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"The Ministry Of Misery"
II Corinthians 1:3-4
We are entering into the sweetest season of the year: the Christmas Season.
Everywhere you go you seem to hear that song entitled, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
And, for many people it certainly is.
But for many people it is the saddest time of the year.
Did you know that more suicides take place during the holiday season than at any other time of the year.
For many people this will be their first Christmas without their husband or their wife, or a son or a daughter, or a father or a mother.
For many this will be their first Christmas without a job.
Some have been told by their doctor that this will be the last Christmas they will spend on this earth.
Quite frankly, in the midst of "Jingle Bells" there are "jangled nerves."
For many every night of this Christmas Season will be a "silent night" of loneliness and despair.
As we sing "Joy to the World" there will be many who can find no joy in the world, and they need the ministry of misery.
If you look closely enough and carefully enough you will see, even in the church, broken hearts, broken hopes, and broken homes that need the ministry of misery.
Paul knew what it was to be mired in the mud of misery.
He is not dealing in this passage with theory, he is dealing with fact.
Notice the personal pronouns that are used:
    "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 tribulations, that We may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which We ourselves are comforted by God."  (vv.
Paul had run the gamont of misery that life can deal out.
He had experienced emotional suffering, physical sickness, and spiritual sorrow.
Yet out of it, God had taught him the ministry of misery.
The God Of Comfort
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God Of All Comfort."
Later on in this epistle Paul mentions "God who comforts the downcast."
Can you imagine that the infinite God who created this entire universe with just a word, would take the time to stoop to minister to just one broken heart?
Even though God is inconceivable in his majesty, infinite in his power, inflexible in his justice, he is also intimate in his tenderness.
We hear so much of the power of God, but we do not hear enough of the pity of God.
We know about the greatness of God, but we need to know more about the gentleness of God.
He is a God of might, but he is also a God of mercy.
As verse three tells us, he is "the Father of mercies."
Now I want to affirm the might, the majesty, the miracle of our great God.
He is an omnipotent God: just, holy, and pure, whose hatred of sin burns hotter, and whose holiness of character shines brighter than the noonday sun.
But Psalm 103:13-14 tells us,
    "As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust."
Again, Isaiah 66:13 tells us,
    "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem."
This is a God who knows our hurts, our heartaches, our heartbreaks.
Yet, as a doting father and a loving mother, he looks after his children.
We are told that he is "the God of all comfort."
The word all literally means "every kind."
God is the source of all true comfort.
It is incredible to me that especially during this Christmas season there are those who will try to find comfort in a bottle.
There is even a brand of liquor that is known as "Southern Comfort."
But I want to tell you there is no comfort in booze.
Drink doesn't subtract from your sorrows, it adds to them, and it multiplies them.
There is only one type of comfort that is strong enough to penetrate the inner chambers of the heart and last a lifetime, and that is the comfort of God.
The Scripture says,
    "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work."
(II Thess.
Years ago I read a story of a lady in the Salvation Army who had visited a particular home where an atheist lived.
She had been trying to win that atheist to faith in Christ, but he was hard hearted, cynical, he thought he had no need for God.
Later on she visited that home and was about to knock on the door when she heard a noise on the inside and she listened for a while.
Well, it became apparent to her that the son in the family was on his deathbed and he was dying.
They were a very poor family.
There was no doctor even to attend the death of this young man; no one to give him an injection of high powered drugs that would kill the pain.
This atheistic father was there trying to give comfort to his son.
Can you imagine an atheist trying to give comfort to a dying boy?
Well, the father was saying something like this: "Son, hold on.
It won't be long son.
Then you'll be dead and then you won't feel any more pain.
It will be all over son.
It will all turn to nothingness and you won't have any more trouble.
Just hold on son, hold on."
This boy spoke back to his father and said, "Father, you've told me there is no God, there is no life after death.
Well I tell you there is no peace.
When I die I'll be like an animal that dies, but you tell me to hold on.
But Father, there is nothing to hold on to.
In the hour when I need comfort the most I do not have it."
There is only one who can give comfort in both life and death, an everlasting consolation, an eternal comfort, and that is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Grace Of Comfort
This God of comfort is a God "who comforts us in all our tribulation."
Now quite frankly, that verse does not say what we wish it said.
If we were honest you know what we wish verse four said.
We wish this verse would read like this: "who keeps us from all tribulation."
But the fact is, even though we don't always expect trouble, we can't always escape trouble and there are times that we must endure trouble.
That is true whether or not you love God, know God, trust God, believe God, or serve God.
I believe one of the greatest men of God in America is James Kennedy, Pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft.
Lauderdale, Florida.
James Kennedy had a very insightful thought concerning this matter of Christians and tribulation.
What kind of world would it be if Christians never got sick?
If they never fell?
Never got burned?
Never got into automobile accidents?
How long would it take for the insurance companies to figure out what was going on?
How long would it take for other people to catch on?
Before long we would have a religion of instant gratification obvious to everyone.
Christians would never go bankrupt.
Their kids would never use drugs or run away from home.
Their loved ones would never suffer.
Do you know what would happen?
You would destroy faith.
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