Comforter

Today, we are examining God as our comforter.  This post was originally written in 2017 by Michael Summers.

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are painful to read.  Yesterday David asked if any of us had ever experienced having a person we were trying to help question our motives and speak negatively about us to others.  I sadly answered yes in my heart as I read David’s prompting.

That experience was difficult for me.  Today’s reading challenged me to grow. Especially verses 3-7.

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

God is our comforter.  Παράκλησις, translated as comfort here, could also be translated ‘encourage’.  It holds in it the element of acceptance, council, and courage.  As if to say God is the one who finds our sorrow acceptable (or not) and strengthens us to continue on (if it is acceptable, more on this latter).

Παρακαλέω, translated as comfort three times in verse 4, could also be translated as urge, implore or exhort.  This helped me understand the activating (or reactivating) nature of this word as if strengthening one to get back in the fight.  God provides us the strength to continue Glorifying Him.

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.

‘That we’ is a purpose clause.  God strengthens us so that we may be strengthened and encourage others.  Citing God’s character as the Comforter; the source of strength gives God glory.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

This was the most challenging part for me.  The comfort supplied has no limits, so long as our sufferings are in Christ.  Put another way, God supplies us with all the comfort we need for righteous suffering.

The question then became, what if the suffering was not righteous?  That is, what if the suffering was actually a result of my selfish ambition, seeking my own glory and not God’s?  This was my wake up call.

If I did not receive strength and comfort for the sorrow I felt, does it then mean that it was chastening rather than suffering for Christ?  I am inclined to consider this deeply.  Afterall, are we to believe that all suffering is because we are seeking Christ glory perfectly?  If not, as I reflect on a past wound that lingered too long, that sapped my strength when I know it shouldn’t have, I am inclined to think it was due to my sin and pride.

Ouch and amen! God is the righteous One who judges.  I am the sinner who is judged.  God is the Merciful One who gives grace.  I am the one in desperate need of His mercy and grace.   Admitting this depravity is the first step to receiving that which I need from God.  Confessing our Sin is our humble gate that protects God’s glorious reputation. (see extra credit below)

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.

We are to thank God for the righteous suffering.  We will know it by the degree to which we are supernaturally strengthened.  This is to be shared with and passed on to those who suffer.  All the time giving glory to God as the Strengthener.

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.

 

Extra Credit: God’s Glory and Confession of Sin

All things were created for God’s glory. (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7)  The proud are too busy seeking their own glory to give God His glory.  Confessing our sin proclaims God’s character as holy and His Law as right. (Luke 23:41)  Not confessing our sin is a way of blaming God for sin.  Notice the first sin and how Adam blames God. (Genesis 3:12)  Confessing our sin humbles us and gives God glory. (Joshua 7:19) In summary, when we do not confess our sin it is disagreeing with God, a form of attack on His reputation.  When we say, “God I deserve this” it agrees with God and brings Him glory.  We were designed to bring God glory.  This is one way we can do it.  Confessing our sin.  

The world says, ‘find your strengths and play them up.” the Word says “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12:10)

Nobody But Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 10:1-11:18 as we focus on Cornelius.

The Bible tells us Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army meaning he commanded at least one hundred men and held an important social status. Despite his non-jewish, Gentile background, we are told in Acts 10:2 that he was devout, feared God, and gave alms or money to the poor and needy. Being a believer, Cornelius likely thought he was already being used by God for a purpose with his favorable position of power. However, we serve a big God who has bigger vision for each one of us and the people of this world than we can see. Cornelius is visited by an angel telling him to send a few of his men to get Peter who he’s never met and doesn’t know. Not coincidentally when Cornelius’ men show up, Peter just had a vision from God (Acts 10:9-15) telling him that the Gospel was available to all nations. Peter then went with Cornelius men to Caesara helping bring the Gospel through the Holy Spirit to them and all the Gentiles.

As I read these verses, I could not help but think of and look back on my notes from a sermon Pastor Mike Baker from Eastview Church did a few years ago on Genesis 12 where Abram is called to leave his country. Pastor Mike said, “Faith is not a ‘stay’…it’s always a ‘go.’” If you ‘stay,’ you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be. God doesn’t give us the details of the future even when we are in turmoil wanting to know His plans for two reasons. First, we would likely freak out if we knew everything that would happen. Second, we would try to take over and mess it up thinking we can do it better than God can. Cornelius could have just said, “Hey God..I’m doing good things here as a centurion. I’m giving to the needy and using my position for good, and I have 100 men here under me I can witness, too.” However, God called him for bigger things..to bring the Good News of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to all the Gentiles and letting them know that His forgiveness through the cross was available to all people and all nations (Acts 10:34-35, Acts 10:44-48 Acts 11:18). He called Cornelius to “go” and do bigger things, he obeyed, and look what happened.

Today, on Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for Cornelius, the Holy Spirit, and the big God we serve that is always working on our behalf.  Sadly, I don’t know much about my genealogy, but likely similar to many reading this, I don’t think I have any Jewish roots. I’m thankful that Cornelius obeyed God’s command so we non-Jews know that we are also one of God’s people through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can be thankful Romans 8:26-28 tells us the Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf and interceding (just like here to come to the Gentiles and make Jesus’ forgiveness available and known to everyone). Despite whatever challenges and changes in your life you may be going through today, you can be thankful that He working ALL things for His good. Be grateful you don’t know and can’t control the future because through His power within you, He can do more than you can ever ask or imagine, and He will be glorified (Ephesians 3:20-21), so that ultimately through you the world can see “nobody but Jesus.” How blessed are we that He uses us for His purpose.

 

 

Living From Abundance

1 Thessalonians 2

Most of us go through life working hard, trying to get ahead.  We all define “getting ahead” differently.  Some strive for money, others look for more time, we even throw family into the mix.  We think that having more of this one thing will give us the life we dream of.  We think it will bring us abundance.  Sadly, it never comes.  In fact, the harder we chase it, the more elusive it becomes.  For example, our toil for more money never reaches abundance.  John D. Rockefeller confirmed it.  When asked, “how much is enough?”  He replied, “just one dollar more.”   The Apostle Paul, however, knew better.   Simply said, Paul worked out of his abundance, not for abundance.

In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul tells us how he works from abundance.  To start, he reminds us of his terrible sufferings and mistreatment.  How can that be abundance?  Obviously, Paul’s definition of abundance did not look like ours.  His definition sounds more like righteousness.  Now before you check out because you are not righteous, consider this.  Paul references the righteousness of Abraham in Romans 4:21.  He says that Abraham was granted it by having “no unbelief to make him waiver concerning the promise of God” and that he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”  The result was righteousness.  Paul shared in God’s righteousness as well.  This righteousness is exactly what allows him to live abundantly in any situation.

When we are fully convinced, like Abraham and Paul that God is able to do everything he promises, we too will be able to live from abundance.  In fact, Jesus promises it specifically in John 10:10.  Like Paul, when we live in abundance, no adversity, no pain, no suffering or mistreatment will ever discourage or destroys us.

 

Jars of Clay

 

Young plant - "Ficus" in a broken flower pot
Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 11; 2 Corinthians 4; Ezekiel 18; Psalms 62–63

I was recently asked about what I do to stay motivated. I offered the stock answers, explaining how I spend time every morning studying and praying. I exercise and eat right (sometimes). I read a lot and am careful of how much sleep I get. Sounds like a 10-step plan, doesn’t it. In fact, you could get similar advice from any self-help book ever written. Don’t get me wrong, there is some truth in those answers. The problem with them is that they don’t get to the Truth.

The Truth is that no matter how much you exercise, eat right or study and pray, you are going to have hard days. Maybe not only days, but weeks, months and years! Our lives are, in fact, fragile. In every moment, we are vulnerable physically and mentally to the forces of nature, illness, economics, character assassination, and defamation. The Apostle Paul calls us “jars of clay.” It is a fitting metaphor. You see, anything made of clay is rigid and strong enough to contain precious things. Even so, it is brittle and fragile. It reminds me of our clay flower pots.  When that clay pot makes sharp contact with the corner of your table or the wind blows it over onto your concrete patio, watch out! We encounter these same dangers in our everyday lives. So, if we are so fragile, how is it that we are to live fearlessly?   How will we stay motivated to press on?

The answer those questions lie in your “big why.” I learned about this from the founder of Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller. He writes, “The Big Why is about having a purpose, a mission, or a need, that in turn gives you focus. High achievers always have a Big Why powering their actions.” This statement is spot on. In fact, we can look throughout history and see where many people put their very lives on the line to achieve their singular purpose. To illustrate this further, I could cite men like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. No person stands out to me more than the Apostle Paul. He endured one painful day after another. Amazingly, Paul didn’t just endure the suffering of his life he thrived in it. So, how did Paul stay motivated? Simple, he had a really big why.

as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. (2 Corinthians 4:15, NLT)

That’s it! Paul was so enamored with God that he became laser focused on Him. His sole purpose, his Big Why, in this life was to “reach more and more people so that there would be great thanksgiving and God would receive more and more glory.” Wow! I am immediately and deeply humbled by the purity and righteousness of Paul’s motives. Truly, I want to be “sold out” like that. I want to be fully aware that the dangers to my “earthen vessel” are nothing. As Paul says, “our present troubles are small and will not last very long.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT) That mindset is only possible when we “fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT). When we do, God will remove the cares of our temporary, earthly minds and bodies, replacing them with His “surpassing power,” (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV) which becomes our motivation. What is your Big Why?

Works Cited:
Keller, Gary; Jenks, Dave; Jay Papasan; Gary Keller; Dave Jenks; Jay Papasan (2004-03-11). The Millionaire Real Estate Agent (Kindle Location 1163). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

Mission Statement

misison1 Samuel 17 – Romans 15 – Lamentations 2 – Psalm 33

It’s likely that the company you own, or work for, has a mission/vision statement. Good mission statements inspire people. More so, effective mission statements have the power to identify and establish the priorities that yield powerful results. Did you know that Paul had one too? Read it with me. Romans 15:18-21 says,

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,and those who have never heard will understand.”

Did you hear it? If I were to format it in today’s corporate or church language, it would sound something like this.

To bring all people from Jerusalem to Illyricum to understanding of the Gospel,  through preaching, utilizing signs and wonders from the Holy Spirit and by my own example.

Pretty powerful, right? Can you imagine having a statement like that for your own life? What does your mission statement say? More importantly, what do your priorities say that your mission statement is?  That is what impresses me the most about Paul.  He lived it!  The evidence is well documented. In fact, he lived it so well that in 2 Timothy 4, as he nears the end of his life, he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Mission Accomplished.