April 7, 2020
"We felt we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:9). In today's reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul and Timothy describe a time of great suffering they endured together. We don't know exactly what they experienced, but they write "we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself" (v. 8). From context we gather that they were traveling through Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, and perhaps encountering persecution. Luke's account of Paul's ministry isn't exhaustive, so we don't have a parallel story in Acts for this moment of despair, but it presumably happened while they were together in Ephesus in Acts 19, before Paul sent Timothy ahead to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). Whatever the circumstances, the pain that they felt must have been immense. Had Paul and Timothy relied only on their own strength, they would soon have given up. Their suffering - whatever form it took - was more than they could bear on their own. But they make it a point to say that they relied instead "on God who raises the dead." God rescued them when they were in danger and would continue to rescue them because they had set their hope entirely on God's redemption.
While the emphasis here is clearly on God's power to rescue us, Paul and Timothy also suggest that other people have a role to play in that rescue. In verse 11, they write, "you also join in helping us by your prayers." The fellow Christians who read this letter were separated from Paul and Timothy by a great distance. They could only exchange letters, rather than seeing each other in person. And yet they could "join in helping" through their prayers. Who might you, like the Corinthians, join in helping through your prayers today? Consider those whose loads might be too heavy to bear today and call on God to rescue and sustain them. If you feel like you're in need of a rescue this week, reach out and ask for help. If Paul and Timothy could speak so honesty about their discouragement, then we have nothing to be ashamed of in asking for help from one another. As we pray for one another, we will experience the power of "God who raises the dead" (v. 9) and "the blessing granted through the prayers of many" (v. 11).
Grace and Peace,