Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:9
Paul was telling the people in Corinth that he would have come sooner, but he was a little busy. He was in Ephesus and a riot broke out just after a great revival. Luke tells about it in Acts 19. There was a battle between believing in Jesus or keeping the people in bondage to their god Artemis. Breaking strongholds isn’t easy work, and it doesn’t come without a spiritual and sometimes a physical battle. Paul’s companions were drug into a theater to be beaten and the believers there had Paul slip out of the city to save his life. He had been beaten and jailed before, so it wasn’t that he was a chicken.
But this time, as Paul recounts in 2 Corinthians 1, he and his ministry companions were “utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself,” from verse 8. He thought this was where he was going to die. They could not rely on their own words of defense or counter measures, but only could rely on God. And Paul summarized it by saying that it was so that they would learn to rely on God to get them through, rather than on their own devices.
It reminds me of a show my husband and I are watching, “The Selection.” It is a group of 30 regular people who are going through the same training that Navy Seal people go through. The leaders put them through all kinds of situations to teach them what their bodies and minds can really endure, to weed out the weak, and to make the ones who haven’t rung out ready to face anything.
In a sense, God is the training officer for us. He wants us to grow strong in our faith so that we will trust in Him, and to see Him rescue and work regardless of the situation. You may not be facing a thousand angry people ready to rip you apart because you are preaching about Jesus. But you may be in situations that you feel like you are going to crack or ones where you despair and wonder how you are going to make it. You may not have enough money, any friends, or you hate your job. And God’s word to you is the same one that He had for Paul: “I can raise the dead. I am able to help you. Trust Me.”
Your relationships could be crumbling around you and you know it’s because of things that you have done–and you are calling out to Jesus to give you a different way to live and act. I just wrote a friend in prison in this kind of a situation, reminding her of a quote by Corrie Ten Boom: “You will never know that Jesus is all that you need until Jesus is all that you have.”
Whatever your circumstance, God knows where you are and where you have been. And He holds out His hand for you to take a hold of and He wants you to trust Him from this day forward. When you learn to rely on God and do things His way, He is able. God is able to rescue, He is able to turn your heart and the difficult peoples’ hearts that are around you. Sometimes His rescuing looks like staying right where you are but using the strength that God provides to not bail out. He is able to raise the dead and He is able to work in your life.