“As you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.”
In verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 1, St. Paul gives us the pattern for the Christian life which was also the pattern of the life of Christ: if we partake of suffering, we will also partake of glory and consolation. Now taken out of context I suppose this could be something a good Buddhist could say. For Buddha, the fundamental truth was that life was suffering; suffering is caused by desire; and therefore if you extinguish desire you will escape suffering and in a way receive consolation.
But what a contrast to true consolation, and, Yes!, even joy and glory which God promises to those who are His faithful children. This was the pattern of Jesus’ ministry: that He denied Himself and obeyed the will of the Father so that others might be comforted, healed, and saved. He sacrificed Himself for us, not just on the Cross but also during His entire public ministry of service, humility, and obedience, that we might receive God’s blessing. He was cursed that we might be blessed; He suffered that we might be consoled; He died that we might live.
But after His self-denial and suffering, He was raised to glory and exalted to the right hand of the Father so that every knee should bow and confess Him Lord of glory.
And this is to be our pattern: we suffer with and for Jesus Christ that we might also be raised and glorified with Him. What St. Paul is getting at, then, is nothing less than participation in Jesus Christ.
Every day we have many opportunities to be united with Jesus Christ and experience life with Him. Most of the time, however, we are looking for that mountaintop experience, that really good devotional time, that extra measure of blessing that we know to be the Lord’s.
But have you ever considered how many opportunities God is giving you each day to be a partaker of His Son by sharing in the sufferings of Jesus?
If this was the pattern for the Son, who is our example in all godliness, then why do we work so hard to avoid the suffering God permits? I know the human answer: we humans are averse to pain and suffering, and in one sense we should be. But as Christians, we must understand that though the suffering itself is not good and the ultimate cause of it is our sin, that what man means for evil God means for good. It was and is through suffering that the world is redeemed. We had a part in bringing in the suffering: how blessed that God allows us to participate in the redemption of suffering to save the world!
And this is exactly Paul’s point: that what Jesus Christ did in His earthly ministry He continues to do through His Body the Church. Where He preached the Gospel and served bodies and healed souls, His Body the Church is to do those same things now, by the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit of Christ. Where He bore our sufferings that we might bear His triumph and glory, the Church must do the same thing today.
Here is what God is teaching us this morning. First, in verse 4, that God comforts us in our tribulation. We’ve all experienced that before. But God has more to tell us. One of the reasons He has comforted us is so that we may be able to comfort others. This is the same pattern we have seen before and will see again: God makes us disciples so that we can make disciples; God builds His Temple of living stones so that they can help build the Temple; and God comforts us in our suffering that we might comfort others.
This is exactly what Paul did. In verse 6 he says that he and others are afflicted for the consolation and salvation of the Corinthians. This consolation and salvation are “effective for enduring the same sufferings,” so that the Corinthians might be able to comfort others. Jesus began it all by suffering so that we might be saved; Paul suffers so that the Corinthians might be saved; and we suffer for Christ and others so that they might be saved.
How blessed to be actual partakers of the ministry of reconciliation, healing, comfort, joy, and glory of our Lord!
Do you see in this God’s call to suffer on behalf of others? This means that we must not mope and complain about our own suffering but share it with the Church. And we must not simply bear our own sufferings or rejoice in our own blessings but share those same sufferings and blessings with other believers.
We are the Body of Jesus Christ that He has commissioned to continue His ministry of suffering and consolation and salvation. But if we keep it all to ourselves, then how can Jesus minister through us? We are His appointed means of ministry in the world. And this is why it is important to share both suffering and consolation with each other, because this is the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, consider your suffering to be a participation in Jesus Christ and His suffering, in the hope that you might also participate in His consolation and glory. Look for ways that you might participate in the sufferings of others so that Jesus Christ, through you, might console and save His people.
We are partakers of Jesus Christ, but only to the degree that we also are partakers of one another, in both suffering and consolation.
Today, do not deny either yourself or others that most beautiful of blessings: participation in Jesus Christ our Lord through participation in one another.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank You that you willingly suffered for me and that You allow me the privilege of suffering for You. Thank You for Your consolation that has helped me in my times of suffering and sorrow. Help me to look for ways in which I may suffer with others that I may share Your consolation with them. Direct my life and prayers today that I might become Your minister of grace today.
Points for Meditation:
1. Meditate on how God has consoled me.
2. Meditate on how I might console another.
3. Meditate on how I might help bear the suffering of another.
Resolution: I resolve to see today’s sufferings as a participation in the sufferings of Jesus. I further resolve to receive the consolation of God today that I might console others and share in their sufferings.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson