“Indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9
To read of the many difficulties the apostle Paul faced as he preached the message of the gospel, we understand that Paul was fully persuaded of this truth that he taught and the need of all men to hear it. His message was the message of forgiveness through the cross – grace. The very word, grace, was foreign to Paul’s vocabulary prior to his conversion. Having been brought up and instructed in the ways of the Pharisees, he would have been exceedingly familiar with, and perhaps obsessed with, works. How sweet the message of grace must have been for Paul.
But to receive this message of grace and all that it means by necessity means a change in dependency. Whereas we have been accustomed to depending on our own goodness, now that we realize we have no goodness apart from Christ, we must depend on Christ instead of our own works. And not only must we depend on Him for our salvation, but for all things. For some of us it is a hard lesson to learn.
In my own life I have discovered that God is determined that I learn this lesson, bringing me time and again to the very end of my own abilities. At this place of failure and frustration, I can do nothing else but rely on Him. No other options remain. That’s what this verse reminds me of. Paul faced overwhelming circumstances and opposition in his ministry, to the point that he was certain that his very life was on the line beyond his own ability to preserve it. But as he tells these things to the Corinthians, as he looks back at these events, he sees that even in these things, maybe especially in these things, the Lord is teaching him to rely fully on Him. He even goes so far as to say that this was actually the reason why the Lord allowed these difficulties.
I still have a stubborn streak of independence. I dislike it intensely and would be pleased if the Lord would just remove it once and for all. But moment by moment, and choice by choice, my independence receives the sentence of death, that I may rely on Him in all things.