The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: 2 Corinthians: God Can Turn Your Trials into Triumphs

The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: 2 Corinthians: God Can Turn Your Trials into Triumphs

by Warren W. Wiersbe

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The young church in Corinth was making a disheartening discovery: Believers are not immune from trials and pain. Drawing from his own personal struggles, the apostle Paul sent the congregation a remarkable message of encouragement and comfort. Based on his second letter to the Corinthians, this study explores the reality of suffering, the promise of the new covenant, and the hope available to every believer.  The Wiersbe Bible Studies Series explores timeless wisdom found in God’s word. Based on Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s popular “BE” series, each study provides topical, relevant insights from selected books of the Bible. Designed for small groups, this eight-week study features selected commentaries from BE Encouraged, engaging questions, and practical applications, all designed to help you connect God’s word with your life.   

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781434705181
Publisher: David C Cook
Publication date: 11/01/2012
Series: Wiersbe Bible Study Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 350,482
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe (1929–2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago from 1971 to 1978. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular BE series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). His writing will impact generations to come.

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God Can Turn Your Trials into Triumphs

By Warren W. Wiersbe

David C. Cook

Copyright © 2012 Warren W. Wiersbe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4347-0518-1


Lesson 1

Down, Not Out


Before you begin ...

Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

Read 2 Corinthians 1—2. This lesson references chapters 1 and 2 in Be Encouraged. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.

Getting Started

From the Commentary

Discouragement is no respecter of persons. In fact, discouragement seems to attack the successful far more than the unsuccessful; for the higher we climb, the farther down we can fall. We are not surprised then when we read that the great apostle Paul was "pressed out of measure" and "despaired even of life" (2 Cor. 1:8). Great as he was in character and ministry, Paul was human just like the rest of us.

Paul could have escaped these burdens except that he had a call from God (2 Cor. 1:1) and a concern to help people. He had founded the church at Corinth and had ministered there for a year and a half (Acts 18:1–18). When serious problems arose in the church after his departure, he sent Timothy to deal with them (1 Cor. 4:17) and then wrote the letter that we call 1 Corinthians.

Be Encouraged, pages 17–18

1. How can we tell from 2 Corinthians 1—2 that matters got worse in the Corinthian church after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians? Why didn't Paul hurry to Corinth to fix things? What challenges did Paul face as he tried to encourage this church?

More to Consider: Before 2 Corinthians was written, Paul wrote a "severe" letter to the church. It was delivered by his associate Titus (2 Cor. 2:4–9; 7:8–12). What might the contents of this severe letter have been? Why might it have caused such distress in the church? What does the existence of this letter reveal about the Corinthian church? About Paul?

2. Choose one verse or phrase from 2 Corinthians 1—2 that stands out to you. This could be something you're intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.

Going Deeper From the Commentary

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians for several reasons. First, he wanted to encourage the church to forgive and restore the member who had caused all the trouble (2 Cor. 2:6–11). He also wanted to explain his change in plans (2 Cor. 1:15–22) and enforce his authority as an apostle (2 Cor. 4:1–2; 10—12). Finally, he wanted to encourage the church to share in the special "relief offering" he was taking up for the needy saints in Judea (2 Cor. 8—9).

One of the key words in this letter is comfort or encouragement. The Greek word means "called to one's side to help." ... In spite of all the trials he experienced, Paul was able (by the grace of God) to write a letter saturated with encouragement.

Be Encouraged, page 18

3. Go through 2 Corinthians 1:1–11 and underline all the uses of the word comfort (both as noun and verb). What does this tell you about Paul's primary concern with the Corinthian church? What was Paul's secret to finding peace when facing pressures and trials? What message did he give the Corinthian church about where they could find encouragement?

From the Commentary

Paul began his letter with a doxology. He certainly could not sing about his circumstances, but he could sing about the God who is in control of all circumstances.

Praise Him because He is God! You find this phrase "blessed be God" in two other places in the New Testament, in Ephesians 1:3 and 1 Peter 1:3. In Ephesians 1:3 Paul praised God for what He did in the past, when He "chose us in [Christ]" (Eph. 1:4) and blessed us "with all spiritual blessings." In 1 Peter 1:3 Peter praised God for future blessings and "a living hope" (NASB). But in 2 Corinthians Paul praised God for present blessings, for what God was accomplishing then and there.

Praise Him because He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is because of Jesus Christ that we can call God "Father" and even approach Him as His children. God sees us in His Son and loves us as He loves His Son (John 17:23). We are "beloved of God" (Rom. 1:7) because we are "accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6).

Praise Him because He is the Father of mercies! To the Jewish people, the phrase father of means "originator of." Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) because lies originated with him. According to Genesis 4:21, Jubal was the father of musical instruments because he originated the pipe and the harp. God is the Father of mercies because all mercy originates with Him and can be secured only from Him.

Praise Him because He is the God of all comfort! The words comfort or consolation (same root word in the Greek) are repeated ten times in 2 Corinthians 1:1–11. We must not think of comfort in terms of "sympathy," because sympathy can weaken us instead of strengthen us. God does not pat us on the head and give us a piece of candy or a toy to distract our attention from our troubles. No, He puts strength into our hearts so we can face our trials and triumph over them. Our English word comfort comes from two Latin words meaning "with strength." The Greek word means "to come alongside and help." It is the same word used for the Holy Spirit ("the Comforter") in John 14—16.

Be Encouraged, pages 19–20

4. Why did Paul open his letter with a doxology? What had Paul learned about the role of praise in overcoming trials? How does praise change things?

From the Commentary

There are ten basic words for suffering in the Greek language, and Paul used five of them in this letter. The most frequently used word is thlipsis, which means "narrow, confined, under pressure," and in this letter is translated "affliction" (2 Cor. 2:4; 4:17), "tribulation" (2 Cor. 1:4), and "trouble" (2 Cor. 1:4, 8). Paul felt hemmed in by difficult circumstances, and the only way he could look was up.

In 2 Corinthians 1:5–6, Paul used the word pathÍma, "suffering," which was also used for the sufferings of our Savior (1 Peter 1:11; 5:1). There are some sufferings that we endure simply because we are human and subject to pain; but there are other sufferings that come because we are God's people and want to serve Him.

Be Encouraged, page 21

5. Review 2 Corinthians 1:4, 8–11. What do these passages teach us about trials? How can God use trials for good? Is trouble ever an "accident"? Explain.

From the Commentary

Paul was weighed down like a beast of burden with a load too heavy to bear. But God knew just how much Paul could take, and He kept the situation in control.

We do not know what the specific "trouble" was, but it was great enough to make Paul think he was going to die. Whether it was peril from his many enemies (see Acts 19:21ff.; 1 Cor. 15:30–32), serious illness, or special satanic attack, we do not know; but we do know that God controlled the circumstances and protected His servant. When God puts His children into the furnace, He keeps His hand on the thermostat and His eye on the thermometer (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Peter 1:6–7). Paul may have despaired of life, but God did not despair of Paul.

The first thing He must do is show us how weak we are in ourselves. Paul was a gifted and experienced servant of God, who had been through many different kinds of trials (see 2 Cor. 4:8–12; 11:23ff.). Surely all of this experience would be sufficient for him to face these new difficulties and overcome them.

Be Encouraged, pages 21–22

6. What does Paul's circumstance teach us about the importance of trusting God rather than our gifts or abilities? How does our weakness reveal God's strength (2 Cor. 12:10)?

From the Commentary

Paul made it clear that we do not need to experience exactly the same trials in order to be able to share God's encouragement. If we have experienced God's comfort, then we can "comfort them which are in any trouble" (2 Cor. 1:4b). Of course, if we have experienced similar tribulations, they can help us identify better with others and know better how they feel; but our experiences cannot alter the comfort of God. That remains sufficient and efficient no matter what our own experiences may have been.

Later in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul will give us an example of this principle. He was given a "thorn in the flesh"—some kind of physical suffering that constantly buffeted him. We do not know what this thorn in the flesh was, nor do we need to know. What we do know is that Paul experienced the grace of God and then shared that encouragement with us. No matter what your trial may be, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:9) is a promise you can claim. We would not have that promise if Paul had not suffered.

Be Encouraged, page 25

7. Why is human suffering so hard to understand? What does suffering teach us about the mystery of God? What are some of the different reasons we suffer? How can it help us grow? (See Rom. 5:1–5.) How can it help us share God's character? (See Heb. 12:1–11.)

From the Commentary

Our English word conscience comes from two Latin words: com, meaning "with," and scire, meaning "to know." Conscience is that inner faculty that "knows with" our spirit and approves when we do right, but accuses when we do wrong. Conscience is not the law of God, but it bears witness to that law. It is the window that lets in the light; and if the window gets dirty because we disobey, then the light becomes dimmer and dimmer (see Matt. 6:22–23; Rom. 2:14–16).

Paul used the word conscience twenty-three times in his letters and spoken ministry as given in Acts. "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offense toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). When a person has a good conscience, he has integrity, not duplicity; and he can be trusted.

Be Encouraged, page 32

8. Review 2 Corinthians 1:12–24. How does Paul's use of conscience relate to his understanding of the Holy Spirit? What are the differences between a modern understanding of conscience and what Paul was writing about?

More to Consider: Read the following passages: Romans 15:30–32; Ephesians 6:18–19; Philippians 1:19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philemon verse 22. What do these verses teach us about Paul? About the importance he placed on prayer? What can we glean from Paul's prayer life that we can apply to our everyday lives?

From the Commentary

One of the members of the Corinthian church caused Paul a great deal of pain. We are not sure if this is the same man Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 5, the man who was living in open fornication, or if it was another person, someone who publicly challenged Paul's apostolic authority. Paul had made a quick visit to Corinth to deal with this problem (2 Cor. 12:14; 13:1) and had also written a painful letter to them about the situation.

Be Encouraged, pages 35–36

9. Review 2 Corinthians 2:1–11. How did Paul reveal a compassionate heart in the way he dealt with the church member who caused him pain? What does this teach us about how we ought to respond to those who hurt us? How can church leadership benefit from Paul's example?

From the Commentary

It appeared in Asia that Paul's plans had completely fallen apart. Where was Titus? What was going on at Corinth? Paul had open doors of ministry at Troas, but he had no peace in his heart to walk through those doors. Humanly speaking, it looked like the end of the battle, with Satan as the victor.

Except for one thing: Paul had a conquering faith! He was able to break out in praise and write, "Thanks be unto God" (2 Cor. 2:14). This song of praise was born out of the assurances Paul had because he trusted the Lord.

Be Encouraged, page 39

10. How did Paul reveal his conquering faith? (See 2 Cor. 2:12–17.) What assurances did Paul have? How are these assurances true for us today?

Looking Inward

Take a moment to reflect on all that you've explored thus far in this study of 2 Corinthians 1—2. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.

Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don't press for people to speak if they're uncomfortable doing so.

11. Paul was able to praise God in the midst of challenging circumstances. Do you praise God when things are tough? Why or why not? What prompts you to praise God? How can you become more able to genuinely praise God in all circumstances?

12. Think about the last time you felt discouraged in your faith. What led to that season of discouragement? What can you take from Paul's story to help you better handle discouragement the next time it comes?

13. How do you see God when you are in the middle of suffering? How easy is it for you to reach out to God when you're suffering? Where does God reveal Himself to you in your suffering?

Going Forward

14. Think of one or two things that you have learned that you'd like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It's better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don't try).

Do you want to learn how to better handle discouragement? Be specific. Go back through 2 Corinthians 1—2 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.

Real-Life Application Ideas: In his letters Paul often asked for people to pray for him. All church leaders need prayer. This week, take some time to pray for each of those leaders in your church and small group. Ask God to give wisdom and grant peace to them. And don't forget to pray for yourself as well. You are a leader to others in some aspect of life, whether you know it or not.

Seeking Help

15. Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence), inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you've noted in the Going Forward section. Be honest about your desires and fears.

Notes for Small Groups:

Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.

During the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal truth to you from what you've read and studied.

Before you start the next lesson, read 2 Corinthians 3. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapter 3, "From Glory to Glory," in Be Encouraged.


Lesson 2



Before you begin ...

Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

Read 2 Corinthians 3. This lesson references chapter 3 in Be Encouraged. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.

Getting Started

From the Commentary

Wherever you find the genuine, you will find somebody promoting the counterfeit. Even art critics have been fooled by fake "masterpieces," and sincere publishers have purchased "valuable manuscripts," only to discover them to be forgeries. Henry Ward Beecher was right when he said, "A lie always needs a truth for a handle to it."

No sooner did the gospel of God's grace begin to spread among the Gentiles than a counterfeit "gospel" appeared, a mixture of law and grace. It was carried by a zealous group of people we have come to call the "Judaizers." Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians to refute their doctrines, and you will find him referring to them several times in 2 Corinthians.

Their major emphasis was that salvation was by faith in Christ plus the keeping of the law (see Acts 15:1ff.). They also taught that the believer is perfected in his faith by obeying the law of Moses. Their "gospel of legalism" was very popular, since human nature enjoys achieving religious goals instead of simply trusting Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to work. It is much easier to measure "religion" than true righteousness.

Paul looked on these false teachers as "peddlers" of the Word of God (see 2 Cor. 2:17 NIV), "religious racketeers" who preyed on ignorant people. He rejected their devious methods of teaching the Bible (2 Cor. 4:2) and despised their tendency to boast about their converts (2 Cor. 10:12–18). One reason why the Corinthians were behind in their contribution to the special offering was that the Judaizers had "robbed" the church (2 Cor. 11:7–12, 20; 12:14).

Be Encouraged, pages 45–46


Excerpted from The Wiersbe BIBLE STUDY SERIES: 2 CORINTHIANS by Warren W. Wiersbe. Copyright © 2012 Warren W. Wiersbe. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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


Introduction to 2 Corinthians,
How to Use This Study,
Lesson 1 Down, Not Out (2 Corinthians 1—2),
Lesson 2 Glory (2 Corinthians 3),
Lesson 3 Courage and Motives (2 Corinthians 4—5),
Lesson 4 Heart to Heart (2 Corinthians 6—7),
Lesson 5 Giving (2 Corinthians 8—9),
Lesson 6 Misunderstandings (2 Corinthians 10),
Lesson 7 Ministry and Defense (2 Corinthians 11:1—12:10),
Lesson 8 Readiness (2 Corinthians 12:11—13:14),
Bonus Lesson Summary and Review,

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