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At the End of Myself

At the End of Myself

Words of Faith 8-24-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Corinthians 1

   [8] We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. [9] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. [10] He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, [11] as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

 

       Paul knew what it was like to come utterly to the end of himself. He wanted the Corinthian believers to be aware of the hardships he had gone through. He did not want them to be uninformed-- agnoeo-- lacking knowledge or "intelligence". It was not the details of his suffering that he was concerned about, because he actually gave no details! It was the nature of his experience with God in the midst of the hardships that was critical.

         Scholars of Paul's life have debated for two centuries exactly what hardships Paul was alluding to. There really are no answers. So the point is to understand the hope in God which sustained Paul and the depth of experience with God that he found there.

       These experiences in Asia had brought Paul him to the end of himself. The Corinthians probably knew something of this, perhaps through Titus. Rather than gloss over his feeling of despair and helplessness in this situation, Paul underscored it forcefully to illustrate how powerless both he and the Corinthians were apart from God and to stress how important is prayer as a means of effecting God's gracious intervention and aid.

       Paul conveyed that at some point he was under such great pressure (thlipseos) far beyond his human ability to endure that he believed he would die and "felt the sentence of death". Some have suggested that this experience irrevocably altered Paul's perspective on his own destiny. We can see a shift in the personal side of his writings.

     Before this point, Paul expressed the hope that he might be numbered among those who would be alive at the coming of Christ-- "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (1 Cor. 15:51-52). "The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thes. 4:16-17)

       After this point, Paul focused on the resurrection. Not long after this, Paul wrote to the Philippians-- "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (3:10-11).

     What was sure was Paul's trust that God would deliver him from the peril of death until his course was run and his task completed. He knew that God would deliver him from the dead through the power of resurrection.

       Paul had a firm hope for the believers at Corinth-- "Our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort" (2 Cor. 1:7). His great hope was in the Lord-- "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us." Part of that deliverance was in the prayers of the Corinthians. God had ordained prayer as the means of connection so that many would give thanks for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

         What do we gain here? We see a picture of a grown-up faith here. This is not a faddish "bless me" movement. Paul teaches us by his example the depth of the Christian walk. It has been said that the church in America is 3000 miles wide and a half an inch deep. This is deep faith. This is the deep walk. This is the journey that will always bring us to the end of ourselves and a place of absolute trust in God.

 

         Father, I am ready. I am tired of shallow Christianity. I am filled with hope in You-- hope for today and hope for the resurrection. Dig me in deeper as You bring me to the end of myself. I trust absolutely in You. In Jesus' Name.