I've Got A Terrible Problem - Thank God!

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  1 : 3-10
Subject: Care, God's; Problems, Joy in; Hardships; Trials

I’ve got a terrible problem thank God! Doesn't that sound ridiculous? If a person made such a statement today, we'd think he'd lost his marbles! Nevertheless, Paul said it. "But we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope" (Rom. 5:3, 4)

James also said it. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance . . ." (James 1:4).

Jesus said it. "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad . . ." (Matt. 5:11-12).

What on earth do these verses mean? Surely rejoicing in the midst of trouble reveals a warped personality. Maybe not! Our despair can be God's opportunity. A roadblock in your path may just be a short detour leading to greater things.

Problems are a part of life. A preacher, counseling a chronic complainer said, "I visited a place the other day where people have no problems whatsoever."

"Oh, where?" the man asked. "I'd like to find that place so I can go there."

"Well, about a mile down this road, you'll see a cemetery," the preacher answered. "The people there are totally free of problems."

Yes, problems indicate life, and growth. That's why God doesn't solve our problems for us. You see, "I've got a terrible problem, Thank God," can mean I'm alive! I'm making progress.

Paul explains this point:

I. Problems Allow us to Experience God’s Presence

First, he says problems are productive because they allow us to experience God's presence.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . who comforts us in all our affliction" (II Cor. 1:3-4).

As we draw closer to God, we feel His love. This special intimacy becomes real in our moments of desperation. The Psalmist said, "The Lord also will be a stronghold . . . in times of trouble" (Ps. 9:9).

"God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1).

Once a minister on his first plane trip was visibly nervous. The stewardess said, "Sir, do you believe the Bible?" "Oh, Yes," the minister insisted. "Well, then, there's nothing to worry about." she explained. "The Scriptures say, `Lo I am with you always.' "

"Sure," the preacher snapped. "Low, I know! It's high I'm worried about."

You see, sometimes it takes a trauma to make us think. Sometimes it takes a crisis to make us aware of God. An American told of climbing Mt. Fuji, the sacred mountain of Japan. He said, "The guide warned us as we reached the crater that the trail was only two feet wide. I could feel the mountain like a wall on my left, but on the right there was absolutely nothing. I couldn't tell if the drop was a foot or a thousand feet.

Suddenly I stumbled and terror seized me. Instantly, the guide's firm voice said, "Here I am. Take my hand. I know the way."

That can happen to us when problems allow us to experience God's presence.

II. Problems Enable us to Help Others

Second, Paul says problems are productive because they enable us to help others.

"That we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Cor. 1:4).

We can't truly give what we don't have. We can't grieve with others if we've never known grief.

Job spoke for many when he said, "Sorry comforters are you all" (Job 16:2). These so-called friends had never sat where Job sat and yet they were advising him. Such misguided "sympathy" seems artificial. Self-help groups are based on the precept that sharing common losses and afflictions is therapeutic.

A professor asked some students who were planning to work with learning disabled students, "How many of you were good readers in high school." Most of the hands went up. "Then, you will have one disadvantage in teaching poor readers," he said. "You won't be able to identify with their problem."

People who have had a problem and solved it are better able to help others overcome the same difficulty. Living through trials gives us understanding. That's an important principle in Jesus's incarnation. The writer of Hebrews said, "We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are . . . Let us therefore draw near with confidence . . . that we may . . . find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16).

Yes, problems enable us to help others.

III. Problems Let us Identify with Jesus

Third, Paul says problems are productive because they let us identify with Jesus.

"For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ" (2 Cor. 1:5).

Suffering is a privilege because it affords us a learning opportunity. In one of the most surprising verses of Scripture, we're told that even Jesus grew and matured through trials. "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8).

Problems also give us the right to reap the rewards. Those who play the game deserve the trophy. Paul says, We are "Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:17);

"If we endure, we shall also reign with Him . . ." (2 Tim. 2:12).

Veterans who have been through battles together form enduring bonds. Families in ICU waiting rooms draw close to one another. Suffering together connects people at a deep emotional and spiritual level.

So it is with Jesus. Experiencing problems help us identify with him.

IV. Problem Give us a Forum for a Witness

Fourth, Paul says problems are productive because they give us a forum for witnessing.

"If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation . . ." (2 Cor. 1:6-7).

Anybody can be strong and optimistic during good times; but it takes a genuine disciple to hang on through the bad times. Peter said, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God" (I Peter 4:16).

Jesus is our model. Peter said, "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21).

Anything worthwhile has a cost. "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

Darkness makes the stars shine brighter. Jesus said it must be the same with us. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

Once an invalid with a painful illness, told her pastor about a bird. She said, "There's a beautiful robin that sings outside my window. I love him because he even sings in the rain. When a storm silences every other creature, the robin sings on."

Christians are like that. Anyone can sing on a sunny day, but true believers can even sing in the rain.

Problems give us a forum for witness.

V. Problems Make us more Dedicated

Fifth, Paul says problems are productive because they make us more dedicated.

"We had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God . . ." (2 Cor. 1:9-10).

It's easy to slide when things are normal. It's easy to get lax in the absence of tension. Affliction sharpens our spiritual awareness. The Psalmist said, "In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord . . ." (Psalm 77:2).

Paul understood the purpose of adversity. "I am well content with . . . insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

Troubles really do strengthen us. It's hard to appreciate trials when they happen, but their benefits are obvious from hindsight. The Psalmist said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Thy word. It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes" (Psalm 119:67,71).

Sometimes a crises brings us to God. It reminds us that we're not completely self-sufficient. Once, two men were sent to chart a mountain. Each day they went up on the mountain and each evening they returned to base camp and sat around the campfire, talking to an old shepherd.

One evening he said, "I know this mountain like the back of my hand. Tomorrow I must go with you so you won't get lost."

The men asked, "Why? We have gone up before. We know the way."

But the shepherd insisted, "Tomorrow I must go with you."

The men protested, "But we have a map."

"I know," said the shepherd, "but, there's no fog on your map."

In the morning the two men went up on the mountain, and sure enough, a dense fog enveloped them. Soon they were hopelessly lost. After stumbling around for a long time, they were ready to give up, when suddenly the shepherd was beside them.

Is that our story? When things go well, we think we have it made; but then something happens and we're lost. That's when we appreciate divine guidance.

Yes, problems makes us more dedicated.

So, can we glory in tribulation? Can we rejoice in temptation? Can we be happy in persecution? Can we say: "I've got a terrible problem, thank God!"

We can if we realize that these problems allow us to experience God's presence; they enable us to help others; they help us identify with Jesus; they give us a forum for witness and they make us more dedicated.

An old poem says:

   The tree that never had to fight

   For sun and sky and air and light.

   That stood out in the open plain

   And always got its share of rain,

   That tree was not a forest king.

   It lived and died a scrubby thing.

   The man who never had to toil

   To heaven from the common soil;

   Who never had to win his place,

   And fight for his beliefs and space;

   That one was not a saintly man,

   He lived and died as he began.


We mustn't indulge in self-pity. We mustn't become suffering martyrs. We mustn't feel sorry for ourselves if things don't turn out right. In a Peanuts cartoon, an emotionally distraught Charlie Brown bemoans his baseball team's 122 to 1 loss. In disbelief he cries, "But we were so sincere!"

Justice seems to dictate that well-intentioned, hard-working, clean-living people will come out on top; but that doesn't always happen that way. In fact our personal deliverance is really not important. It's the overall success of the Kingdom that's important.

When the three Hebrew children took their stand against idolatry, they said, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace" (Dan. 3:17).

Then they added a significant statement: "But if not, be it known unto thee . . . that we will not serve thy gods . . ." (Dan. 3:18).

You see, whether our problems are solved or not, we have one duty, and that's to be faithful. Jesus didn't come to eliminate the storms of life. He came to create character. After a storm hits an area, you will find some homes torn to pieces and others still standing. Since the same storm hit them all, what made the difference? Well, those built of flimsy material were destroyed while those built of solid material survived.

Storms reveal the strength of the houses. Likewise, problems reveal the strength of our character.

Do you have a problem? Then look upon it as God's opportunity. Realize that problems have causes, but problems also have purposes. God doesn't cause our problems, but "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to (His) purposed" (Rom. 8:28).

Use your problem to experience God's presence and providence. Use your problem to learn how to help others. Use your problem to identify with Jesus and his suffering. Use your problem as a forum for Christian witness. Use your problem to make you more dedicated and determined.