“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” (2 Corinthians 1:8–10, KJV)
As I pastored, I have met many people who have struggled in life and in ministry. Some have been at the point of desperation. Many missionaries have suffered and were at that point of desperation. Many church planters and pastors have been there also. Some have been at the point of death and then miraculously rescued.
In 2021, a group of missionaries in Haiti had a harrowing experience. The group of twelve, which included several children, were taken captive, kidnapped by a gang called 400 Mawozo. They indicated that for days, they prayed for God to lead them in escaping captivity. On two occasions, when they planned to go, God told them to wait. Then on a Wednesday evening, they discovered a way to open a door and walked by the guards, going about ten miles on foot. They had escaped. They trusted in God who led them out, unscathed and unnoticed.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth regarding the trials he and others experienced in the gospel ministry. He expressed the severity of the tribulation his team encountered like this, “we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.” Few of us in the ministry have ever been at that point. However, most all in the ministry have struggled at some point.
It is interesting that Paul explained a significant principle his team discovered in the midst of the trial, “we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” In the midst of the trial, the team were at a place where they could not trust themselves, but had to depend on God alone, who delivered them. What do we learn from this? It is that we must learn to depend completely on the Lord our God to deliver us.
I have never been in such a trial as Paul described here. However, when I planted a church in Savannah Georgia, there was a time when we struggled financially. I was a bi-vocational minister, receiving $200 per month from the church plant. Between the $200 per month from the church, the income from a business I started, and with my wife’s income working in a bookstore, we struggled to consistently make ends meet. Needless to say, my business income was essential, but sporadic. I did a lot of sales work, but my cold calls did not add one new customer. Yet, noticed a pattern. Every time, our bank account reached zero, I would get a call, out of the blue, from someone who wanted my services. In this way, I would make enough money to make ends meet. This pattern repeated many times. God was providing in miraculous ways just when we needed help.
The point of this is that God is our provider and protector. We are to trust Him. Normally we place all our hope in him when we are desperate, at the bottom, and have lost all hope in ourselves. However, we must shift our thinking. We should be trusting Him as our hope not only when we are in the valley of despair, but also when we are on the top of the mountain. For He is the one sovereign over all and He is the one who provides and protects, both when we are in the valley and when we are on top of the mountain. You see, we are powerless without Him.