Never forget this truth: our suffering is part of a greater picture. This is true for two reasons: first, our sufferings make us linked to the sufferings of our biblical ancestors and, second, it plays a vital role in bringing others to faith. Let us now unpack these two statements in light of 2 Corinthians 4:13–15. Paul has just finished a long laundry lists of trials and persecutions in the preceding verses, from bodily pain to social rejection, and he makes it clear that a believer’s life should be defined by these experiences. But now, in verses 13 through 15, he unpacks the relational dynamics inherent to a believer’s sufferings.
First, Paul explains that true suffering has been an integral part of the history of the people of God all the way from the beginning of the Old Testament. In 2 Corinthians 4:13, Paul states, “Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had wrote, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we too believe, and so we speak.” Now this is without a doubt a confusing statement to make. But there is a purpose. Paul is making an intentional comment about believers today and the person who made the statement, “I believed, and so I spoke.” This latter person is a psalmist – probably not David – who writes in Psalm 116:10, which states, “I believed, even when I spoke: I am greatly afflicted.” Interestingly, the organization of 2 Corinthians 4 and Psalm 116 are very similar. Both authors lay out a long list of sufferings before making reference to faith and speech. Paul thus links arms with this psalmist twofold: he not only tries to show how his sufferings share in the same sufferings of the psalmist, but also that his faith enables him to both trust in God and speak out (about Christ) boldly in the midst of such sufferings. There is a great history of believers suffering for their faith in God, and Paul insinuates that this includes those who had faith in the Old Testament!
Paul then continues in verse 14 to indicate what we say in the midst of suffering. Our message is the resurrection: “knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.” This is both the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and also our resurrection at Jesus’ Second Coming. Paul’s reference to our own death in this verse is significant because he implies that we may die on account of our sufferings…just in the same way that the psalmist is also on the brink of death from all that he has endured. Here, the relational link expands as past, present and future are combined between the psalmist, Paul and Jesus. Can you not see and feel the intimacy that suffering actually brings? We will bear witness to the resurrection not just in our bold speech (which we should do), but also in our very bodies and the death that we will experience.
But Paul does not stop there. He includes verse 15 to remind us that our suffering is actually not just about us. Rather, suffering is an evangelistic tool that leads to belief. Paul states, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” As we suffer, the grace of faith is extended to others, and as they come to faith, thanksgiving increases, which ultimately gives glory to God. Amen?