2 Corinthians 6 reminds us that our invitation is waiting. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day your life can be brand-new!
I heard a pastor give an illustration about coffee, which resonated with me – perhaps because we’re expecting highs in the low- to mid-40s for the next week, plus up to 2 ft of snow this weekend. A cup of hot coffee sounds fabulous to me, under those conditions!
The pastor talked about how we are the coffee beans, life is the hot water, and the resulting brew is our testimony to the world. We’re supposed to be smooth and refreshing, but unfortunately, many of us turn out rather bitter.
As I mulled over that illustration, a few more thoughts came to my mind. First of all, you don’t make coffee with whole beans. The beans have to be ground up first; they have to be broken. Psalm 51:17 (NLT) talks about offering our brokenness to the Lord. It reads, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Like the coffee bean, we need to be willing to become broken, so that we can be useful. David writes in Psalm 141:2 that our prayer is like incense to the Lord. Think of how delightful a newly opened package of coffee smells; in the same way, our lives can be an aromatic offering to God.
Another step in making coffee (and often in the Christian life) is pressure. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV), “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The hot water soaking in and pressing through the ground coffee beans is what gives flavor to the brew.
Lastly, there isn’t a lot that can be done to fix a bad pot of coffee. You can add sugar and cream, even flavors, to try to mask the bitterness, but it’s difficult to balance, and it never tastes quite right. May our lives not become a bitter brew! Instead, may we be a pleasing reminder to the world of God’s goodness.
Commit this verse to memory: “Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:13, CEV)
Something really terrific happened the other day: I found out that my boss recommended me for a raise! Unfortunately, the same day that I learned of the pay increase, my transmission fried. Literally, the fluid smelled smoky and was not the usual pinkish tint. I had noticed that it seemed to be straining a bit, but since I live in the mountains now, I thought it might just be the drastic weather changes, altitude, or whatever. Long story short, the transmission has to be rebuilt.
So, I ask you this: For what should I give thanks?
I’m certainly grateful for the pay raise; that will be a huge help with everyday expenses. I’m thankful that my boss went to bat for me, and I appreciate feeling like a valuable part of the team.
But what about the car? Sure, it’s going to cost a lot of money for the repair, but there are still plenty of things to be thankful for. First and foremost, I’m thankful that I finished paying it off just a couple of months ago, so I don’t have a car note anymore. I’m thankful that on the morning it died, I was able to make it into the parking lot at work. I remember sitting at a red light on the edge of campus praying that it would make it to the lot – and it did!
I’m thankful that although we haven’t gotten to know a whole lot of people here very well yet, one of the new friends from church who I called to see if they had a referral for a mechanic turned out to actually be a mechanic! Who knew?!? (God did!) He took time out of his work day to meet me on campus and make sure my car made it to a reputable transmission repair shop that he trusted.
I think this type of finding-reasons-to-be-thankful is part of what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 9. The chapter is primarily about giving and financial supporting ministry, but it goes deeper than just writing a check to the church. It’s about having a spirit of thanksgiving for all of our blessings. When we’re thankful for what we have, we are more inclined to give back. What good would it do to kick the tires and shake my fist at the heavens? Instead, when we find ways to be thankful in the midst of our circumstances, it brings honor to God, who is the giver of all good things. (James 1:17)
Read 2 Corinthians 11 and try to put yourself in Paul’s shoes. Picture the trials he endured. Give thanks to God for his grace & mercy.
Our Lord is an awesome, miracle-working God who loves, heals, saves, and provides for us, yet I also believe that he entrusts us with imagination and knowledge to develop and invent things to make our lives better. Thanks to modern medicine, for example, I feel pretty confident that I can take ibuprofen when I have a headache, and it will go away. Most Christians would not criticize my faith for taking a couple of over-the-counter pills to alleviate minor aches and pains.
Of course, we still pray for healing – and we’ve witnessed God do remarkable things! – yet, cancer patients still go through chemotherapy treatment. We ask God for provision, yet we still take insulin, blood pressure medication, multivitamins, etc. to keep our bodies regulated properly. Why then, when we have access to pastoral and professional counseling, not to mention a wide array of medications, do we often brush off diseases of the heart … or, to call a spade a spade: mental illnesses? Why do we only really talk about dark things when a celebrity dies, yet people all around us are suffering every day from the same problems?
If you want to read about a guy who had a lot to cope with in his adult life, check out 2 Corinthians. In chapter 11:23-27, we learn that Paul was flogged with 39 lashes (the max was 40) on FIVE separate occasions. Can you imagine the rumpled scars on his poor back? And that’s only part of the story: in the first chapter of his letter, Paul explained that things had gotten so bad on one of his journeys that he felt like he’d been sentenced to death row and didn’t even know if he’d make it home alive.
Paul didn’t have the advantage of modern medicine to help manage any anxiety or depression that he may have suffered from, but one thing he tried to do was to surround himself with supportive, godly people. Repeatedly in his letters that we read in the New Testament, Paul recognized various individuals and expressed his appreciation for them or asked others to pass messages of encouragement along to them.
Depression is a monstrous liar, and I can’t pretend to understand it any more so than a naturally skinny person can understand what it’s like to live in my body. We think we know how to “fix” each other, but we don’t truly know what it is like to live in another’s skin. All we can do is support each other. I would submit that it is much more difficult to drown out the lies when you are alone than when you are immersed within a caring community. If you are dealing with issues of the heart, talk to a pastor or life group leader, and let them know what you are suffering. Don’t go it alone; people do want to help.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, then pray & offer for God to handle the hard times that you have encountered (or are dealing with now) in life.