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A Lesson of Comfort-2 Cor. 1_3-11

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A Lesson of Comfort

2 Cor. 1:3-11

Introduction

 

A father had just settled into his recliner on Sunday afternoon, looking forward to wading through his six-inch thick newspaper, when his five-year-old son Joshua came scampering into the room. “Daddy! Daddy!” said the boy, “Can you play with me?”  The father tried to be gentle in his response when he told his son, “Joshua, Daddy wants to read his paper for a little while. But if you come back in twenty minutes, we can play together.” Though mildly annoyed at being put off, Joshua rumbled out of the room, leaving his father alone to read his paper. But five-year-olds have a poor sense of time, so it was only a few short minutes when Joshua was back. “Daddy, can we play now?” “Not now, Joshua,” said the father. “Don’t bother me until I’m finished with my paper.” Joshua stomped his way out of the room to wait, but before his father could even get to the sports pages, Joshua returned. He shoved his head up under the paper and said, “Please Daddy, can we play now?” The father, now convinced that he would never get a moment’s peace without giving in, looked on the floor and noticed that there was a full-page map of the world included in his newspaper. He reached for his wife’s sewing scissors and proceeded to cut the map into about twenty pieces. Leading his son to the kitchen table, he told Joshua to put together this puzzle of the world as the first of their afternoon games. “When you finish the puzzle, then I’ll play with you,” the father promised. He knew it would take his son a long time to put the puzzle together, and that would give him plenty of time to read his paper. Not five minutes had passed when Joshua burst back into the room. “Daddy, I’m through with the puzzle! What can we play next?” “What? You finished already?” asked the father. He got up from his chair and went into the kitchen to look. Sure enough, the puzzle was complete, with every piece in its proper place. “Joshua…how did you ever do this so fast? Where did you learn how to do this?” asked the father in amazement. “It was easy, Daddy.” said Joshua. “You see, on the back of the map of the world was a picture of a person. I decided to put the person together first. When I did that, the whole world seemed to fit right into place.”

·         There is no doubt that this world has its fair share of troubles.

·         There is no doubt that each one of us will face a host of difficulties in our lives that may include relationship problems, work issues, and losses on many kinds.

·         Our lives cannot be put back together effectively as the world thinks it can, with social programs, education and throwing money at the issue

·         The solution to all our problems as people living in a tainted and fallen world can only be found in a person.

·         Today we want to look at a passage of Scripture which can give us comfort and means to work through every trial we encounter.  It does not solve all the problems but it does point to the one who can.

·         Please open your Bibles to 2 Cor. 1:3-11.


The Source of Comfort (3-4a)

1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 1:4 who comforts us in all our troubles…

The author of comfort in our lives has to be God.  In the beginning of this passage Paul encourages the Corinthian church by reassuring them of the greatness of God and His ability to care for them.

·         Paul describes God as being the Father of Mercies to communicate how God has operated with those he is in relationship with.

·         One of the best ways to understand what mercy means is to think of it as “compassion in action”

·         It is more than just feeling bad for the situation that someone is in, but has much to do with taking an active role and interest that attempts to help.

·         God is more than one that participates in providing mercy but he is the author of mercy.

·         He is the one who spared Cain after he killed Abel, saved Noah from the flood, allowed Joseph to save thousands from famine in Egypt, stayed his hand after the Israelites made the Golden calf, allowed David to defeat Goliath, saved Daniel from the den of Lions, brought the remnant of Israel out of exile in Babylon, saved Jesus from the hand of Herod, healed the paralytic, brought Lazarus back to life, brought Peter out of Prison, saved Paul on the road to Damascus, caused Jesus to die on the cross, brought Christ back to life and gave us the Holy Spirit.

·         All that mercy can and does, come from God.

·         In the phrase “God of all comfort” there are several important things to consider.  In this verse Paul uses the word ‘all’ which tells us that true untainted comfort is only from God, and the possibility of comfort is only possible because of the work of God in this world (prevenient grace).

·         For God to express comfort was quite foreign in the culture of the ancient near east.  There was no pagan god who was associated with comfort.  God was unique in that he sympathized with his people.

·         Throughout Scripture we find that God is a God of comfort:

Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff reassure me. Ps. 23:4

This is what comforts me in my trouble, for your promise revives me. Ps. 119:50

As a mother consoles a child, so I will console you, and you will be consoled over Jerusalem. Is. 66:13

They will not be hungry or thirsty; the sun’s oppressive heat will not beat down on them, for one who has compassion on them will guide them; he will lead them to springs of water. Is. 49:10

Show me evidence of your favor! Then those who hate me will see it and be ashamed, for you, O Lord, will help me and comfort me. Ps. 86:17

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 2:17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good thing you do or say. 2 Thess. 2:16-17.

·         It is probably important at this point to state that the context of 2 Cor. is one that refers to trials, troubles and afflictions in terms of their troubles caused by belief in Jesus Christ.  But Paul does not limit it to this as can be seen in chapter 12 where he speaks about his thorn in the flesh and it is why he uses the phrase “comforts us in all our troubles.”

·         From this we must remember that he has not restricted his discussion regarding God’s comfort to just the trials faced because of the Gospel.

·         Paul again uses the word ‘all’ at it is connected directly to his reference that God is the God of all comfort.  He is the God of all comfort in all our troubles.  He has the ability to care for all things.

·         God uses a variety of things to bring comfort to our lives:

His work in History; the example of the past to show his care; His Holy Word has a message of consolation that we can turn to when in despair; The Testimony of others speaking into our lives brings comfort; The kind acts of those around us when we have gone through distress; God gives future hope of salvation and relief; Through the incarnation of Christ God identifies with our discomfort because he has experienced them.

Pamela Curry writes…Every night my 6-year-old, Julie, and I thank God for one thing about the day. One evening Julie was breaking out in chicken pox, I had the flu, and my husband was out of town. As I tucked Julie into bed, she said, "Mommy, I can't think of anything to thank God for today. It was a horrible day." We thought for a while more and she finally said, "I know. We can thank him that the day is over."

   So we did. "Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life. No matter how difficult it is, we take comfort knowing you are there to help us make it through horrible days."

·         God is the God of mercies and this truth about Him makes him able to comfort us in all our troubles.

·         He is there is all our circumstances to place his loving arms around us no matter the difficulty.

The Nature of Comfort (4b-7)

…so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you. 1:6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer. 1:7 And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort.

·         One of the greatest dangers in consoling those in pain is to remind them of the benefits of suffering, but this is just what Paul does in v. 4b.

·         There is something about our own loss, trial or discomfort that helps us to identify with others when they face their own trial.

·         Through our own tragedy we are able to understand the emotional and physical pain that is associated with loss in a way that only comes with experience.

·         Paul expands this thought by indicating that Christ suffered unimaginable things and we will and can share in them because people with oppose us as well.

·         But in Christ’s suffering he brought comfort, a way and means to have a person who understands all that we may go through because it was greater than anything we will face.

·         Not only does he understand us but the message of his sacrifice can be brought to others to bring hope (comfort) to their lives.

·         The pain of one person can be there to help another and the comfort of one can show that comfort is there for others.

·         This is so contrary to the way Job’s friends comforted him.  They may have sat in silence for seven day but it is what they did after that destroyed their ministry.

·         Job’s friends were more concerned for proving their theological point than consoling a friend.

·         V. 7 is a statement of hope.  Paul knows that as those around him suffer just as he has, they will experience the same comfort he has been given.

·         The main point Paul is making here is that our experiences of pain no matter how devastating or seemingly minor can be used by us to comfort and console others in such a way that brings hope to their lives.

·         The work of God in our lives through tragedy enables us to live ‘incarnationally’ to others.

Douglas Maurer, 15, of Creve Coeur, Missouri, had been feeling bad for several days. His temperature was ranging between 103 and 105 degrees, and he was suffering from severe flu-like symptoms. Finally, his mother took him to the hospital in St. Louis. Douglas Maurer was diagnosed as having leukemia. The doctors told him in frank terms about his disease. They said that for the next three years, he would have to undergo chemotherapy. They didn’t sugarcoat the side effects. They told Douglas he would go bald and that his body would most likely bloat. Upon learning this, he went into a deep depression. His aunt called a floral shop to send Douglas an arrangement of flowers. She told the clerk that it was for her teenage nephew who has leukemia.  When the flowers arrived at the hospital, they were beautiful. Douglas read the card from his aunt. Then he saw a second card. It said: “Douglas—I took your order. I work at Brix florist. I had leukemia when I was 7 years old. I’m 22 years old now. Good luck. My heart goes out to you. Sincerely, Laura Bradley.”   His face lit up. He said, “Oh!” It’s funny: Douglas Maurer was in a hospital filled with millions of dollars of the most sophisticated medical equipment. He was being treated by expert doctors and nurses with medical training totaling in the hundreds of years. But it was a salesclerk in a flower shop, a woman making $170 a week, who—by taking the time to care, and by being willing to go with what her heart told her to do—gave Douglas hope and the will to carry on.             

           

·         How can we use our current or past pain to bring comfort to someone else?

·         The tragedies that we face make us uniquely equipped to speak life into someone else experiencing pain.

·         So while our afflictions may be overwhelming, tortuous, mind-numbing they give us the ability to relate to others that may help them recover.

The Experience of Comfort (8-11)

1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. 1:9 Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. 1:10 He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again, 1:11 as you also join in helping us by prayer, so that many people may give thanks to God on our behalf for the gracious gift given to us through the help of many.

·         At this point Paul makes his discussion on trials and comfort much more personal by recalling for the Corinthians the things he has gone through.

·         He does not mention the exact nature of his afflictions but he does indicate that they happened in the province of Asia Minor.

·         He may be referring to several incidents:

Acts 19:23-41 where riots were taking place because Demetrius the silver smith was accusing Paul of turning people away from the god Artemis.

1 Cor. 15:32 where in Ephesus he fought wild beasts in an arena.

2 Cor. 12:8-9 where Paul refers to his affliction that may have threatened his life.

·         We may not be sure of the exact nature of the incident that Paul refers but in 2 Cor. 4:7-12 and 11:23-28 we get a better picture of his hardships:

4:7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 4:8 We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; 4:9 we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, 4:10 always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. 4:11 For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body. 4:12 As a result, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

11:23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. 11:25 Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. 11:26 I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, 11:27 in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. 11:28 Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches

·         His trial, what ever it may have been was so intense that he feared for his life. He was so sure of the hopelessness of the situation that he had resigned himself to death.

·         The last part of v. 9 shows that Paul had come to such a terrible time in his life that he saw no human way to escape and had given himself over to God for what would happen to his soul.  He understood that if he was going to escape it would be by the hand of the God who can and has raised the dead.

·         He then testifies of how God saved him from his great peril.  This great deliverance from God has given Paul the strength and confidence to declare that God will (not may) do it again.

·         V. 11 gives the credit for this deliverance.  He acknowledges to the Corinthians that the reason for his escape from death (Gift: hope, comfort, his life) was the earnest prayers of the church.

·         He tells them that prayer was the key to his safety.  He shows them and us that prayer is crucial.

John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave.  A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present—but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station.

·         Comfort in the midst of trials is given by God and he responds to our willingness to fully depend on him and petition him with our prayers.

Conclusion

·         So what is your trial or tribulation, problem or pain today?

·         It may be something that you consider insignificant or unworthy or something that you “just have to get through”

·         It may be something very private that is difficult to share.

·         It may be something that is so overwhelming you wonder how you ever got out of bed in the morning.

·         The truth is there is not trial or tribulation, problem or pain for which God cannot help. He assures us as the author of all mercies who provides all comfort in all our troubles that we can turn to him in our despair.

·         He has provided us with people all around us even in this room who have their own scrapbooks of painful experience for which God has delivered to give us hope for a better tomorrow.

·         We have the assurance of open access to God in prayer, not only for ourselves but also as we intercede for others.

·         How do you need some hope today?

·         How can you give some hope today?

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