I asked our Bible class this past Sunday to write down a time they have received comfort in their lives. I don’t know if this is typical or not but it was a real struggle for them to write anything at all. That began a discussion about vulnerability and our outlets to be real about our struggles and share our lives on a deeper level. We live in a culture that teaches us to be private. It teaches us to protect ourselves and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But it also leaves our lives stripped of mutual support and edification as we hold in parts of our lives that show signs of weakness.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul opens his letter of reconciliation (between himself and the Corinthians) with a reminder of their bond together through comfort. He begins with these words of greeting,
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
While the opening sentence is part of his traditional greeting I can’t help but think that grace and peace have a lot to do with comfort. Paul says comfort begins with God to us through grace. It comes through grace because we didn’t do anything good enough to deserve God’s comfort. We received the comfort of God even while we are deserving of death. That brings peace to our lives. It doesn’t stop there. We have an obligation to bring that comfort to others through grace to produce peace. There are people in our lives we will want to resist bringing comfort to because of how they have treated us but we will show them comfort through grace because God showed us comfort when we didn’t deserve it, “we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Isn’t it great to know that God knows us well enough to know what we needed comforted about? God isn’t distant, He is in touch and He calls us to do likewise to others in our lives. Notice Paul refers to God as Father. While we have not all had the best fathers, God is the perfect Father who is able to provide comfort to His children. Paul refers to Christ as Lord. The Lordship of Christ and His victory over death brings us comfort are a clear call to comfort and peace. Lastly he reminds us of God’s seal of ownership on us and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, “guaranteeing what is to come (1:22).” God has done so much to comfort us and He wants us to pass it on.
Put it Into Practice:
Each week in our LIFE group lessons I put a section at the end called “Put it Into Practice” with a challenge to act on the lesson that has just been studied. That is something I want to start incorporating here. So here is the first one.
Take out a piece of paper. On the left side write down any talents, abilities, or personality characteristics that you could use to bring comfort to others. On the right side of the page write down the names of people you know who really need comfort right now. Then connect the two sides together by drawing lines between what you can do with who needs it. Now lets go comfort some people!
What you are doing is great!
It is what we are called to do. Kingdom work.
If only every person in every church would do just this imagine what would happen, how much growth would take place, how many new converts and restorations would return. Mattt, I know that is going to bless your ministry in a powerful way because you are equipping His people for service. Paise God!
Someone had us do this at a Hospice training class. it was amazing. Thank you Matt.
PS –My kids just moved to Lakeland, FL from Tampa–When I went to visit we saw some of the pics in your last post.