Now we’re going to spend just a few of days in 2 Corinthians. There’s a lot of deep material here, and if you ever read the Bible in entirety (which I heartily recommend), then you’ll notice that 2 Cor. is a lot more positive than the 1st epistle to them. Apparently his 1st letter to them had the intended result (mostly). The church there had repented in tears after reading it. They remembered how Paul had started the church there and had led many of the members there to faith in Christ in the first place. And in this letter there’s a lot less reproof.
He starts out the letter, as he always does, by introducing himself and mentioning the ones with him and gives them standard blessing/greeting of “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Keep in mind that the order—“grace,” then “peace,” is no accident or coincidence.
Then we come to the part I really want to focus on today. This is the only time in which the Lord is called “The God of all comfort,” and this concept is well worth studying. If you’re familiar with Greek or have been in deeper studies of Scripture, you might have guessed that the word “comfort” is parakleseos. It’s the same word used to refer to both the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus. The word literally means “called to walk alongside [someone],” and it’s been rendered variously as “Advocate,” “Counselor,” and as “Comforter.” The reason it’s been translated as “Advocate” is because it was used to describe (the rough equivalent of) a Defense Attorney, an advocate to represent someone before a court.
And the Lord we worship and serve is the “God of all comfort.” All real comfort comes from him. True, the world promises comfort, but the type it offers is only temporary and partial and dependent on the circumstances at the time. In fact, most Americans would probably mistake the word “comfort” with the word “comfortable.” If I have a wide-screen TV in front of me, a comfy chair under me, and a bowl of pork rinds next to me, I have all the comfort I need at the moment.
But what about when life falls apart for you? Your boss has to break the bad news to you about your job. You get bad news from a doctor. In an argument, your spouse uses the “D” word for the first time. That’s when you don’t need just a comforting word; you need a real comforter like we’ve been talking about, someone to walk along beside you.
So what else do we learn about comfort in this passage?
· We’re comforted in order so that we can comfort others. This is the same principle that you might’ve heard before now: You aren't blessed in order to just enjoy your blessings. You're blessed in order to pass it on. When the God of all comfort strengthens you and picks you up, he does this in order so that you can do it to others.
· The normal means which Christ uses to comfort us is his Body. Yes, of course, he gives us a sense or peace and well-being directly through his Spirit into our hearts. But he usually comes to us in “skin” in the person of a sibling in Christ, someone who will be our “along-walker,” who will put their hand on our shoulder and whisper in our ear that it’s going to be OK.
· Suffering and comfort go together. Like Patton said in the movie, “Americans love a winner.” We tend to think about the Christian life as one victory after another. But that’s, well, a lie. Or at least we need to redefine what victory really means. Victory is defined as submitting to the Father’s will in obedience. As soon as we have that, we win, no matter what else happens. And submission to his will often means that we lose things that we care about, including (potentially) our health, our material possessions, our family, or maybe even our lives. You can’t have the comfort of Christ unless you’re willing to suffer with him: “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
· One of the reasons for our suffering is so that “we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” As I write this, my wife and I have gone through a lot of problems and stresses and extreme hardships. She’s been asking me in frustration “What is God trying to teach us?” I’ve had to answer “I don’t know, baby, except maybe to trust him and patient.” The pattern in Scripture—over and over and over and over—is for God’s people to encounter something that they cannot possibly handle themselves. They try to handle it themselves, using their own resources, and sure enough, they can’t handle it themselves. They finally call upon their Lord, and he intervenes as only he can. And they learn, once again, to cry out “Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless.”
I can personally testify to that last point. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over and over. Maybe one of these days I’ll learn. How’s about you?
Father God, is there someone you want to comfort using my hands, my mouth, my ears? Show me and use me, please.