II Corinthians 7:6-7
But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming bit also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. NIV
We all need encouragement.
Paul was a paragon. I can’t tell you how much of the New Testament he wrote, but, it was a lot. And, when you add in the books written by those he discipled, it is clear that the man had an indelible impact on the church.
Yet, Paul, like me, was bound by time, and distracted by his circumstances.
Verse 5 says, “When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn’t settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out.” MSG
Paul had fears. I don’t think I ever really thought about that before. When I think of Him, it is in terms of stories that I know about his life. I know that he was an enemy of the early church and that he persecuted many Christians for their faith. I know that he was struck blind on the road to, I think, Damascus, and that someone was sent by God to witness to him, and that after he regained his sight, he put all of his zealous nature into God’s work. I know that he was imprisoned multiple times for his faith and that he mentored others who carried the message forward.
But, I somehow, never thought of him as human until this morning.
I heard an amazing woman speak last night. She spoke of some of the things that had happened to her in her life, and how she had felt shattered by the tragedies that befell her.
She spoke from Jeremiah 18:1-6:
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me. 6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” NIV
Just as the potter reformed the clay, this woman was, and is being reformed. Paul was reformed. A friend, who also heard the speech, said afterward, “The great thing about us, is that we are never ‘kilned.'” God keeps us as wet clay so that he can continually rework us to his purposes.
While I am amazed by all of this, it HURTS to be reformed! It is hard and frustrating, and discouraging to be human.
Paul felt that too. But, his spirits were lifted by the encouragement of his friends. By the knowledge that they cared for him, and that they wished him well.
“Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true reassurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!” MSG
Everyone needs encouragement. I can encourage others.
That’s what I’ll think about today.