God of All Comfort
2 Corinthians 1
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort [2Cor. 1:3].
The word for "blessed" is actually praise -- Praise be to God.
David put it like this: "I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth" (Ps. 34:1). That ought to get rid of the complaining of the saints. We are to praise the Lord. "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me . . ." (Ps. 50:23).
Now Paul calls Him "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort." I want to stop here and spend a little time on three words: love, mercy, grace.
So much is being said today about love. It is sloppy theology to say that God saves us by His love. Now it is true that God loves us. Oh, how He loves us! We just don't know how much He loves us. It would break our hearts if we could comprehend how much God loves us. But God does not save us by His love. The Scriptures teach that we are saved by God's grace.
Now what is grace? We call it unmerited favor, which means that God saves us on a different basis than merit. God loves us, but He does not save us by His love. He saves us by His grace. Why? Because He is also the God of all mercies -- the Father of mercies. Mercy means that God so loved us that He provided a Savior for us because He couldn't save us any other way. Anything that we have today is a mercy from God. He is the Father of mercy. In fact, He is said to be rich in grace and rich in mercy.
Do you need any mercy today? If you need money, you go to a bank to get it. If you need mercy, go to the One who is the Father of mercies. If you need any help, go to Him. After all, anything and everything that you have today is a mercy from God. You don't deserve it. I don't deserve anything that I have. I don't have much, but what I have is a mercy of God.
God was merciful to put me into the ministry. You don't know me like I know myself. If you knew me as I know myself, you wouldn't listen to me. Wait a minute -- don't cut me off. If I knew you like you know yourself, I wouldn't be talking to you. You see, you and I have been extended mercy, and I am in the ministry because of the mercy of God.
Not only is He the Father of mercies, He is also the God of all comfort. You can test that in the crucible of life. Suffering is the acid test. He is the God of all comfort. He will comfort you in the hospital. He will comfort you at the funeral home when you have a loved one there. He can comfort you in any place at any time. He is the God of all comfort.
There is an authentic comfort, and there is a counterfeit one. I don't like to hear people sigh and say, "God has permitted this to come to me and I accept it," when they don't accept it but rebel against it. Be honest with God. Tell Him how you feel. Tell Him you don't like what is happening to you. He knows all about it anyway. He wants you to talk frankly with Him. Comfort can be genuine or fake.
There is a popular notion that comfort is some sort of saccharine sweet sentimentality with a note of weakness. I can remember that when I was a little fellow I was always falling down and skinning my knees. I always wondered why my mother didn't put me in long pants, but she never did. When I'd skin my knee, she would kiss it and say, "It's all well now." She kidded me into thinking it was well and I would quit crying. Now that is sentiment; it's sweet and lovely. But now I'm of age and she can truly comfort me with the truth when I need it.
People turn to all sorts of things for comfort. There is a whiskey called "Southern Comfort." Well, I'm a Southerner, but that is not a comfort, my friend. That will ruin a home. Others turn to drugs for comfort, but there is no comfort there.
The Greek word for "comfort" is parakaleo, which means "to call alongside of." The Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete. He is called to our side. When the Lord Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, He said, "I will not leave you comfortless . . ." (John 14:18). The word He used there is orphanos -- "I will not leave you orphans. I will send the Comforter to you, the Paraclete." He said to His own men, ". . . It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (John 16:7).
What is the Comforter then? He is not someone who simply kisses a bruise. He is a helper, a strengthener, an advocate. He is One who is called to help me and to strengthen me, to relieve the loneliness and assuage the grief and calm the fears. He brings help in time of terrifying trouble. "Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper" (Ps. 30:10). That is the cry of the soul that needs the Comforter. God is the God of all comfort.
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 [2Cor. 1:4].
It is a very wonderful thing that we have a God who can comfort us in all our troubles. It is one thing to have comfort when the sun is shining and with someone patting us on the back. But what we really need is comfort in the time of trouble.
We will see that Paul experienced that kind of comfort in his time of trouble. You see, we need the assurance of the presence of God in all the circumstances of life -- in the area of our greatest need, in our loneliness, in the desperate hour of life.
Christianity is just a theory to many people. It is merely a profession; it is like a garment to be put on for special occasions and then worn lightly. It is a stagnant ritual and an empty vocabulary. The proof of Christianity is how it walks in shoe leather. It wasn't just a theory to the apostle Paul.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 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 [2Cor. 1:5-6].
We will find that Paul is going to talk a great deal about the trouble he had and was presently having and of God's comfort through it all.
And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
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: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us [2Cor. 1:7-10].
This is wonderful. This explains why God permits us to have trouble or to be sick. Paul here says that he was sick nigh unto death. In fact, he had "the sentence of death" in him. He was so ill that I think the doctor told him he would die. There are others who think he is referring to the time the mob tried to kill him in Ephesus. They would have torn Paul to pieces, and he would have been made a martyr. He could have been referring to either experience; both would have carried the sentence of death. But Paul says that God who raises the dead "delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us." That is quite wonderful, and it ought to be practical for us today.
Let me say that God permits Christians to suffer. He has a good reason, a very wonderful purpose in it all. He intends for it to work out for the good of these believers. He intended for it to serve a good purpose so they can comfort someone else.
Everything that you and I have we have because of the mercy of God. And we have it for the benefit of others. Regardless of what you have, God has given it to you so that you can share it with others. He has given it to you as a mercy. If you have health, wealth, youth, talent, or a gift, He wants you to use it to share with others. Each issues from the mercy of God. And wait a minute -- suffering also. If you are suffering for Christ, He permits that to happen to you.
Dr. Harry Ironside used to tell the story of being in Vienna, Austria, on a sightseeing bus trip. As they were traveling, some sheep got in the way of the bus and they were held up. They moved slowly w/ the sheep right beside them at the same pace. They couldn't get away from them. The man sitting next to him was annoyed by it all because there were only two sheep dogs that were herding those sheep. So this guy says to him, "Do you know the names of those two sheep dogs?" And he said, "Why, no, I don't know the names. Do you know the names?" "Yes, I think I do." "What are they?" He said, "One of them is named 'Goodness' and the other is named 'Mercy.' " He said, "How in the world do you know that?" "Well," he said, "I'll tell you how. David said, 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.' "
You might not think it was goodness and mercy to have a couple of dogs yapping at you to keep you from going to the left or to the right, but it is God's mercy that keeps us in the straight and narrow way, and He uses trial and difficulty for that very purpose. He is "the Father of mercies."
Our suffering is for the benefit of others -- "that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." It is amazing how our experience with autism has been a comfort to others.
Listen to Paul again, "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" (v. 8).
You may remember the fable we used to have in school. The sun and the wind were having a contest to see who was the stronger. There was a man walking down the street with his coat on and the wind said, "I can blow his coat off." So the wind began to blow. I tell you, it almost blew the man away. The harder the wind blew, the tighter the man wrapped his coat around him. The sun said, "Now it's my turn to try." The sun shone down so warm and nice that the man took his coat off. The sun accomplished what the wind could not do.
Now, generally, the wind of adversity won't take us away from God. When the wind begins to blow, when it gets rough and tough, we turn to our Father who can comfort us. However, we are in a dangerous place when things are going too well for us. When the sun is shining, Christians have it too easy. They remove that robe of practical righteousness, and they begin to compromise with the world. This is exactly what many have done in our day.
If today you are on a bed of pain, and you are in the will of God, that bed can become a greater pulpit than the one preachers stand behind.
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts [2Cor. 1:21-22].
This expression here is quite interesting: "Now he which stablisheth us with you in [into] Christ, and hath anointed us, is God." God who? God the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes, especially at funerals, we hear the song, "Safe in the Arms of Jesus." Well, the word here is not safe in the arms of Jesus. When you are put into Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you are a part of His body. Rather than being safe in His arms, you are as safe *as* an arm of Jesus Christ. You are as safe as a member of His body. What a wonderful security that is!
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