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.

In verse 13, Paul gives a series of statements meant to encourage the Christians at Corinth. There are five statements there. First, he tells them to be on guard. Second, he encourages them to stand firm in the faith. Third, he exhorts them to be men of courage. The fourth statement is simply, "be strong"; and finally, he tells them to do everything in love. That is a good challenge for any group of Christians at any time because it speaks of our work in Christianity as warfare, and reminds us that there are enemies. Paul speaks of the enemies that he was facing earlier in this chapter, his enemies at Ephesus, in the context of the Christian’s need to stand firm against them in the power of Christ.