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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Being Overflowed

There are passages of scripture that are really hard for me to understand.  It is clear what they are saying; I just cannot imagine people saying what is contained in the text.  The second half of 2 Corinthians 7:4 is an example of one of those verses: “I am filled with comfort (or encouragement).  I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.”  Really?  Paul has been detailing a somewhat strained relationship with the Corinthian believers in his letter to them.  Further he has recounted to them a catalog of attacks on his message, integrity, demeanor, and body.  He is describing his ministry to them in terms of a tough, tough slog.  Yet he describes himself as filled with comfort and overflowing with joy.
How do we experience the same level of encouragement and comfort as Paul?  Or can we?
Something that we miss in our English translations is that both “filled” and “overflowing” are passive voice and “filled” is perfect tense.  That “filled” combination is really difficult to render in English.  Paul is literally saying something to the effect, “I was filled with encouragement in a way that I am still and will remain in a continual state of encouragement or comfort.  I am currently being overflowed with joy…”  I can relate to the last clause; there have been times when circumstances filled me with joy.  I struggle with being in a state of continual encouragement, especially in light of what we know about Paul’s life and ministry not only to the Corinthian church but also the rest of what we know about his life.

The thing that makes this even more overwhelming to me is that this is one of 24 times Paul has referenced “encouragement” or “comfort” in chapters 1 – 7.

As I am working through this book the pattern that seems to be emerging is one of Paul being encouraged or comforted in any and all of the circumstance he experiences.  Why?  The answer seems to be hanging at the front door in 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 4.  There was something about Paul’s relationship with Christ that filled Paul with encouragement and comfort in all that he did.  I do not share as complete an experience of encouragement and comfort as Paul.  I would like to.  I wonder how to tap into that? I wonder if we even can; or was Paul special?

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