II Corinthians 1: 3 - 11
Comfort in the Face of Death
It is very hard, living in the world and rubbing shoulders with worldly values on a daily basis to keep ourselves pure and unaffected. We’re quick to rely on ourselves, look to ourselves for strength and to look to ourselves for answers. When we do turn to God in times of helplessness it is easy to relate to Him as the world does - asking why but not really expecting any answers.
How quickly we forget the enormity of God’s arms, the extent of His compassion and the depths of His knowledge and love. He knows our needs even before we do.
Paul, when facing the sentence of death, was reminded again of the need to be fully reliant on God - to express that childlike trust that comes of knowing that there is nothing that we can do ourselves and that we are completely in the hands of Another. Yet how glorious to know that the One in whom we put our trust is the God who raises the dead. Paul and his companions could have complete confidence that if they met their earthly death they would be raised to eternal life. They could also have complete confidence that the Creator of the heavens and earth was fully able to save them from such deadly peril as they faced. He can deliver, He has delivered and He will continue to deliver from death now and eternally.
Prayer is effective and powerful. Paul was confident that, in response to prayers as yet unarticulated, that God will continue to save. He hears our prayers and responds with gracious favour. When faced with our own helplessness in the face of death, what a comfort to know that there is One to whom we can pray - who will hear our prayers and who has the ability to save.
However we mustn’t think that we can bend God’s will to ours. We must also have something of the perspective of Esther. She prayed and fasted in the face of almost certain death, and the company of Jews prayed and fasted with her. She knew God to be a rescuing God, but also knew that He was in control, that our ways are often far from His and she was prepared to trust Him absolutely in life and death. She was praying for rescue (which came!) but without any sense of personal or sovereign failure if she died. God was in control ‘and if I perish, I perish’, was her response.
Facing death causes us to ‘rely not on ourselves but on God’ (v9), and enables us to both experience and pass on the comfort of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are reminded of His power to defeat death, to raise the dead and to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. We are reminded of the love that sent Christ to the cross and that can never be taken away from us. We are reminded that in Christ we have an Intercessor who has had experience of living in a fallen world and is well able to sympathise with our needs. We are reminded that God knows our needs and is delighted to meet them in response to prayer - others’ and ours. And we are reminded that this comfort is ours to pass on to others, so that they also may set their hope on God, who raises the dead.