READ: 2 Corinthians 1:1–2:4
THINK: Have you ever gone through a difficult time and felt you were alone–that no one really understood what you were going through? Perhaps friends or loved ones tried to offer help or encouragement. Chances are, you’ve heard this more than once: “I know how you feel.” While people mean well, those words only go so far–until they come from someone who has actually experienced what you’re going through. That’s one reason why God allows you to go through difficulties. Beside the fact that they teach you to rely on Him, experiencing tough times enables you to effectively encourage, help and pray for others who may face the same troubles God has brought you through.
RESPOND: How have you experienced God’s compassion? What’s the ultimate means by which God provides comfort? (See 1:4 note.) Why does God sometimes allow trouble in our lives? In what ways might a person experience “the sufferings of Christ,” and how does this relate to comfort from God? (See 1:5 note.) What positive things can come through suffering (vv. 6-7, 9-10)? What must you keep in mind when going through difficulty beyond your ability to endure? (See 1:8-10 note.) How can your prayers help others? (See 1:11 note.) In what ways should Christians’ leadership and service differ from worldly forms of leadership and service? (See 1:12 note.) What did Paul mean when he said, “our message to you is not ‘Yes’ and ‘No'”? (See 1:17-19 note.) What does “Amen” mean? (See 1:20 note.) What are some ways God works in people’s lives through the Holy Spirit? (See 1:22 note.) What does it mean that the Spirit “anoints” people? Why is God’s Spirit “a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”? How had Paul shown “tough love” to the Corinthians, and why is this essential for spiritual leaders? (See 2:1 and 2:4 notes.)
PRAY: Give God thanks for comfort through life’s difficulties and for teaching you to depend on Him. Thank Him for the Holy Spirit, who encourages, enriches and empowers your present life and guarantees an eternal inheritance with Christ. Pray for at least three other people.
ACT: Show God’s compassion in a practical way to someone who’s going through a difficult or dangerous time.