Thursday, March 23, 2017

The God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-11
[3] Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 
[4] Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 
[5] For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 
[6] And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 
[7] And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 
[8] For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 
[9] But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
[10] Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us ; 
[11] Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

As we deal with the inevitable troubles and sorrows of this life, we all need and desire comfort. Sadly, most people look for it in the wrong places. They look to the vain things of the world and the flesh that cannot provide real and lasting comfort. Looking to such things will not solve your problems. In fact, it will just make things worse! Any supposed comfort that you find outside of God is shallow and temporary at best. God is the source of all real and lasting comfort. Notice the two alls in our text. God has ALL the comfort that we need for ALL the tribulations that we go through. In the opening passage of this epistle (vs.3-11) the apostle Paul refers to tribulation, trouble, suffering, despair, and death ten times. But he also refers to comfort and consolation ten times. The ten negative words are perfectly balanced with ten positive words. God can comfort us in any and every thing that we face. 

That God is the God of all comfort was real to Paul. It wasn’t just something he talked about, it was something he personally experienced (refers to comfort about 30 times, 13 times in 2 Cor.). In this epistle he talks much about his ministry. Christ gave him a distinct message and ministry and he suffered much to fulfill it (1:8; 4:8-12; 6:4-5; 11:23-28; Col. 1:24-26). Paul’s suffering was not something he brought on himself through sin. It was suffering that came upon him through his obedience! All people suffer in this world. Being a Bible-believing Christian doesn’t lessen our suffering, it actually increases and intensifies it! Paul testified that the sufferings of Christ abounded in him but so did His consolation (v.5). 

The English word “comfort” comes from two Latin words which together mean “with strength”. When God comforts us He strengthens us in our inner man that we might endure what we are facing (2 Cor. 4:16-18). How does He do this? Upon salvation we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). The Lord Jesus referred to the Holy Ghost as the Comforter in the context of preparing the apostles for the tribulation they were going to endure (Jn. 14-16). He promised them that He would not leave them comfortless (14:18). He certainly will not leave us comfortless either as members of His own Body. By the way, He knew what it was to be comfortless (Ps. 69:20-21)! 

HOW does the Holy Ghost comfort us? I believe He uses 3 main things:

1. The Brethren (2 Cor. 4-7; 7:5-7; 1 Thess. 5:11)
The Lord uses other believers in whom He dwells to comfort us. As we experience the comfort of God we are to extend it to others. God must first minister to our hearts before we can effectively minister to others. All true ministry is of, by, and through Him. We are members of the same body (1 Cor. 12:13, 25-27). We should not be a source of grief, but of comfort to one another (2 Cor. 13:11)! We can do this by loving one another, praying for one another (2 Cor. 1:11), serving one another, and edifying one another. 

2. The Bible (Rom. 15:4; Ps. 119:50)
The Holy Spirit uses the words that He inspired to bring comfort to our hearts. The Bible tells us of God’s great love for us. It tells us of all the spiritual riches we have in Christ. The Bible has a passage for everything we go through. The promises of God are provide comfort (2 Cor. 1:20). For example: Fear (2 Tim. 1:7); temptation (1 Cor. 10:13); needs (Phil. 4:19); worry (Phil. 4:6-7). One of the most comforting verses in general is Rom. 8:28. Bible reading and prayer go hand in hand. As we talk to God about our troubles He comforts our hearts by His Spirit. It is comforting when others share God’s word with us, but it is even better for us to personally get into the word of God for ourselves (1 Sam. 30:6). 

3. The Blessed Hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18) 
The most comforting truth in the word of God for the Body of Christ is the blessed hope of our imminent and pre-tribulational rapture. Yes, we will face tribulation in this life, but we are not going through any part of the prophesied tribulation that precedes the Kingdom Age. It is a blessed hope because we will:
1. See Christ ("the Lord himself")
2. See and be with our saved loved ones (“together”)
3. Be like Christ (Phil. 3:20-21)
4. Be with Christ (“ever be with the Lord”)

We should be talking much about our hope! One of the common greetings among the brethren in the early church was, "Maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:21-24). If we love Him, we will love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8-10).  

We must trust in God to enjoy His comfort (2 Cor. 1:8-9). He comforts us that we might faithfully serve Him (2 Thess. 2:16-17; Acts 9:31).

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