The Life Lessons with Max Lucado series brings the Bible to life in twelve lessons filled with intriguing questions, inspirational stories, and poignant reflections to take you deeper into God’s Word. Each lesson includes an opening reflection, background information, an excerpt of the text (from the New International and New King James versions), exploration questions, inspirational thoughts from Max, and a closing takeaway for further reflection. The Life Lessons series is ideal for use in both a small-group setting or for individual study.
The Life Lessons with Max Lucado series is ideal for use in both a small-group setting or for individual study.
About the Author
Visit his website at Max Lucado.com
Read an Excerpt
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV
Life is full of ups and downs. We can be cruising along, with everything going well — and then, suddenly, the wheels go flying off. We find ourselves in the proverbial ditch, asking ourselves, "What just happened?" Which end of the spectrum best describes your life right now?
In the book of Acts, we read that after a man named Demetrius and his fellow silversmiths caused a riot in Ephesus, "Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia" (20:1). During this time, Paul underwent some form of life-or-death experience. The Corinthians had evidently heard about his crises, for Paul does feel the need to mention the specifics of his ordeals. He does, however, take the time to thank the Corinthians for their prayers and reassure them that God, in his grace, had delivered him from those trials.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 from the New International Version or the New King James Version.
New International Version
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
New King James Version
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, 11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
1. Why is it significant, based on the information you have read about the situation in Corinth, that Paul describes himself as "an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God" (verse 1)?
2. What do you think Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians, "If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation" (verse 6)?
3. How does Paul describe God in this passage?
4. How would you explain the difference between hope and comfort?
5. Paul provides a window into his emotional state during the worst of these recent trials. What are some of the key words and phrases he uses to describe his ordeals?
6. What is Paul's perspective on these trials that he has faced? Why he does he believe that he was allowed to undergo them?
You'll get through this. You fear you won't. We all do. We fear that the depression will never lift, the yelling will never stop, the pain will never leave. Here in the pits ... we wonder, Will this gray sky ever brighten? This load ever lighten? We feel stuck, trapped, locked in. Predestined for failure. Will we ever exit this pit?
Yes! Deliverance is to the Bible what jazz music is to Mardi Gras: bold, brassy, and everywhere.
Out of the lions' den for Daniel, the prison for Peter, the whale's belly for Jonah, Goliath's shadow for David, the storm for the disciples, disease for the lepers, doubt for Thomas, the grave for Lazarus, and the shackles for Paul. God gets us through stuff. Through the Red Sea onto dry ground (see Exodus 14:22), through the wilderness (see Deuteronomy 29:5), through the valley of the shadow of death (see Psalm 23:4), and through the deep sea (see 77:19).
Through is a favorite word of God's: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:2).
It won't be painless. Have you wept your final tear or received your last round of chemotherapy? Not necessarily. Will your unhappy mar- riage become happy in a heartbeat? Not likely. Are you exempt from any trip to the cemetery? Does God guarantee the absence of struggle and the abundance of strength? Not in this life. But he does pledge to reweave your pain for a higher purpose.
It won't be quick. ... Sometimes God takes his time: 120 years to prepare Noah for the flood, eighty years to prepare Moses for his work. God called young David to be king but returned him to the sheep pas- ture. He called Paul to be an apostle and then isolated him in Arabia for perhaps three years. Jesus was on the earth for three decades before he built anything more than a kitchen table. How long will God take with you? He may take his time. His history is redeemed not in minutes but in lifetimes.
But God will use your mess for good. We see a perfect mess; God sees a perfect chance to train, test, and teach us. ... We see Satan's tricks and ploys. God sees Satan tripped and foiled. (From You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado.)
7. What evidence has God provided in the Bible that he delivers his children from trials?
8. Think back over your life to the hardest trials and most excruciating times of suffering. What got you through those events?
9. What are some of the ways that God brings comfort to his hurting children?
10. Many people in the midst of difficulty become negative and resort to incessant complaining. Not Paul. How do you think he maintained his hopeful outlook?
11. How do you respond to the statement that God will get you through a trial — but it won't necessarily be painless or quick?
12 . How have you, like Paul, looked back on the trials you've faced and seen how God ultimately used the situation for good?
A renowned psychiatrist was once asked how to overcome depression. His advice? "Get dressed, lock your house, go find someone who is in need, and serve that person." In other words, get the focus off yourself and look for ways to help others. This others-centered mindset is to be the hallmark of every Christian's life. Jesus constantly lived to serve others, and the apostle Paul did likewise. In a situation where lesser men would have decided to throw a major "pity party," licking their wounds and lamenting their woeful condition, Paul turned to God for comfort. He then picked up a pen and determined to write a letter that would help the Corinthians think and live in ways that honored God.
Thank you, God, for being our merciful Father and the source of ultimate comfort. You are so faithful and good! Teach us the habit of looking to you to meet all our needs. Show us how to draw on your infinite resources so we might be a source of compassion to others who hurt.
What are some practical ways that you can start to change your attitude about your trials?
FOR FURTHER READING
To complete the book of 2 Corinthians during this twelve-part study, read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. For more Bible passages on looking to God for comfort in suffering, read Psalm 23:1-4; 119:50-52; John 14:16-17; Philippians 2:1-2; and James 1:3-12.CHAPTER 2
PLANNING AND INTEGRITY
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity.
2 Corinthians 1:12
Perhaps you've heard the old phrase, "The best laid plans often go astray." Even the most carefully considered and thought-out agendas can go awry at times! What was a recent situation in your life where your plans did not work out as you intended? How did you respond?
As previously mentioned, one of Paul's aims in writing this letter to the Corinthians was to defend his credibility and his authority as an apostle. It seems that in his absence, individuals from Judea (see 2 Corinthians 11:21-22) had arrived and questioned his integrity, charging, among other things, that Paul was fickle because he did not keep his commitment to visit them. In response, Paul explains the reason for his change in plans and why it was done for their benefit — not for any personal gain or self-interests on his part.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:4 from the New International Version or the New King James Version.
New International Version
1:12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace. 13 For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, 14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
15 Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?
18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us — by me and Silas and Timothy — was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
23 I call God as my witness — and I stake my life on it — that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
2:1 So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
New King James Version
1:12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. 13 For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end 14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.
15 And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit — 16 to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea. Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? 18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us — by me, Silvanus, and Timothy — was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
23 Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. 24 Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.
2:1 But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. 2 For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?
3 And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.
1. What situation gave the individuals from Judea cause to level charges against Paul?
2. What does Paul claim in this passage about his true motives?
3. How does Paul say the believers benefited twice because of his change in plans?
4. How does Paul differentiate between his way of planning and the world's way of planning?
5. What do you think Paul means when he says that his message to the believers was not "yes" and "no"? How does he describe his relationship with them?
6. When are some times in your life that you had to revise your plans for another person's benefit? How did that person react to the change?
When David, who was a warrior, minstrel, and ambassador for God, searched for an illustration of God, he remembered his days as a shepherd. He remembered how he lavished attention on the sheep day and night. How he slept with them and watched over them. And the way he cared for the sheep reminded him of the way God cares for us. David rejoiced to say, "The Lord is my shepherd" (Psalm 23:1), and in so doing he proudly implied, "I am his sheep."
Still uncomfortable with being considered a sheep? Will you humor me and take a simple quiz? See if you succeed in self-reliance. Raise your hand if any of the following describe you.
You can control your moods. You're never grumpy or sullen. You can't relate to Jekyll and Hyde. You're always upbeat and upright. Does that describe you? No? Well, let's try another.
You are at peace with everyone. Every relationship as sweet as fudge. Even your old flames speak highly of you. Love all and are loved by all. Is that you? If not, how about this description?
You have no fears. Call you the Teflon toughie. Wall Street plummets — no problem. Heart condition discovered — yawn. World War III starts — what's for dinner?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Life Lessons from 2 Corinthians"
Copyright © 2018 Max Lucado.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
How to Study the Bible v
Introduction to the Book of 2 Corinthians ix
Lesson 1 Suffering (2 Corinthians 1:1-11)
Lesson 2 Planning and Integrity (2 Corinthians 1:12-2:4) 11
Lesson 3 God's New Agreement (2 Corinthians 3:4-18) 21
Lesson 4 Shining the Light (2 Corinthians 4:1-15) 31
Lesson 5 Eternal Perspective (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10) 41
Lesson 6 Living as a Servant (2 Corinthians 6:1-10) 51
Lesson 7 Follow the Leader (2 Corinthians 7:2-16) 61
Lesson 8 Money Matters (2 Corinthians 9:1-15) 71
Lesson 9 Ground Zero (2 Corinthians 10:1-18) 81
Lesson 10 Perseverance (2 Corinthians 11:16-31) 91
Lesson 11 Sustaining Grace (2 Corinthians 12:1-13) 101
Lesson 12 Spiritual Maturity (2 Corinthians 12:19-13:11) 111
Leader's Guide for Small Groups 121