– William Culbertson
What a strange people Christians are — or should be! Perhaps the paradox of Christian experience is nowhere set forth more succinctly than in a clause from Paul’s writings: “I overflow with joy in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 7:4). The worldling says, “What nonsense this? How can you get joy and affliction in the same sentence?” But Paul does more than this–in time of affliction he speaks about overflowing with joy!
The paradox is not so impossible as it may seem. Who does not know affliction? All of us have trials of one kind or another. So, if we are to know joy, it must be along with the trials. The idea that joy means the absence of affliction and that affliction means the absence of joy is essentially pagan, not Christian!
Paul was afflicted adn the afflictions were real. “Without were fightings, within were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5). He was weighed down exceedingly, even to desperation; death seemed imminent (1:8-9). But even so, he knew the joy of the Lord. Blessed power of God! God’s grace can make a man sing in the severest testing.
But just a moment. What did God use to encourage and strengthen Paul? Some very common, ordinary blessings. For one thing, he mentions the coming of Titus (7:6). After all, Titus was his son in the faith (Titus 1:4). Further, Titus followed the Lord and was entrusted with responsibilities in the Lord’s service. He loved Paul and Paul loved him. His coming ot Paul in the apostle’s hour of loneliness and need was like a shaft of light from heaven. It was the touch of the hand of God on a sorely tried servant. Similarly it is given to you and me to offer Christian fellowship and love to those who are bearing the burden of the heat of the day.
Then Paul was encouraged by the good report Titus brought of the Corinthians Christians’ going on with God (7:7). Great changes had occurred at Corinth. They had been divided; they had failed to judge terrible sin in their midst; they were guilty of excesses at the table of the Lord; they had those among them who said there was no resurrection from the dead. But now Titus brought back a good report — and Paul’s circumstances, his afflictions, his desperation suddenly semed as nothing. His desperation suddenly seemed as nothing. His children were meaning buisness with God, and revival had come. What a way to encourage a man of God!
And, as though all this were not enough, Paul says further that he “joyed the more exceedingly for the joy of Titus, because his spirit hath been refreshed by you all” (7:13).
Let us learn to encourage one another in the Lord. Let us encourage those over us in the Lord by our obedient walk before God. And above all, let us gladden the heart of God by our love for, our trust in, and our obedience to Him.
(This article first appeared in For Times Like These, Personal Glimpses by William Culbertson)
2ProphetU is an online magazine/website, started by Warren Wiersbe and Michael Catt, to build up the church, seek revival, and encourage pastors.