The God of all comfort

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 19-20, 2 Corinthians 1

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 receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

There is so much power in these 9 verses.

When we read Paul’s encouraging words to the church at Corinth, who were clearly going through some hardships at the time, the first thing that pops out to me is how powerful our stories are for encouraging others. There are few things that can give someone more strength in their current battle than a brother or sister in Christ coming alongside them and saying, “I have walked this same path you are on.”

There is power in our story.

However, something struck me towards the end of the passage this morning in a different light.

For a lot of us it takes years or even decades to get to a point where we are able to come to terms with the challenges that have occurred in our lives. Some of these are things that happened to us, and some are self-inflicted challenges. Once we are willing to share these experiences with others, we have a huge opportunity to comfort and assist people facing the same life challenges. We can relate!

This is not what struck me this morning.

Towards the end Paul says, “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Paul was not just speaking to them about the time he was imprisoned 10 years ago and telling them to hang in there because it eventually gets better. He wasn’t saying, “Listen, in a different life, I struggled with that too. I can relate!” Paul was saying that this is an ongoing battle. We are still facing the exact same challenges that you are facing today, and we will most likely continue to face them. We have full expectation that God will continue to be faithful and the fact that we are still in the midst of our struggle will be a testimony to God’s unfailing love and others can then see the manifestation of the power of their prayers as they lift us up in our battle!

Wow.

This changes the game. I know for me personally, no matter what I am struggling with during any season life, it is always helpful to have people in my life that can relate and say, “I went through that also. Here is how God helped me deal with it.”

It is even more powerful when someone is able to say, “I am right there in that battle with you…still. Today. This is a fight I am currently fighting and God is going to continue to deliver us. On him we can set our hope, together.”

There is serious power in battle partners that you go to war with against an enemy who is cunning and knows exactly how to attack each and every one of us.

Just because your battle may be lessened from where it was at it’s peak, there is still serious power in your willingness to be open about it. You don’t have to still be stuck in, what seemed like, a bottomless pit of shame and self-defeat. Friends of yours that are still early on in their particular battle are able to take extreme comfort knowing that they are not alone.

We have all struggled with any number of things, anger, jealousy, alcoholism, pornography, gluttony, pride, drug addiction, adultery, lying, or coveting; and we are still tempted in some form or fashion every day. Being able to tell a brother or sister in Christ about your still present struggles instead of talking about them in an academic, past tense way, gives so much more comfort.

That doesn’t mean you have to be losing the battle to be of comfort to another. It just means that there is power in admitting a battle still rages. When people see us as perfect, having it all together, never struggling with anything, and having conquered all of our past demons; it sets a false standard that no one can live up to and creates hopelessness. None of us can achieve perfection, which is why Christ had to come in the first place.

What do you struggle with? It doesn’t mean that you need to have lost that fight recently. Maybe you have been abiding firmly in Christ, and when those temptations have come recently, you have reminded yourself of your true identity and allowed God to strengthen you. That is fantastic!

But it doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t still there.

Maybe you are still in the midst of a battle that you have been losing more times than not in recent weeks and months. God loves you like crazy exactly where you are. He is a God of comfort and a God of compassion. He wants to rescue you each and every day if you will allow him.

As Paul wrote today, God not only desires to rescue us, but he also wants to use our past, present, and future struggles to comfort and encourage others. He wants to show others, through our unending faith in God’s rescue, the hope that exists in him.

So share your story. Not just of the past and God’s powerful redemptive work, but also be open with the present battles you are fighting today.

Our God is “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 receive from God.” 

Let him use you, along with your troubles, to be a source of comfort to others this week!

Thought to ponder

What are my current struggles? Am I willing to lay them out there for others so that they can comfort me and so that I can be a source of encouragement for others who then realize they are not alone as well?

The parable of the seed

Daily Readings: Genesis 33-34, Psalm 14, Matthew 13

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

-Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23

I could read the parable of the seed every day and it would still be valuable for me each and every time! I frequently need to hear these wise words for encouragement to keep making the effort to share Jesus with others. There can be so many times in life where it seems like the seeds we are scattering are falling along the path that Jesus spoke of. The folks we share with never fully grasp the good news. Sometimes there are folks who feel like they are the seeds on the rocky ground or the seed that fell amongst the thorns. It is so exciting right away when they seem truly engaged with the message you are sharing and want to learn more about giving their life over to Jesus! This is what evangelism is supposed to feel like!

Then they fall away quickly whether because of adversity or simply because of the priorities in life that they continue to place over a relationship with God. Their faith is either scorched by the sun or strangled by the thorns.

For me, these are even more frustrating than the folks that never truly connect with the message in the first place. These people I care about heard the good news and really embraced it! What happened?! Could have I done more? Is this my fault somehow?

In all of these moments Jesus wants us to remember his parable. He wants us to remember that our job as marketplace missionaries is to simply scatter as much seed as we possibly can! A lot of it is going to fall along the path, on the rocky ground, or amongst the thorns; and we cannot control that. However, many will fall on fertile ground!

The mistake we often make is taking a look at those seeds that did not find fertile ground and say to ourselves, “Maybe evangelism is just not my gift. Perhaps I am just not called to share the good news. I might just be better suited to _______.”

I have felt this way at many different points in life and I would argue that, in these moments, I am an example of the seed that fell on rocky ground. I am excited initially to share the love of Jesus with others, but as soon as I feel like I have failed a few times, my motivation burns up in the hot sun.

This is the other side of the parable that is always good for me to think about. How is the seed in my heart doing? If I were to ask Jesus today where my seed is at this moment, would he liken me to a seed that has fallen along the path, on the rocky ground, or amongst the thorns? Or would Jesus say that this seed he has planted is firmly planted in the fertile ground?

I love reading this passage because it always causes me to ask this question. It is a question worth asking on a daily basis in our world today. Regardless of how fertile the ground has been the last month, thorns can grow, and they can grow quickly! However, if we are constantly turning to Jesus and asking him, “What thorns am I allowing to grow up and choke out my faith?” he is a faithful gardener! He is always excited to help us do some serious weeding to get us back to the point where we can produce a crop of 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown!

Thought to ponder

Which seed have I been the last week? What, if anything, have I allowed to be a thorn in my life that has been working to choke out my faith?

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