Season of Extremity
“Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity,” our brother Don cited to us. A well touted quote of many origins but known fully only by those who experience dreadful, personal extremity! Paul was such a one. He writes,
“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).
Here is a man deeply in touch with his God, following the lead of the Holy Spirit at each step of the way. We are not certain of which specific instances Paul is here referring, for indeed there were many: his persecutions at Lystra (Act 14:6, Act 14:19-20), the lying in wait of the Jews (Act 20:3), the riot stirred up by Demetrius (Acts 19), his fighting with wild beasts in Ephesus (1 Cor. 15:32) to mention a few. Remember too that through all these Paul also suffered some unnamed health issue, his “thorn in the flesh” –– Indeed, we may often be called to walk that “second mile” with blistered feet (2 Cor. 12:7; Matt. 5:41).
But in all of this Paul is following Christ rightly. Why then the difficulties? He offers us this insight,
“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we set our hope that He will continue to deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10).
Paul had experienced God’s last minute and miraculous interventions in the past and it provided him courage to anticipate God would meet his need now. The end result would be something glorifying to God, something no man could bring about or possibly imagine.
Church, this is where we find ourselves this day. We are not here as result of sin, but as result of our Lord’s leading. As the cloud and the fire led the Hebrews to the impasse of the Red Sea, so God has led us here. He will not forget us. He asks us to trust Him, to show Him we believe in His ability to act and intervene. When He does, what a celebration it will be!
But now each of us must express to Him our confidence. “…we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us,” wrote Paul, yet added, “…as you help us by your prayers.” The subsequent thanksgiving comes only “in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Cor. 1:9-10),
And so we are urged to do two things this week: (i) to set for ourselves times of prayer and fasting, entreating our good, good, Saviour to intervene — to bring us the leadership and energy needed, and also (ii) to care one for another, selecting one person each to whom we will minister.
“Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (v. 11).
Listen again to Don Longworth’s message, “The Storm Between Here and God’s Glory,” by following the links below.