Sunday, February 17, 2013

The God of All Comfort

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy [our] brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you [is] steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also [you will partake] of the consolation. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver [us], you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift [granted] to us through many.
2 Corinthians 1:1-11 NKJV

Have you ever had the thought that life can get pretty tough at times? Of course you have, just like I and everyone else who lives on this earth could say. When I think of this, my thoughts go back to Adam and Eve in the garden and just what life was like before the introduction of sin into this world. Can you even imagine a life with no worry? No concerns or thoughts about providing for yourself or family, knowing your every need was already taken care of by a loving God? Living every day with the knowledge that nothing bad could happen to you because evil doesn't exist?

I'll be honest with you, even though I can paint that picture in my head I simply cannot imagine what it would feel like because I have never experienced the reality of living in a world without sin. I think that might have been the greatest source of regret for Adam and Eve in that they had to spend the rest of their lives after the fall with the memory of what life had been like before. They experienced the life we can only dream about, and look forward to when we get to Heaven.

Yet we are not condemned to live in this sinful world without the help we need. In this passage to the Corinthians, Paul explains that although we will suffer, our loving Father has provided the resources we need to endure. Today I want to look briefly at four phrases in this passage that stood out to me when I read them, and possibly provide you with some comfort in these times we all find ourselves in.

Grace and peace. What exactly is God's grace? In the Greek, the word for grace is charis, which is translated “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness”. What does that mean to you and me? To me it seems like God's grace is His way of telling us that although we may not be living in the garden like Adam and Eve, that same understanding that they had knowing that God would would take care of them and provide for them is available to us. As a result, we can live in peace, which translated from the Greek means “tranquility”, or simply fearing nothing.

Affliction and comfort. Now who among us really wants to be “afflicted”? Seriously, I think we all yearn to experience a life where absolutely nothing ever goes wrong. Yet because we live in a fallen world where evil exists, bad things are going to happen. Here Paul tells us that although we will be afflicted, our God is a God of “comfort”. One of the interesting things about the word comfort in the Greek is that as well as meaning to “encourage and strengthen”, it also means “to summon to one's side”. Many of us can remember running to one or both of our parents for comfort when we were small and this is what Paul is telling us here. Although we will experience affliction, we can always run to God's side for the comfort we need to endure.

That we should not trust in ourselves. Have you ever thought about how many times in a day you ask yourself the question, “what am I going to do about this”? If you think about it, isn't that the way we have all been taught or learned to think? When a problem comes, figure out the solution yourself. You need to come up with an answer to life's problems. You need to take charge of your life and make the hard decisions. Whatever you gain in this life is a result of your own efforts. Yet Paul makes the point that we are placed in situations for the purpose of allowing God to demonstrate He has the power to deliver us from whatever situation we find ourselves. Our thoughts should never be “what can I do”, but rather “what will God do”.

So that many will give thanks. If you are like me, when I experience situations where problems come and life gets complicated and troubling, sad to say quite often the last thing I think about is how can God use my situation to encourage others. It's almost as if we look at what life throws at us as a personal challenge that we need to work to overcome by our own efforts and probably never give a thought to how it could benefit the body. Yet also like me, I'm sure you can think of an example of how God has worked out a problem in another's life and thanked Him for His provision. Seeing God provide for His children is an encouragement for the body as a whole, not just the recipient of God's grace.

Why am I here? Have you ever considered the possibility that one of the reasons we are here is for the sole purpose of allowing God to demonstrate His love for us? To use those who choose to believe to show the world that He exists and loves His own and will provide for them no matter what? We are His children, and because of that grace and peace, mercy and comfort, are available to us in ways we can hardly understand. No matter what life throws at us, we can rely on our Father to make it right. All we have to do is ask.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NKJV

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
1 John 5:14-15 NKJV

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 NKJV

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