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. 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. 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, 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.2 Corinthians 1:8-11
It is often said, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” But this statement is an extrapolation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which actually states, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” But this must be taken together with the above passage where Paul clearly states that he and his companions, “were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired for life itself.”
God does hold back temptation so that it is not beyond our capacity to resist. He also provides a way out. But life is not so kind. Life will throw stuff at us that feels beyond our ability to endure. But, as Paul recognizes, these are always opportunities to rely on God instead of relying on ourselves.
Paul remembers the times in the past when God delivered him from trouble, so Paul is able to trust in Him again. He also has a community of people praying for him. This seems to be a great encouragement to Paul as he faces such hardships.
Have you ever joined together with a number of people in praying for something and then got to rejoice together with them when God answered your collective prayer? It is such a powerful moment. And the passage of scripture above in the Greek calls that moment a “χάρισμα” (charisma).
We are used to seeing the Greek word “χάρισμα” (charisma) in 1 Corinthians 12 when Paul is listing the spiritual gifts. The word is usually translated “gift.” The word “χάρισμα” (charisma) combines the Greek word for grace, “χάρισ” (charis), with either the singular ending -μα (-ma) or the plural ending -ματα (-mata). The plural “χαρίσματα” (charismata) is where we get the term “charismatic.”
The full meaning of this word is more than just “gift.” The connotation is more like “grace-enablement,” or “grace-empowerment.” We could even translated it more literally as “gracelet.” Whereas the word “droplet” describes a small bit of liquid that comes from a larger source of liquid, the word “χάρισμα” (charisma) or “gracelet” describes a small bit of grace-enablement that comes from a larger source of grace. In other words, a “χάρισμα” (charisma) is a divine enablement of grace given by the Spirit. This is why we tend to call it a “spiritual gift.”
In the above passage, that moment where a group of people pray for something and see a miraculous intervention or a divine breakthrough as a result of their collective praying is called a “χάρισμα” (charisma). The English version above translates it “gracious favor.” Some translations translate it “gracious gift.” In other words, one of the “gifts of the Spirit” not listed in 1 Corinthians 12 is listed here. Many of us have experienced this spiritual gift but didn’t know it was a gift of the Spirit. It is the gift of having God’s grace poured out in a situation as a group of people agree together in prayer. And, as His grace is released, there is a breakthrough or an intervention that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
The potential of this collective spiritual gift gave Paul encouragement and endurance as he faced trials and persecutions in his ministry. He set his hope on the Lord as he knew his churches were praying for him. There is real power in a group of people collectively agreeing together in prayer.