Yesterday’s sermon came from 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. The sermon can be heard at this link. The book of 2 Corinthians is a book about comfort. The word comfort, or forms of the word, appears 19 times in this book, more than any other. Paul begins immediately to talk about the comfort of God but it is hard to miss that tied with the comfort of God are the afflictions of the follower of God.
God is the source of all comfort.
Paul begins to speak about comfort by crediting God with being the source of all comfort. As always, we need to remember to look to God as the source of all good things. The book of James tells us:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (Jas 1:17)
However, God allows us to help Him in comforting others by offering comfort as well. Verse 4 of 2 Cor 1 tells us we are comforted so we can comfort others.
It is hard to imagine the persecutions that Paul experienced but we still have our own afflictions. In our places of employment, standing for God’s character might put our job in jeopardy; In dating, we might experience a break up because our boyfriend/girlfriend does not appreciate you standing for Holiness; In preaching, we might lose a friend because we speak the truth of the Gospel to him. However, if we experience these things, and persevere in our service to God, we are better equipped to offer comfort to those who will experience them later.
It it through afflictions we experience the comfort of God.
Verses 6 and 7 clearly indicate that we experience comfort when we patiently endure. It is almost as if we have to go through the trials in order to gain the comfort. This is understood by the fact that God does not keep us from the trials, He simply keeps us through the trials and on the other side, there is comfort.
Paul tells Timothy (2 Timothy 3:10-15) that all who want to live godly lives will be persecuted and yet encourages Timothy to continue on the same course of life-a course that will see him experience persecution.
The Hebrew writer makes note of the discipline of the Lord in Hebrews 12:3-13. (Not all discipline is punishment…in this passage, there is more teaching and training than chastising.) God instructs us by allowing us to go through some difficult times and yet we still have His promise to protect us from being overwhelmed.
His promises and His word bring us great comfort.
Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law. When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD. (Psa 119:49-52)
Afflictions cause us to rely on God.
In verses 8 and 9, Paul refers to distresses he experienced in Asia. Experiences which caused him, at the time, to believe he was going to die. When things are so out of your control that death seems a certainty, there is only one place to turn: To God who raises the dead! This is probably our greatest comfort…knowing that no matter what happens in life as we serve God, even if it leads to our death, God will raise us again.
Do you refuse the comfort of God?
It is possible for us to refuse the comfort of God. If we refuse to go through the trials and afflictions of living a life for God, then we will not experience the comfort of God. Perhaps we are like the rocky soil in Mark 4 that turns away when persecutions come our way. Perhaps we are like Demas (2 Timothy4:10) who loved the world more than God and apparently did not like the boundaries God gives to all of us for living our lives. Perhaps we don’t want to put God first and so we give that first position to our family.
If we refuse to live the life of a Christian (which will lead to persecutions and afflictions) then we do, in affect, refuse the comfort of God. Comfort come to us from God in many ways but the chief ways are through His promises in His word. For example, there is a great boldness when we truely can echo the words of the Hebrew writer:
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
But comfort also comes from our brethren who are able to and even commanded to comfort us-as we do to them also.
so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. (2Co 2:7-8)
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2Co 13:11)
Let us always persevere in our service to God. Not only in the good times but in the difficult times so that we may experience the comfort of God.
In the Parable of the Sower, (Mt 13) the point is made about the person represented as the rocky soil that he “has not root in himself”. Because of this, he only endures for a little while. It is important for plants to set roots deep into the ground so that they will not be easily moved. For Christians, it is equally imperative that roots are sunk deep into the heart of the person who believes, so that they can endure any trials or persecutions that come their way.
I can’t help but think about those who hear the Gospel and receive it with great joy but do so not because it has particularly impressed them but because it is what their parents, friends, or perhaps dating partner wants of them. In this case, the roots will never be in themselves but in someone else. What happens if that person disappoints, dies, or breaks up with them? Will they survive as a Christian? I have seen both survivors and those who fall away.
Truly, the person’s decision to become a Christian has to be made from their own heart and not from the desire of someone else. Only in that way will the roots in the believer’s heart be able to find root in Jesus and be secure.
To help prevent the backsliding that comes from persecutions and trials, know that Jesus Himself, both suffered persecutions and told His followers that they would too. Also know that many of the faithful throughout history have suffered to serve God (Hebrews 11). But REMEMBER, that the trials and tribulations of this life are not able to be compared to the joys of Heaven…in other words, it is worth it! (Romans 8:18)