Hope When All Seems Lost
Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
My friend Greg drove down from the Seattle area to go fishing with me. On a cold clear late November morning we drove from Astoria to Seaside to the Necanicum River and launched my drift boat. I’d run a drift boat many times and on more challenging rivers, so drifting down the Necanicum was a piece of cake in comparison–or so I thought. We weren’t far from the launch when we entered into a turn in the river in which the river narrowed considerably. I was approaching that turn as I should, but there wasn’t enough water to get any traction with my right oar. The water pushed us up against the bank and within seconds the boat started filling with water. Ultimately the boat flipped over and we and all our equipment ended up in the river. I remember floating downstream looking up at the surface and wondering if we’d both survive. I prayed. About 100 yards downstream the river calmed and we found our footing. Amazingly, all we lost was one fishing pole and a considerable amount of my ego. We spent the rest of the day trying to get warm! Life is filled with all kinds of trials (John 16:33; Job 5:7; James 1:2). But God is well able to deliver us. In Him we should set our hope.
The context of today’s passage is a severe trial that the Apostle Paul and his companions faced. We are not told the specifics of what happened, but it was an affliction of such severity that Paul and his companions “were so utterly burdened beyond (their) strength that (they) despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). “Indeed, (they) felt that (they) had received the sentence of death” (2 Corinthians 1:9). We all face trials, and there’s a lesson to be learned in them. We are prone sometimes to think that we can figure out things on our own, but trials are God’s way of teaching us to “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9; Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 8:34). If God can do that, then He can do anything!
“Deliverance” is a key term in this passage. The Apostle Paul experienced countless trials, like this one, and God delivered him from each and every one (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). So, “on him,” Paul and his companions “set (their) hope that he (would) deliver (them) again” (2 Corinthians 1:10). To set one’s hope on God is to determine, by the Spirit, to focus one’s thinking regarding future deliverance on him alone.
God doesn’t always deliver us from our trials, sometimes he delivers us through them. Like when the Apostle Paul was harassed by a thorn in the flesh, “a messenger of satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Three times Paul prayed that it should leave him, but God said no and instead provided sufficient grace to see him through (2 Corinthians 12:9). Sometimes God delivers to a place where trials will be no more. We have Paul’s last works in 2 Timothy chapter 4. The “time of (his) departure had come” (2 Timothy 4:6). He’d faced opposition (2 Timothy 4:15). Friends had deserted him (2 Timothy 4:16). But he said, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
You’ve faced trials before. You’ll face them again. In the “God who raises the dead” we have One who is preeminently qualified to come to your rescue. On Him we should set our hope. The hymn “Be Still, My Soul” puts it this way: “Be still, my soul! God doth undertake, to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul! The waves and winds still know, His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below!”
Hope Set on God is Well Placed Hope
Lord Jesus. Time after time You’ve delivered us. From the moment of saving faith, until this very day, You’ve watched over us. In this life we meet with all kinds of troubles, and it’s to You that we look. Apart from You we’d have no hope of deliverance. Thank you for saving us! Thank you that amidst the darkness of these days, the bright hope bound up in You shines even brighter. May we have the wisdom to set our future hope on You alone, the One who rose from the dead; the One who has worked to deliver us from this present evil age; the One who will bring us safely into Your heavenly kingdom! Amen!