Comfort from God
(II Corinthians 1:3-5)—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.
(II Corinthians 1:8-9)—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…
It is my habit, as we prepare to go into churches to minister, to ask the local shepherd what he feels is a real need for his flock. After some thought, one pastor said to me years ago, “Well, it seems to me that there is always room for encouragement.” I’ve never forgotten that and have always left room for a fair amount of encouragement everywhere I go.
Even the apostle Paul, who seems like an iron-man missionary to us, had need of encouragement and comfort, and God gave it to him. It is certainly not wrong to need encouragement that is tailor-made from God for your situation.
As Paul began his ministry in Corinth, as always, he faced opposition from the Jews in the synagogue, so he turned to the Gentiles. Having come through a number of very difficult encounters and winding up in Athens alone, he was facing the opposition in this very carnal city and a very carnal church in that city. Knowing Paul’s need for encouragement, the Lord spoke to him in a night vision. Here is what he said. “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10).
As we walk by faith, we learn to see opportunities even in the midst of opposition. Some of us have a tendency to see only problems while some see only potential. Reality is seeing potential in the problems. God, our Master-Gardener and Master-Encourager, was gracious to allow Paul to see his situation from a divine point of view. Maybe we could call it a “pro-video” which was the launch of a strong 18-month ministry in Corinth.
As a result of his own personal encouragement, Paul was enabled to write a letter saturated with encouragement. II Corinthians, from which we get our introductory verses, repeatedly uses the words comfort or encouragement. The words, of course, come from the same Greek word, parakaleo, which means to come along side to help. Let’s list some helpful reminders on this subject from our verses above.
God’s comfort originates in His mercy. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14).
God is the God of all comfort. (Counterfeit comforts are deadly.)
God comforts in all our tribulation. (We are never overlooked.)
God’s comfort for us equips us to comfort others. (Our pain is never wasted.)
As suffering abounds, consolation (comfort) abounds. (We become schooled in our testimonies of comforts by grace.)
Certain troubles can bring us to despairing of life. (It is God’s way of bringing us to our wit’s end. All our wisdom is swallowed up.)
The sentence of death postures us to experience resurrection. (We must die in order to live.)
I will tell you that those servants who take up their cross as a lifestyle, embrace their crucifixion with Christ in salvation, and then go through the valley of the shadow of death like Paul described are rare, beautiful, and powerful in the Kingdom. They are fragrant and carry the aroma of comfort, encouragement, and healing.
God’s way in encouragement is to bring us to the end of ourselves again and again to reveal His resurrection power first to us and then to those around. In the process, we learn His ways in times of trouble and become better equipped to minister to others.
The Bible is full of encouragement stories. But my all-time favorite is found in Luke 24. The disciples’ “hope” had stopped breathing on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem. His entombed body was now missing, and they were walking slowly. But here’s what happened when Jesus drew near.
He opened the Word to them revealing to them all the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27). He opened their eyes (Luke 24:31). He opened their understanding, and their hearts burned within them (Luke 24:45, 24:32). There is no better encouragement than this. This is ultimate encouragement. This is the encouragement that fuels our passion and secures our assurance that we are on track in the Vineyard.
I want to slow down and challenge you to look for Jesus in the Word as your chief source of comfort. This changed the posture of these down-trodden disciples from “walking and being sad” to joyful worship and continued praise and ministry (Luke 24:17).
When Jesus draws near like this:
Confusion is befriended.
Unbelief is confronted.
Ignorance is informed.
Hearts are impassioned.
Fears are dispelled.
Understanding is opened.
Scriptures come alive.
Worship is spontaneous.
The mission is clear.
There is a life lesson as we observe this precious scene. There was only one person who really knew that was going on—Jesus. So, it is with your ministry. In all 7 of Christ’s letters in Revelation, Jesus says “I know your works.” How wonderful! So, here’s the point. As you feel like you have the sentence of death in your life or family or ministry, look for the resurrected Jesus. You see, our “Father-Husbandman” is always in the process of developing the bond between the branches and the Vine. He knows our abiding is vital, and He is committed to its strength, maturity, freshness, and perfection which results in much fruit and powerful prayer (John 15:5-7). For this we are chosen (John 15:16). Be encouraged!
Everyone needs encouragement.
God’s primary source of encouragement is His revealed Word.
The “sentence of death” is good even if it seems horrible at the moment.
Hard times set us up for resurrection.
Comfort experienced becomes comfort related.
We can grow in our effectiveness to minister comfort.
The world’s greatest preacher is “Proven Comfort.”
Don’t be problem-centered or potential-centered but rather be Christ-centered.
The Father is committed to perfect our abiding.
A Touch of Tozer
Our Father which are in heaven, we Thy children are often troubled in mind, hearing within us at once the affirmations of faith and the accusations of conscience. We are sure that there is in us nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as Thou art. Yet Thou hast declared Thine unchanging love for us in Christ Jesus. If nothing in us can win Thy love, nothing in the universe can prevent Thee from loving us. Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou are Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe the intensity and eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what Thou hast declared Thyself to be. Amen.
The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 104
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