As we start the New Year we know that we will face all sorts of issues and concerns. No year will be plain sailing throughout and though we can’t predict what will happen we know that storms can very easily engulf us. So we need to be prepared, not only for ourselves but also so that we can help others. On the first Sunday of January I am planning, God willing, to preach on 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 and I trust that it will give us some of the resources we need as we enter this New Year.
In this passage Paul is realistic about the difficulties he has been facing. He refers to “troubles” and “suffering” on multiple occasions as well as “distress” and being under “great pressure”. We all know what it’s like to be under great pressure – perhaps even something as simple as trying to carry a heavy item which is just too much for us. Eventually we realise that we can’t struggle on any further and we have to come to a halt, wondering how we will be able to continue. That’s how Paul felt and it’s often how we feel. At times such as this we see that the Bible doesn’t need to be made relevant to the twenty-first century – it is already relevant and speaks directly to us. All of us can identify with that feeling of being completely overwhelmed and feeling unable to proceed.
But what resources does Paul have? When we go away over the Christmas period there’s always that moment of double checking that everything needed has been packed for the journey. As Paul looked back on his own journeys what was the most important item that he had needed? The answer lies in the most repeated word in the passage - “comfort” - which comes from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort”. It occurs ten times to stress the significance of what God is able to do for believers. As the cross was followed by the resurrection for Christ, so Paul’s experience was similar. His sufferings, in which he felt he had received the sentence of death, were followed by deliverance from the God of all comfort who is able to raise the dead. Ultimately we need to recognise that the same pattern is being worked out in the lives of those, like us, who follow Christ. It is this understanding which needs to be packed for each journey we make as a believer in this New Year.
We shall see that there is much more in this short passage 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 but the pattern of cross and resurrection lies at the heart and should provide us with the resources we need to navigate our way through whatever happens in this coming year as we follow Christ.
Looking further forwards into January please especially pray for the events Thursday 25th – Sunday 28th January when we are joined by Roger Carswell. He has a great gift in explaining the good news of Jesus Christ in a warm, lively and winsome manner. Consider inviting a friend to our Burns' Night Celebration Thursday 25th January or to the Women’s Event, Friday morning 26th January where Roger will speak on the topic "Where is God in a messed up world?"
And above all please pray…..for God’s Spirit to be at work in our midst.
Happy New Year!