You and I, in the time of difficulty and adversity, deep suffering and trial, are so often tempted to think that something very wrong has taken place, and there is a big question as to whether it ought to be, seeing we belong to the Lord. We are really, in heart, devoted to the Lord; we mean business with Him and now look at this! Well, it befell and it befalls. We must get to the point of a conclusion about this, that there is no charm resting upon the life of the most devoted child of God, there is no special providence to say that no adversity shall overtake, shall befall. It just does happen, it is a fact, and that is where we begin.
It happened to Paul, it befell him (2 Cor. 1:8-10), but he does not raise any questions at all about God or about spiritual issues in such a way as to lead him into difficulties with the Lord. Are you one whose way has been, and perhaps still is, one of great adversity, trial, suffering, perplexity? It has happened to you, it has overtaken, it has befallen you. Well, Paul is not alone in this, that it is a part of the course of things. It has a meaning; but my point at the moment is that these things are facts. You cannot get away from them. You must settle down to it that they are facts to be recognized and accepted as making up the lot of a true servant and child of God. That is where we begin.
But then there is another thing here. Of course, we do not know what was the exact nature of Paul’s particular trial. It is probable that it was some terrible illness which overtook him, some sickness which brought him to an end of all hope. Whatever it was, he says: “We despaired even of life; yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves.” This is the end, death! But what we want particularly to note is the exercise that the affliction produced in Paul. Evidently he had been looking into this thing, scrutinizing it and saying, What is the Divine meaning in my situation? What does the Lord mean by this? Although it looks like a hap, it has befallen me, yet the Lord has something bound up with it. There was enquiry and exercise about the situation, and in his prayerful investigation, he comes to realize what the Lord’s mind is, and he sums it all up in the little word THAT. “We have had the sentence of death within ourselves, THAT we should not trust in ourselves, but in God…” All this happened in order that… There was a Divine object, a Divine meaning, something quite precise. …in order that “we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.”
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