1:1-2:11 - Times of trouble can turn out to be times of great blessing - ‘God… comforts us in all our affliction’ (1:3-4). Whether good things or bad things are happening to you, don’t forget this: God loves you. His Word is ‘not Yes and No’ - ‘Yes, I love you. No, I don’t love you’. In Christ, His Word is ‘always Yes’ (1:19). How do we know that God loves us? - ‘God showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Whatever may happen to us, nothing can change this great fact: Christ died for us. This is the great fact of God’s love. Life is not easy. There is ‘Satan’, always seeking ‘to gain the advantage over us’ (2:11). We do not stand alone in our battle against Satan. God ‘has given us His Spirit in our hearts’. He is the ‘guarantee’ of our final victory (1:22).
2:12-3:18 - How do we react when things don’t seem to be going very well? We all need the encouragement of God’s Word: ‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph’ (2:14). When everything seems to be going wrong, we need to be reminded of God’s Word: ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’ (Romans 8:37). When we feel so weak, we receive strength ‘from God’. We are strengthened by ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (3:5,3). We must learn to look beyond our circumstances to our Saviour. In Him, we see ‘the surpassing glory’. As we look upon ‘the glory of the Lord’, we are ‘changed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory’ (3:18). In life’s many hard times, may God help us to see what He is doing in our lives and not only what we think is happening to us.
4:1-5:10 - God has called us to salvation - ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (4:6). He has called us to service - ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe’. We are to ‘speak’. This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (4:16-5:5).
5:11-7:1 - ‘Reconciled’ to God through Christ, we have received ‘the ministry of reconciliation’. Saved by Him, we are to ‘work with Him’. We are ‘not to accept the grace of God in vain’ by living for ourselves. We are to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’. We must proclaim the urgent message of salvation - ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’. We must call men and women to respond to God’s message of salvation: ‘Be reconciled to God’ (5:18-6:2). If we are to be effective ‘ambassadors for Christ’, we must dedicate our lives to Him: ‘Let us cleanse ourselves… and make holiness perfect in the fear of God’ (7:1). Without this heartfelt commitment to godly living, we cannot really serve the Lord at all. Our wrong lives will drown out our ‘right’ words. We need true lives as well as ‘true’ words.
7:2-8:7 - We may face difficult circumstances. We may experience much suffering. In all of this there is one thing we must never forget: ‘God… comforts the downcast’ (7:6). He lifts us up when we are down. He enables us to ‘excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, in love, in giving’ (8:7). How are we to excel in everything? We must ‘give ourselves to the Lord’ (8:5). Everything else flows from this. We are to ‘give ourselves in devoted service to others’ (12; 8:4-5). Where does this spirit of ‘rich generosity’ come from? It comes from God, from ‘the grace that God has given’ to us (8:1-2). It comes to us as we give ourselves to Him. Before we can ‘excel in this grace of giving’, we must receive ‘from His fullness, grace upon grace’ (8:7; John 1:16).
8:8-9:15 - How are we to be ‘cheerful’ in giving ourselves to the Lord (9:7)? How are we to be confident that ‘God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance’ (9:8)? Before we ever think of giving ourselves to God, we must look at all He has given to us. We look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…’ (8:9). We look at Him and we say, in our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’ (9:15). Can our giving to Him even begin to compare with His giving to us? We give to Him as those who have first received from Him. In his giving, we see His love. Our giving expresses our love, our response to His love: ‘We love because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). Rejoice in His love. Thank Him - for ‘every blessing in abundance’!
10:1-11:15 - We are engaged in warfare. Is it ‘worldly war’? Do we use ‘worldly weapons’? No! It is spiritual warfare. God has given us His weapons (10:3-4). Our enemy is ‘Satan’ - ‘the god of this world’ (11:13-15; 4:4). We face him with ‘the whole armour of God’, with ‘the Gospel of peace’ (Ephesians 6:11,13,15). We are not fighting for ourselves. We are not fighting in our own strength. The battle is the Lord’s. He is our Strength. Without Him, we fail. With Him, there is victory. Everything is centred upon the Lord. We are to have, ‘a sincere and pure devotion to Christ’ (11:13). We are to ‘boast of the Lord’ (10:17). We are to seek the Lord’s commendation (10:18). Be devoted to the Lord. Give glory to Him. Seek His approval. These are the things that really matter, the things we must never forget.
11:16-12:10 - ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (9). These are tremendous words! Believe them. Apply them to yourself. Let the strength of the Lord come to you as you reflect on these great words. God is speaking His Word to you. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever difficulties you are facing, God’s Word is still the same: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. Do you think God will let you down? Don’t believe it - not even for a moment! It is a lie of the devil. It’s ‘as old as the hills’. Way back in Genesis 3:1, Satan was spreading doubt: ‘Did God say?’. God says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. Satan comes along and says ‘Surely you don’t believe that!’. ‘When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, By the living Word of God I shall prevail’ (Redemption Hymnal, 261). Did God say? - Yes! He did say!
12:11-13:14 - ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (13:14). We have often heard these words spoken. Here, we are reading them in the Word of God. How often do we think about these words? What do they mean? These are life-changing words. Through ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’, we become ‘rich’ - ‘blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing’ (8:9, Ephesians 1:3). ‘In love God has destined us to be His sons through Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:5). How do these blessings become ours? How do we become God’s children? We hear the Word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation. We believe in Christ. We are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Such great blessing - ‘the Spirit is poured upon us from on high (Isaiah 32:15)!