There is a fourth reason for suffering. Paul discusses the reason here in 2 Corinthians. Paul explained that God allowed him to suffer, and also to experience the comfort of God in his suffering, in order that he, as a minister of God, might comfort those who are likewise suffering. Have you ever thought about your suffering that way? You experience a great illness. Have you ever thought that God allows you to have that in order that you might speak, as a Christian, a word of comfort to someone else who is going through the same thing?

It seems to me that there are a variety of reasons why hardships and suffering come into our lives. One reason is that such things are just common to humanity. Job wrote about this and spoke wisely when he said, "Yet man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). He was simply saying it is part and parcel of life to have troubles. You are going to get sick. Eventually you are going to suffer the loss of members of your family and others by death. There is no particular reason. There does not have to be any deep explanation. These things are part of life. Of course, in most cases, it goes beyond that. I think there are answers. There are things specifically that God is doing with us. But the first answer we find is that some of these things just come. It is part and parcel of what it means to live in a fallen, imperfect world.

In yesterday's lesson we saw that although Paul's letter had been well received by the Corinthians, there were still some problems. Apparently people had come to Corinth who were not altogether unlike those who had come to Galatia and had caused trouble there earlier. They were speaking against Paul particularly, saying that he was not really an apostle and that he certainly was not a faithful minister. These troublemakers also accused Paul of theft. They said that when he was collecting money for the poor of Jerusalem, he was really collecting for himself, thus growing rich at the Corinthians' expense. All sorts of evil and unjust things were said about him.

Every letter written by the Apostle Paul, and, indeed, all of the books of the Bible, have their own particular appeal. That is no less true of this great second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians that we are beginning to study now. What is the appeal of this book? Since Paul deals with different subjects in this letter, there are different reasons why it will appeal to different people. It often appeals to readers because of what it reveals in an autobiographical sense about the Apostle Paul.

At the very end of 1 Corinthians Paul talks about a number of individuals. He generally does that in his letters. Paul, for all of his ability and all of his missionary strategies, nevertheless was always thinking about people. And he thought about them in a very warm way.