their sin. In the first Corinthian epistle, Paul confronted several prickly situations that called for repentance as the first step to correction and recovery. He wrote about church divisions, lack of spiritual growth, and church discipline to name just a few examples. The Corinthians took Paul’s rebuke to heart and sought to glorify God in the problem areas of their church. Finally, Paul was comforted by their personal zeal for Paul himself. Paul feared his harsh letter would drive the Corinthians away from him, but it appeared that it strengthened their relationship.
This passage asks us a hard question. What kind of encouragers are we? Do we recognize it is our responsibility to encourage one another? In this self-centered society in America we forget that God lays responsibility on us to take care of one another in the church. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but [encouraging] one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
Do we have a commitment to Christ above all things that makes us an encouragement to others with whom we work?
How are we doing in the three areas in which the Corinthians excelled? Do we desire to have a growing fellowship with Christ? Do we mourn over our sin and desire to overcome it? Are we zealous for one another and for our spiritual leaders? May God help us to follow the example of these early believers.