Archive for June 8th, 2017

The Comfort of God

June 8th, 2017

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 affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV)

Paul had a long association with the church in Corinth. He had started it himself, and the story of its beginning is told in Acts 18. He wrote them at least three letters, possibly four letters, only two of which we have. The others are lost, as the Holy Spirit intended. Not everything an apostle wrote was fit to be included in the Bible. This letter we call 2 Corinthians was written about two years after 1 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians deals with the deeper truths of the faith that 1 Corinthians does not, because of the immaturity of the people, so 2 Corinthians is the deeper book. 1 Corinthians, by its own admission, is milk for children:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Cor. 3:1-3 ESV)

1 Corinthians is still precious in its truths and able to minister to us all. We never get so mature that we outgrow our love for or our need of the most basic of Christian truths, but 2 Corinthians is meat for grown-ups. There is the unveiling of deeper truths in 2 Corinthians, truths that invite us to move up into the greater and deeper things of God.

Paul began 2 Corinthians with speaking of the comfort of God. He was declaring war on the mere worldly attitude that measured success, joy, and happiness through the lenses of power, comfort, possessions, and social acceptance. He instead declared a greater reality that comes into a believer’s life - the reality of the Spirit of God - who brings peace and comfort that far outweighs the temporary “joys” of material and mere social rewards.

He proclaimed three things God does for us Christians in our sorrows:

God comforts us in our sorrows. This was a dimension of the Christian’s life that a lost person knew nothing about. But the Christian knows a new reality - the reality of the Spirit of God. Even when life does not give us what we desire, even when what and, more importantly, who we love is taken from us, we have God. God comforts us and assures us of His love for us, of our inclusion in Him for all eternity.

God is not only active in our sorrows. He is active also in our joys. He is with us in peaceful and prosperous times as well. When days are good, He makes them better. But Paul was proclaiming the presence of God at all times by assuring us that if God is there during the worst, then surely He is there also in the very best of life. He brings true life to us because He comes into our hearts Himself.

God also uses us to comfort others. A life that is focused only on itself is a miserable life. God uses us in the lives of others and we discover in this process that this is why we were created. Sharing God’s love and peace with others is a blessed thing and leads to joy in us as well as in them. There is something each of us can do for Christ and for one another.

A call to help others is not a call to misery, but to joy and fulfillment. Selfishness is misery. The person who thinks about himself all day long is the most unhappy of people. The one who cares about others finds a richness in his own soul that is precious. When God called us to help others, He was also calling us into a greater life of being useful to God and to His purposes.

God strengthens our fellowship with one another through sharing our comfort amid our difficulties. Misery loves comfort, we say, but comfort also loves comfort. We do not merely share our sorrows, but we also share the comfort of God amid our sorrows. If all we share is our sorrows, then we will create negative, complaining communities - pity parties that will simply bring people down.

I have seen some unhappy people who live overseas and form temporary bonds with other foreigners who dislike the place as well. They get together to gripe and complain about the new place - not to share the challenges in a realistic but hopeful way, but to just criticize and run down the new place - talking about how bad the people are, how bad the food is, etc. They think they have found a friendship, but really, if all it is is the opportunity to complain together, the “bond” will quickly disappear.

God, more than our sorrows, is what we Christians have in common with one another. Sorrows may differ in size and intensity, but we may all receive the peace, life, and joy of the Spirit. When Christians get together, our great uniting factor should be the positive hope of God and the reality of His life and transforming love.

Over the next few days and weeks we will be examining this letter we call Second Corinthians, and gleaning its truths for us. God is greater than we can imagine, and His life within us has limitless in peace, joy, and even in love for others. Are you experiencing the life of God in its fullness? Let the Spirit use His words to bring you to a deeper level of experience with Him.

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