2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NKJV) 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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
I have a friend who is experiencing a difficult season in life. He has family issues. He is experiencing health issues. He is an optimist at heart but the last message bringing bad news threatens to take him out at the knees. He writes editorials for the local paper. Articles from a personal perspective offered as encouragement. He came to me asking if I would read his latest commentary. His concern was that his perspective was too raw and might be detrimental to his readers. He is part of the Unitarian church which believes that each person is free to search for their own personal truth on issues such as the existence, nature and meaning of life, deities, creation and afterlife. The mission is “inspiring to seek freely, live ethically, and nurture each other and the Earth.” He is one of the kindest people who I know that lives this very thing in his life. However, knowing the adversity that he is facing and reading the words pouring from his heart, it is clear that in the midst of this overwhelming trial – he is struggling to keep his optimism. Without faith there is an end to optimism.
Paul talked about the “Unknown God” standing before the council in the midst of Areopagus…“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you…”(Acts 17) When everything is going right and all is well in life, it is easy to praise and worship an “unknown” God but when everything is falling apart and nothing is as it should be – this person is not enough. Without His Constant, Abiding and Sovereignty, there is no anchor of hope to hold on to and no one to put our faith in. So it is through our suffering that God is truly revealed to us. Our desire to know Him deepens trying to make sense of the unthinkable when it comes. He is the one who we carry the pieces of our broken heart and life to in an effort to be made whole again. It is hard to make sense of suffering sometimes but thank you that God doesn’t have to be foreign and unknown to us anymore. Greater is He who lives in us than He that is in the world. (I John 4)
Proverbs 14:10 (NKJV) The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.
Suffering is defined as enduring pain, disability, or death patiently or willingly. To tolerate or allow. To undergo, be subjected to, or endure. You know the very thing that is causing your heart sorrow or even bitterness today. The very thing that challenges your heart and mind to believe beyond the impossible boundaries of the earth into the heavenly realms of possibility just to survive. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those with crush spirits. (Psalm 34) The sufficiency of God’s Grace that releases His Power in our life is when weakness takes over and we cannot in our own strength do anything at all but rely on the Lord. (2 Corinthians 12) God knows what we need, when we need and how to give it to us. We must only have faith in God to receive it. The decision to make the Living Hope a known reality in our life is essential.
Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Faith is illogical apart from God’s Word. Without a knowledge base to build our faith in Christ upon, there is no possible way to convince our mind of anything else. To attempt to believe in Jesus without knowing Him including His Sacrifice, His Character, and His Identity will only lead to frustration and failure. Jesus is the Word of God. He came wrapped in flesh to be our living love story. (John 1:14) The Cross is unpleasant. His Death violent. His Blood shed quite messy. It is all relevant to the story and without it – God remains unknown to us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We can know who God is by name but become His Child or know Him. God loves you. He loves me. Jesus died for every single human being on the earth. It is totally up to us in accordance to freedom to choose to know Jesus or not. The seed of faith must be planted in the Word of God to grow and mature into confident hope. This is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of the unseen reality of the Living God at work in us and through us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. When God becomes known to us, His Comfort surrounds us. He doesn’t make our life comfortable but gives us love, joy and peace from the inside out.
Acts 9:25 (NKJV) Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
God has given us a Comforter. He is the Holy Spirit. The essence of Christ released when He died on the cross and made available to all of mankind through His Sacrifice. The veil or curtain in the manmade temple which separated God and His People was destroyed in that moment. Free access to God in His Presence offered to all who come by way of Christ. We need God’s Word to know Him and His Spirit to be known by Him.
Those who walk in reverence to God (fear) and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit where multiplied even in the heavy persecution of the early church. The word “comfort” used in this passage comes from the word “paraklesis” which means calling alongside to help, to comfort, to give consolation and encouragement. The Holy Spirit is the one who produces the inner peace that allows us to walk by faith and not by sight as instructed. (2 Corinthians 5) “Paraklete” means strengthening presence or the one who upholds those appealing for assistance. The Presence of God is essential for our successful navigation of trials, troubles and trauma in life. It doesn’t make sense. Jesus warned that as sin grew rampant and love would grow cold. There would be wars and rumors of war. There would be hard times. Those who endure to the end will be saved. This means that no one is exempt from such adversity in life but that we all can overcome through the Word of God and His Spirit. True worshippers do so in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4) “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11)
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NKJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” (Friedrich Nietzsche) The humanistic statement quoted by many is simply not true. What doesn’t kill us can make us bitter and broken. It can destroy our soul with vacant barrenness as the last shred of hope is consumed by fiery trial. The treasure I have is the Known God who loves me. He is constant. He is in control. He is good. He is always working for my good and His Glory in the worst of all possible situations. Faith in God is my comfort zone. I must leave the earthly comfort of complacency, compromise, and conventional thinking to know Him. I must accept the terms and conditions of salvation which require a Savior and Old Rugged Cross. I know it makes you uncomfortable to owe someone something. The flipside of the coin is certain death. To live a life that ends in torment forever. Thanks be to God that though there is suffering and sorrow in life – my hope is secure. Faith in God makes all things possible. He comes close to us in our brokenness to be our comfort. He is the Resurrection and Life but to experience these qualities something must die.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
I am praying for my friend today. His heart is heavy. Hope is waning. He is struggling to maintain happiness and hope without substance. His Faith is in an Unknown God defined by his mind. The Unknown God will never be enough. We must know God to enter His Presence and live in it. You know your own suffering today. Your heart can well define its sorrow. Bad news may have come calling. It has visited me recently too. It is only by faith and trust which gives way to confident hope that I am still here. God knows what I need and how to deliver. His Spirit comforts me, encourages me and restores me when emptiness threatens to overtake me. Christ is enough. He must be our portion. We must live in Christ to know God and experience His Glory and Goodness in our life. His Way is always better which means I must yield my way to Him. Even when that way is dark and foreboding, I must go where He goes, doing what He does, saying what He says, and becoming who He has called me to be. I must decrease so Christ increases in my life. (John 3:30) It is only then that we do not fear the messenger but fully embrace the Word. Only then can I take my eyes off the giant and turn to my Champion. I have hope that is eternal and cannot be stripped away. Living hope. He is the Known God to all who seek Him. His Name is Jesus Christ.
I Peter 1:3-5 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.