“Growing through Suffering” (Series: Grace for the Weak)
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
Suffering is an expected part of life but it’s especially true for Christians who are united to a suffering Savior. We should not only expect it but we should learn to accept it. This is only possible because believers can grow through their suffering when they see what suffering points to.
First, suffering makes you look inward. Suffering has a way of exposing our self-reliance and what we’re really trusting in. Sometimes we confuse faith in God with trusting in ourselves. Paul understands God allowed him to endure afflictions so that he could be confronted with his own insufficiency and give up relying on himself. Suffering helps us grow as we stop trusting in ourselves and begin trusting in God.
Second, suffering makes you look upward and forward. Suffering has a way of getting us to focus on God and the hope of the resurrection. When we’re left in our comfort, our minds never think of the world to come because we are content with life as it is. C.S. Lewis said that pain is God’s megaphone used to rouse a deaf world. In times of affliction the hope of heaven and eternal life come into sharper focus as our longings for the new heavens and new earth increase.
Third, suffering makes you look outward. Suffering has a way of teaching us that God ministers to his people through his people. Paul called upon the believers at Corinth to pray for him. He was willing to be honest and vulnerable in making his request known because he understood it was only in his weakness that God’s power could be made perfect. We should more willingly confess and share our need for prayer with others when we suffer.
Our ultimate assurance that suffering can grow us and won’t crush us comes from the gospel. The gospel assures us that believers have already been delivered through Christ’s death in our place for our sins. The gospel also promises that believers will be finally delivered when Christ returns and makes all things new. Our lives and all we endure take place between these two fixed points in history. As a result, we can be confident that everything we go through will one day be woven into God’s final, glorious consummation. Nothing we endured will be wasted. God is preparing us for this hope through our suffering.
Suggested Group Discussion Questions
- Has suffering ever taught you a lesson because it exposed something in you or about you? Please share. What did learning that lesson do for you? Have you ever felt God use pain as a megaphone to speak to you? What do you believe he was saying?
- You may believe in heaven and eternal life but how often do you dwell upon it? Are there certain times/occasions that draw it out more often than others? How might meditating on it more regularly change the way you suffer?
- Do you find it difficult to ask others for prayer? What are the reasons? What would change if the barometer for assessing healthy church relationships was less social (do we have fun together) and more spiritual (do we pray for each other)?
- Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon?
- Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away with and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share.