2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 3
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|God took pleasure in making the apostle Paul. He made him an apostle in the New Testament and God took great joy using the apostle Paul. When we finally come to that place in our life and begin to realize that God wants to use us, and as long as our heart is beating, then God has a purpose for us; when we begin to realize, then we begin to understand that God wants to do His work through us. Not about us doing anything for Him, it’s what He wants to do through us. Then we begin to realize that to use us He locates us. He puts us where we can be the most influential to the world which is around us.|
The God of All Comfort – Part 2
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 1, and we’re going to be looking at verse 3. The God of All Comfort, Part 2. The God of all comfort. We saw last week in verse 1 the phrase, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” By the will of God, and we found that the word “will” means not just what God demands, but it’s that in which He takes great pleasure. He gets great joy out of something here. God took pleasure in making the apostle Paul. He made him an apostle in the New Testament and God took great joy using the apostle Paul. When we finally come to that place in our life and begin to realize that God wants to use us, and as long as our heart is beating, then God has a purpose for us; when we begin to realize, then we begin to understand that God wants to do His work through us. Not about us doing anything for Him, it’s what He wants to do through us. Then we begin to realize that to use us He locates us. He puts us where we can be the most influential to the world which is around us. As we saw last week in the phrase, “to the church of God which is at Corinth.” But the church just isn’t at Corinth and so he adds, “with all the saints who are throughout Achaia.”
God had His people all over Greece. God had them scattered exactly where God wanted them to be because He wanted to use them to influence the world around them. All of us today are strategically located right where God wants us to be, and until He moves us, we have a purpose of being influential, the right way, around us. And last week, I bet 15 or 20 people came up to me and said, “You know, it’s given me a brand new purpose of where I am. That God didn’t by accident put us out here. We’re here providentially.”
Well, that’s what we saw and Paul says in verse 2, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If we’re going to be used of God, if we understand that God wants to use us, do something through us, we understand that He’s located us where He wants us to be and He wants to influence the people around us, we have to participate in His grace or it will never take place. You see, we can’t, God never said we could; He can, He always said He would. What is He talking about “Grace to you”? He’s talking about living grace. Jesus being Jesus in us. And unless we’re going to live that way, we cannot influence the world around us the way He would have us to influence them.
And not only that, we cannot be useable to Him. God wants to use us with a surrendered, yielded heart to Him so that He, through us, can touch the world that is around us. And that’s the enabling power, the transforming power of His grace. And it’s then, only then, when you’re living surrendered to Him, understanding that you accept the place that God has put you, understanding He wants to use you to touch the people around you, that’s when you have peace like you have never had before. “Grace to you and peace.”
But there’s something you need to understand: as we let Jesus be Jesus in us, as we allow Him to touch the people around us by His grace enacted in our life, there’s something we’ve got to realize and it’s critical. Just because God is using us where we are, just because we have this peace of our heart to know that God in us we’re doing good and we’re allowing Him to do through us what He wants to do, doesn’t mean that the people around us are going to enjoy it. Especially within the church. This is a hard thing to say, but this is contextual. I don’t have an agenda in my heart. Don’t jump ahead of me. Paul is writing this and we’re going to see how he’s had a difficult experience with the Corinthian believers. And we’re going to see how he found the comfort that he needed in God and in God alone.
The pronouns he uses in verses 3-11, “we,” “us,” “our,” are either speaking of Paul and his company around him, Titus and Timothy and others, or it’s a writer’s way of referring to himself in the plural. Many times you see that in Scripture. It’s one person talking, but he speaks as if it’s more. But it’s intensely personal. Paul has been through a crisis in his life. He’s been through suffering; he’s been through sorrow caused by the people of Corinth. He went there to influence the world of Corinth and he did, for the right way, but many believers didn’t like what he was doing.
The Lord Jesus says in John 15:18 so very clearly, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” And in verse 19 it says, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” You say, “That’s the world, that’s not the church.” I know, but contextually if you study 1 Corinthians, it was the world of Corinth that got into the church. The church did not get into the world of Corinth and influence it for the kingdom. No, they let the world inside the church and that same mindset is what’s caused Paul the grief in his heart.
All of that Jesus said in John 15 was in the context of what we’ve just talked about. A branch learning that the only way that it can bear fruit is to abide in the vine. Jesus is the vine. And when Jesus is allowed to express His life through us as the branch as we abide in Him, it’s Him and His Word that the world cannot stand. Even the world within the church, the people that won’t walk with God, cannot stand Christ and His Word. You see, you expect to find the criticism and all the other things, the hurtful things that people do to you, you expect to find that in the world. But what catches us off guard, it’s like a curve ball that hits you, is when you find it inside the church. And Paul had found it inside the church at Corinth. He had found the hatred that was directed toward him certainly from the world, but he also found it within the walls of the church.
So what he says in verses 3-11 is powerful encouragement to you and for me. When we seek to let Jesus be Jesus in us, when we seek to be the branch, and let the vine produce the fruit through our lives, it helps us to understand better why it all has to happen. And we find like Paul found, the source of our comfort is not going to be in individuals as much as it’s going to be in God. He is the resource that we run to; He is the refuge that we run to.
Let me ask you a question today. What’s going on around in your life today? Don’t raise your hand or say anything but just think about it. What’s going on in your life today? Are you catching grief because you simply want to let Jesus be Jesus in you? Are you catching grief from the people that you never dreamed it would come from simply because you want to seek to let Jesus live His life through you? Well, you’re in good company. The apostle Paul would put his arm around your shoulder this morning and in the passage of scripture say, “Listen to what I have to say. I’ve been there and I’ve done that and I have received comfort beyond explanation from God and only God.”
Paul has good news for all of us today. In verse 3 he breaks out into praise. I want you to notice, and this is the only verse we’re going to look at, but he breaks out into praise and when he does he doesn’t praise God for what He’s done for him. He doesn’t praise God for what He could do for him. He praises God for Who God is. And unless we have a high view of Who God is, praise will never emanate from our hearts. God doesn’t have to do anything in our life. We sang it awhile ago, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” He gives, but He also takes away. You see, the only way you can say that is if you have a high view of Who He is and then praise just emanates out of your heart. It doesn’t matter how difficult life is, it doesn’t matter what you’ve had to go through because you’re understanding the character of God and that He is worthy of praise.
Paul doesn’t speak of what He’s done for him until he begins in verse four. Verse 3 is just praising God for Who He is. He’s the eternal source of all comfort. And there are four things he praises God for in this passage.
He praises God for His character
First of all he praises God for His character. He says in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” Now, go to that first little phrase, “Blessed be THE God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s important first to recognize that the definite article is put before God, which signifies and glorifies Him, that He’s the One and only God. He’s the one and only God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But isn’t it interesting, we even sang it, “Blessed BE the name of the Lord.” The little “be,” if you’ve got a good translation and if you don’t have a good translation I encourage you to buy one, is in italics. How many of you know what it means when it’s in italics? It means it’s not in the original text. And when you look at it in the original text it’s quite different than what you see.
You see, the original text should say, “Blessed, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When the verse is missing in the original Greek text, it’s like a Hebraism. It’s when a statement is made that is so put into concrete, nobody ever should challenge it and nobody can ever change it. That’s what he’s talking about. “Blessed, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You see, the word ‘blessed’ is the word eulogetos.
It comes from two words. Eu means “will,” and the word logetos means to speak well of something. And it’s not a verb. “Blessed be” is not a verb. We act as if it is. God needs to be blessed. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” “Blessed be the God and Father.” No, that’s not what he’s saying. It’s not a verb, it’s an adjective, and it’s an adjective describing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word ‘blessed’ is a special word, especially of God because it speaks of someone or something that is worthy of praise, inherently worthy of praise. God is inherently blessed. We don’t have to bless Him. He doesn’t need that from us, whether He ever does anything or whether He doesn’t do anything; He is inherently worthy to be blessed.
You see, God didn’t create us because He needed praise. I’ve heard people talk like that. Boy we better praise Him because that’s why we’re here. God needs our praise. No! God doesn’t need our praise. God can do without us in a second because of Who He is. He’s God! But because of Who He is He chose to create you and me. And He doesn’t need our praise, but we desperately need to praise Him because He’s the only one Who deserves to be praised. The ending of this little word eulogetos, that little tos, that word, in that form, is only used of God and the Lord Jesus Christ all through scripture. Why? Because there is no one else and nothing else that is inherently worthy of all praise. God is worthy of our praise. Not just because of what He’s done. No, it’s because of Who He is. And that is so important to understand.
So the word, “blessed” here refers to the worth of God to be praised. It refers to His Holy, unique character. There is no One like Him. And He deserves the praise of all because that’s Who He is. Paul praised the character of God, “Blessed, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I want to say it again: before he ever recounts anything that God has done for him, he doesn’t praise Him for that first, he praises Him for Who He is.
We just studied Habakkuk and in chapter 1, Habakkuk wasn’t praising God, but when Habakkuk caught a glimpse of Who he was dealing with, the last chapter shows that he just simply bows in the presence of the One Who is worthy to be praised. Understand something: we have got to come back to a high view of God. And when we have a high view of God, we’ll have a high view of His Word, and when we have a high view of His Word, we’ll have a high view of His grace that He offers to us so that we can be useable to the world in which He has located all of us. Paul is drawn in praise to the character of the One that deserves that praise. And that’s the way it should be in our lives all the time. No matter how bad life gets or no matter how good life gets, with all that aside, God is still worthy of our praise.
He praises God for His covenant
Secondly he praises God for His covenant, to show you the character of God, that He doesn’t need our praise, but yet God loves us so much He created us. He created us that we might have fellowship with Him, be in covenant with Him. He wants a relationship with us. Verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does that mean, “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?” It just puzzles me.
Well, in the Old Testament you find the one particular phrase over and over again. It is very similar except that it says, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Why would it be stated that way? If He’s God of one, He’s God of all of them. But the reason it’s stated that way is that God made covenant with Abraham. And then He passed that covenant on to Isaac, and then He passed that covenant on, not to Esau, but to Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel and Israel had twelve sons, and what He’s speaking of in the Old Testament is that God is a covenant God. And He’s not only in covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but with all of their physical seed, the whole nation of Israel. Because of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, they were in covenant with God. And it was the physical seed that could enjoy the blessings of that covenant.
Well, the phrase in the New Testament, “our God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is very similar. It’s essentially the same. It denotes that God now is in covenant with us with a much better covenant in Hebrews 8:6. It’s a spiritual covenant; it’s an eternal covenant. And because of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is in covenant with His Father, that through Jesus, the Mediator of that covenant, then now God, the Father, is not only in covenant with His Son, but He’s in covenant with all of the spiritual seed of the Lord Jesus Christ, all of the children of God, the family of God.
By saying “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” he’s not in any way doubting the deity of our Lord Jesus. Jesus has always been God. Jesus is His earthly name. But Christ has always been the Son of God. The term explains a special relationship that God the Father had with the Son in this covenant relationship for the redemption of mankind. God is the Father of Christ’s divine nature by eternal generations. Christ was always the Son of God. I want to make sure we get this clear in our mind. Christ was always the Son of God. In John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” speaking of the Lord Jesus. And he uses the imperfect tense. And I know sometimes I can’t get it out like it gets in and it just frustrates me, but the imperfect tense is continuous action in the past: no beginning and no end.
“In the beginning was” and always had been and always will be the Word. “And the Word was with God,” always had been and always will be with God. “And the Word was God,” always had been and always will be God. Christ has always been God. He is God incarnate. He is the Son of God. However, let’s take it a step further. He became the Son of Man. He’s always been the Son of God, but He came to earth to become the Son of Man. He got His human nature by miraculous conception. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came to earth to be born of a virgin, the Son of Man. And He received His human nature from the nation of Israel, from the tribe of Judah and the line of David, as was promised in the everlasting covenant to Abraham.
In John 1:14, after all that he’s saying that He’s always been God, he says in verse 14, “And the word [Jesus] became flesh,” and he uses the aorist tense. At an historical time an event took place on this earth and that event was the miraculous birth of our Lord Jesus into this world. He had always been the Son of God but He came to earth to be the Son of Man; the God-Man. And that aorist tense points to that event: the immaculate conception. >
You see, Paul is not in any way doubting the deity of Christ by saying that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But what he’s pointing to is a covenant relationship between God the Father and God the Son, and therefore, since there is that relationship, and since Jesus went to the cross for you and me, then through Jesus we can enter into a covenant relationship with the Father. I’ve said it a hundred times: Christianity is not a religion, Christianity is a covenant relationship with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the Mediator of this better covenant. It is through Christ, the eternal Son, our Redeemer, that we’re sons of God—now listen—and God is now our Father. Since He has that special relationship with His Son, because of that He has that special relationship with you and me. Because of our covenant relationship we can now come into His presence. We can benefit from all that He is and all that He’s about. We can come to Him.
In this one country I went to, the church was a refuge from God. Isn’t that sad? Instead of a place to point you to God, we run to Him, He is our refuge. So whenever Paul was in need, when Paul had been burdened down, he knew where he could run. He knew he had a covenant relationship with God the Father. When we’re treated wrongly as Christ was, and when we’re in depths of despair as Christ was as the Son of Man, we are the children of God, and as God the Father was to Jesus, so Jesus becomes to us. Our Father welcomes us to Himself; He understands our suffering. He understands that the Lord Jesus suffered in all manner like we are and yet without sin. He’s our High Priest. We can run to Him and He understands and cares about you and me.
So I understand what Paul was doing here. Praise Him. Praise Him for His character. He is worthy to be praised, but praise Him for His covenant. He didn’t need people but He chose to create us; He wanted us to be in relationship to Him. He wanted us not to have a physical relationship with Him, but to have a spiritual relationship to Him which is forever. And because of Jesus the Son, we can run to Him and call Him Father. Paul has discovered this and in the scene around this are the hard difficulties he went through at the church of Corinth. He had to write them three letters; this is the fourth letter he’s written to them. And the third letter he wrote to them is lost. It must have been a very difficult letter and when he sent it with Titus he couldn’t wait to hear back how they would respond and they responded correctly. Paul is so comforted; he writes 2 Corinthians and he starts immediately praising the God of all comfort. Praising Him for His character; praising Him for His covenant.
He praises God for His compassion
And thirdly he praises Him for His compassion. You see, not yet has He done anything—yes He’s done many things—but Paul is not referring to what He’s done, but to Who He is. He’s a compassionate Father. I wonder how you think of God the Father today. You see, what we do many times is take earthly fathers and try to compare them to Christ and to God. You can’t do that. They’re nothing alike. He’s the perfect Father—think about being the perfect father—and so therefore He cares perfectly for His children. Verse 3 again, “Blessed be the God and Father of OUR Lord Jesus Christ.” Because He’s “our” Lord Jesus Christ, His Father is also our Father. And then he says, “the Father of mercies,” and this case, meaning a father—when it’s attached to mercies and not to God—means He’s the originator of all mercies. To put it in my own terms, God the Father is the well out of which all mercies flow.
The word for “mercies” in the plural form, indicating many, many different ways in which God shows His mercies, the many different types of His mercies that are available in Him. The word for ‘mercies’ is the word oiktirmos. Now, that’s a different word from what most people think it is. This is the word that does not point to something that somebody does, it points to the heart behind what somebody does. This particular word is so unique from the word that means the deeds that somebody does, the merciful deeds that they do. But oiktirmos is the heart that is behind it. This word describes the compassionate heart that God has; that’s Who He is. It’s not like something He does. It’s Who He is.
From researching this word we find several encouraging things about this mercy, this mercy and compassion of God. The heart and the character of God encourages us to entrust ourselves to Him. Today we present our bodies to Him as living sacrifices. In Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God [exact word, oiktirmos], present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.” And what he’s saying here is, why would we go anywhere else? Why would I not surrender myself to Him? He’s a merciful God; He’s the perfect Father who wants to be in a covenant relationship with me. The way He treated Jesus is the way now Jesus treats me.
And so it’s like the disciples who said one day to Jesus, “Lord, if we leave You, where would we go? There is no other place to go.” All the times in my life that I’ve chosen to go other routes to find what I was looking for and couldn’t find it, I mean, you could write a book about it. And here He is standing there in front of me saying, “Do you understand Who I am?” In Romans 2:4 he said, “It’s the goodness and the kindness of God that leads a man to repentance.” Why would I go anywhere else? Maybe you’re a skeptic and you’re in this congregation this morning. Why would you go anywhere else? God is a compassionate God. He’s demonstrated that by sending His Son to die for us on the cross. He’s a God of mercies; He’s the Father of all mercies.
And I’ll tell you what, this mercy which enables us, which draws us to Him, is also the very mercy that comforts us when we suffer. You see, once you get involved in this relationship and you begin to walk with God, that mercy overflows and you begin to receive the benefit of that. You say, how does that happen? I want to share something with you. Make sure you catch what I’m saying here. When we allow Jesus to be Jesus in us, He is the well of mercy. And when we allow Him to come and comfort our hearts, not only does He comfort us, verse 4 will go on to say, but He uses us now to comfort somebody else.
Many of you are wondering what kind of ministry you have and you’re wondering what is your gift, etc., etc. And maybe you’re still confused. Listen: look at your life and see the places where you’ve been comforted and watch and ask God, “God, now You’ve comforted me, let me be a comfort to somebody else.” And that’s the Lord Jesus using you in their life. Colossians 3:12 says, “So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” And the word compassion is that very word for mercy there. What he’s talking about here is put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:24 says the same thing. He says, “Put on the new man which is Christ in us.” The Father of all mercies.
We’ve run to Him and He’s shown His mercy to us and now He wants to use us to show mercy to others. We’re never told to show grace: we’re told to show mercy. Why? Because all of us have suffered, either from the consequences of personal sin or just from being alive on this planet earth seeking to live a life that is receptive to Him. We’ve all suffered and therefore we show mercy, but it’s Christ in us, the Father of mercy, the well of all mercies, and it’s so desperately needed.
You may be here today and you need the mercy of God. You need that desperately. In times of distress it is needed. Even in the Old Testament you never see this change, except it gets much more glorious in the New Testament as He comes to live in us. But God, our Covenant God, has always been there in times of distress for His people. Why? Because He’s a Covenant God. One leads to the other. In 2 Samuel 24:14 it says, “Then David said to Gad, ‘I’m in great distress.’” Boy, I can really relate to David. If you’ve ever read the Psalms, he’s in trouble three-fourths of the Psalms, and I can always relate to him. I can always relate to him. And he’s crying out to God and he says, “I’m in great distress.” And look what he says, “Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord” —I like that: let’s just cave in to God’s hand. We can’t handle it ourselves—“for His mercies are great.” And then he shows the contrast. He says, “but do not let me fall into the hand of man,” because a man, apart from the mercies of God, will never show you what God will show to you. And if you ever find mercy in an individual don’t you ever praise that individual, praise the God, the Father of all mercies that lives within him. That’s what you’re experiencing. God does that in our lives.
It’s also needed in times of sinful rebellion. Anybody here sin this past week besides me? Some of you just won’t be honest. Boy, I’ll tell you, when you’ve sinned and you know you’ve sinned, you need His mercy big time. And you want to run. What Paul is saying is it’s as much what He is as Who He is. You run to Him; He’s the Father of mercies in times of rebellion. In times of Babylonian captivity, for 70 years, Daniel, it says in chapter 9, he understood it. He understood how his own people didn’t deserve God’s mercy, and he says in Daniel 9:9, “To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him.”
How many times I’ve driven down here to preach and acted like a pagan on the road before I got here. Walk inside and you think, “What in the world are you doing, Barber, standing up behind a pulpit telling anybody anything?” And you know what I have to do anytime—and it’s not as much as I have to do, I’m drawn to do—is to get before God and say, “God, You always said it would be that way, You help me understand the wickedness of my flesh, but, oh God, this afternoon, I need Your mercy. I need Your mercy.” It’s incredible how we run the wrong way when we sin: we run away from Him instead of running to Him. Paul said, listen to Who He is. Look at His character. He’s deserving of all praise. Look at His covenant heart. He covenanted with man through the Lord Jesus Christ and because of that, because He’s in covenant with us, look at His compassion. He’s the Father of all mercies.
He praises God for His comfort
Well then finally, Paul praises God for His comfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” The God of all comfort. This word “comfort” is the word we have been waiting for since verse 1. We’ve already looked at it in our introduction. The word “comfort,” as we saw the last time, is paraklesis. It’s the word para, which means alongside or near, and kaleo, which means to call. “To be called alongside someone,” the act of coming alongside someone to encourage them, to exhort them, to give them comfort in times of distress. And He’s the God of all comfort. It’s the heart of God towards us.
“To come alongside us.” Do you realize that’s the word for the Holy Spirit? It’s called the Divine Comforter, and it’s that same exact word. And when we live surrendered lives to Him, then God uses us to come alongside a brother. But when we’re not living the way we should live, or we’re going through different and difficult valleys in our life, God uses a brother, and in his life brings him alongside of us to encourage us. God is the God of all comfort. And that word “all” means “all.” But don’t jump too quickly. It means each and every time that you’ve been comforted and then all of those times when it’s put together. God is the Author of it all.
I was listening to Moody Radio one day. I was going through a hard time, just leave it there: I was going through a hard time. And I was listening to the radio and a fellow up in New York said, “Listen, why don’t we try for the next 30 days to have a ‘God-watch’?” And I thought to myself, “Now, what’s a new program coming along?” But the more he talked the more he made sense to me. He said, “The problem with us is we’re in covenant with this covenant-keeping God, but we’re not even looking for all the different ways in which He’s comforting us and in which He’s encouraging us and in which He’s loving us.”
So I decided to do it. It radically, radically affected my life. All of a sudden I began to notice. Somebody would send me a little card, right at the right moment. By the way, that’s happened many times here. Thank you! And I thank you when you encourage. You don’t know what that does. But as God makes us more sensitive to the needs around us, that little note that would come at the right time, that email that would come at the right time.
One of the things that is very special to me, and I’m just going to be very personal with you today, is that I love wildlife. You say, “You like to shoot it.” No, wait, there’s a balance in all of this. But I love to see game, I love to see the deer, I love to see things like that. And sometimes, I haven’t pulled the trigger on a buck in a lot of years because I just enjoy watching them a lot of times. And one day I came to a stop sign and I just stopped and I leaned forward and I put my head on the steering wheel and I just wept. I said, “God, I don’t understand what’s going on. I don’t understand. Will You please help me?” I was just crying out to Him.
I rose up to look at the traffic and I looked to my right and a doe deer walked up, stopped, turned her head and just looked at me. I’d never seen a deer there since I’d lived there for almost ten years. But that day, that moment, God had something there just to catch my attention and I had to write that down: God, thank You.
I wonder if you’ve noticed how many times God has done that in your life this past week? Are you thanking Him and praising Him for it? He’s the God of all comfort. “Well, I was comforted the other day because such and such came to me.” Quit deifying the individual and start deifying God! God came to you: He used an individual to do it. He used an individual that was surrendered, located where he was supposed to be, that influenced the world around him. That’s what it is. The praise never goes to man. The praise always goes to the Father Who is the well, the source, of all comfort.
Again, there is no true comfort that does not originate from God; no true comfort. As the Father was comforting to Him, He is comforting to us. The Lord Jesus becomes the embodiment of that. It says in Philippians 2:1, “Therefore, if”—and that “if” is the first class condition “if,” which means “since,” no doubt here—“since there is encouragement in Christ.” And there’s our word right there. He’s the well out of which it flows. And so we see that the source is God.
He praises God for His word
But let me show you this: the most precious way in which an individual can be comforted is not by seeing the deer, not having somebody come up and put their arm around you—oh, that encourages you to a point—but the greatest comfort that God gives to you and me is through His Word. All of God’s Word is a comfort to you and me. It’s amazing how many people run away from the very thing that is meant to comfort them. In Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures [that’s the word right there] we might have hope.” When the Word is proclaimed, when it’s shared with a brother, when it’s taken outside these walls and shared with someone, that is a comfort. If may sting at first, but it only hurts to heal. It’s a comfort, it’s God’s divine way of comforting us on this earth.
To illustrate this, Paul’s preaching was called an exhortation and that word means “comfort.” It’s the same word. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:3, “For our exhortation [which means his preaching] does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit, but just as we have been improved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing to men, but God, Who examines our hearts.” The word “exhortation” is our word. So the greatest way in which God encourages us and comforts us as His children, and we’re in covenant relationship with Him, and He has such a compassionate heart, is through the Word of God.
So Paul praises God. He hasn’t praised Him for what He’s done yet. He praised Him for Who He is, for His character; he praised Him for His covenant relationship that He wanted through the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He praises Him for His compassion, He’s the Father of all mercies, and he praises Him for His comfort.
Let me ask you a question today: are you running to men to find this? You see, this is where we mess up, because this individual didn’t do for you at a certain time. Listen, that’s not the issue. The issue is: God cares about you. Now, maybe that individual is having a bad day. Maybe he wasn’t sensitive to the Spirit of God and couldn’t encourage you, but God will find another way. God will always encourage His people. That’s Who He is. And He’ll do it through His Word.
Are you seeking to live for the Lord and you’re catching a rough time for it? You’re in good company. But remember where your source is and start watching for how God is showing you comfort and compassion in ways you hadn’t even thought about around you. It’s God inviting you into His presence. Every time you go through a difficult time, God just simply gives you an invitation, “Run to Me, come on, run to Me; you’re okay, come on,” and puts His arms around us and He comforts our hearts.
You know, many have been the times that I’ve been there. I wish I could say that it’s been a piece of cake to let Jesus be Jesus in me. It’s been bitter sweet because I have a problem and I look in the mirror every morning and I see it. Biggest problem that I face all day long is not you, not anybody out there, but it’s me. I’ve got to learn this.
Years ago I was doing a meeting in Alabama. A good friend of mine was pastor of the church there. When I got there he asked me, “What’s wrong with you, Wayne? Where’s the smile; where’s the joy?”
And he said, “Wayne, listen, let’s go fishing.” He came by and picked me up at the motel and we took off in the dark and he put a little CD on that I’d never heard. “Be strong and take courage. Do not fear or be dismayed.” It’s right out of Joshua and that thing started going and God just reached through the Scriptures in song and grabbed my heart. And I tell you, by the time we got back that afternoon, the smile was back on my face and the joy was back in my heart. God had comforted me.
Where are you running to? You don’t run to people, you run to Him. And in the stillness of being in His presence, His Word begins to refresh your soul and that’s how He comforts you. Yes, you can be consoled; somebody can put their arm around you. You can see a deer and it will just bless you. But I’ll tell you what will really comfort you will be the Word of God that He speaks to your heart. He’s the God of all comfort. That’s what praise is all about. If you know Who He is, you’ll be drawn to Him and you’ll run to Him. That’s what Paul does as we get into this chapter.