Perhaps each one of us, at one time or another—and I believe in the last two years, all of us—have experienced situations that help us sympathize with the words the apostle Paul chose to thank God when he spoke to the members of the church in Corinth: “We want to remind you, friends, of the trouble we had in the province of Asia. The burdens laid upon us were so great and so heavy that we gave up all hope of staying alive. We felt that the death sentence had been passed on us. But this happened so that we should rely, not on ourselves, but only on God, who raises the dead. From such terrible dangers of death he saved us, and will save us; and we have placed our hope in him that he will save us again” (2 Corinthians 1:8–10, GNT).
In these verses, Paul stated some very important truths. One of them is that believing or even serving God faithfully does not prevent us from facing problems, trials, and even senseless tragedies. Somehow, seeing a man like Paul talk about times when he thought he wouldn’t come out of these difficulties alive reminds us we are not alone when facing a challenging day or reaching a point where all hope is lost.
We should thank Paul, who, after going through ordeals that left him powerless, hopeless, and lost, reflected on his experience and, under God’s inspiration, left us with some essential truths as we try to live a successful Christian life.
Paul spoke from a perspective of experience and faith when he told us what happened to him helped him learn to trust, not himself, but God. The reason he gave for focusing on God rather than on circumstances is because God has power to solve even the most extreme circumstance we can face in this world: namely, death. If death becomes real, God is powerful to resurrect us.
However, perhaps the most powerful statement of Paul in this passage is that our God executes His power and shows His mercy on our behalf in a way that meets our past, present, and future needs. In this way, God’s work in us is completed and perfected. He delivered us; He is delivering us; and He will deliver us. Glory to God! We cannot ask for more, as there is no program of life that transcends what God gives us by His grace and power.
Paul was trying to tell us that through those trials, God taught him that even when a day comes when we think it is the end, it is time to remember He has shown us His love and power in the past, freeing us from situations that, at the time, were stressful or traumatic. In this sense, it is good for Christians to remember the way God has dealt with us in the past so we can face the present and future with faith and hope. How meaningful are the well-known words of Ellen G. White, who wrote, “As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 196).
The greatest deliverance we have received from God in the past was His deliverance from the dreadful condemnation of our sins, as Paul himself stated in Romans 8:1. However, God is also delivering us right now and every day of our lives. His relationship with us is constant. Since we are part of His creation, He never leaves us or forsakes us. On the contrary, He sustains us and, through His providence, holds our lives and history in His hands. Every day, He helps us so that sin cannot lord over us (see Romans 6:14).
Finally, the apostle Paul encouraged us to look forward with optimism and hope, not based on some plan we may have developed or some help anyone else has promised us, but because our God will certainly deliver us. We are people in whom God keeps working until He completes His work in us. In Philippians 1:6, Paul himself stated that God will finish the work He began in us. As a result of this promise, and regardless of the circumstances around us, our future is bright, and our triumph in Christ Jesus is sure.
Indeed, throughout history, God has shown the ability to deliver His children from the most difficult trials—from the fiery furnace and the threats and attacks of those who consider themselves to be powerful (see Daniel 3:17). Today, we have no reason or motive to give up on our faith in the Lord, who has delivered us, delivers us now, and will deliver us for eternity.