On this day, eighty-one years ago the Second World War began. People talked fearfully and were very jittery. As children we could sense the anxieties of older people and needed the reassurance of our faithful parents. In this ungodly 21st Century reassurance that comes from real faith will become more necessary both for ourselves and our children and any whose faith is faltering. Such reassurance must be evident and have a sound foundation.
We lived quite close to London when war was declared. The memories of the First World War when many millions of people had died were still vivid for all those over 30. A sense of great anxiety was therefore the dominating mood and their fears proved only to true. Six years of horror followed, more powerful weapons were used and it is said that something like 20 million died, including 6 million Jews. Our reading today in 2 Corinthians 1 & 2 illustrates how Paul puts into a positive light the great affliction he and others had recently experienced. He looked at such afflictions from God’s perspective. “For we do not want you to be ignorant brothers of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God” (1:8,9).
Events during the 1940s certainly caused those who believed in the God of the Bible to grow in faith. Faith is not static – it either grows or fades away. The mind of faith needs to be exercised like a muscle. The time is coming, and maybe quite soon, when, if we have not learnt to rely on God, the oil in our lamps of faith will be found lacking.
Note another point. Paul asks, “Do I make my plans according to the flesh?” (verse 17). Paul sees human planning as being ready to say yes and no at the same time (1:17-19). Only those who know the true gospel, and practice genuine reliance on God, know how to think and plan positively for the future, especially their eternal future. Paul concludes by stating, “we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith”. May that also be true of us.