We who believe in God – I am sure we would say so. But if we were to examine our normal practice of seeking comfort, at times when we need it, we would more likely than not, discover that God is the last place where we seek comfort.
It is not that we don’t believe in His comfort, or never seek it, it is just when we need comfort, God is usually last on our list. I confess, I am no different. But we ought to examine why it is so – Why is God so often our last resource, when it comes to comfort.
When God declares Himself to be the God of all comfort – He declares Himself eager to give comfort – and our need is such, that our thirst for comfort is never ending – why should this be? Why do we delay seeking the God of all comfort?
God is far too great and is so full of power and majesty to consider me and my puny affairs; He can make heaven and earth & control stars, so why should I think He will concern Himself about the trivial matters of my life?’
From the time we are children, we have our Teddy Bears, then graduate to books & hobbies & TV. Then many turn to more sinister forms of comfort like alchohol, drugs, gambling; illicit affair. It is always something near at hand & familiar.
In a financial crisis we look for support by adding up our assets. A little bit like David, numbering Israel. In an emotional crisis, we turn to people for support, just as Judah preferred to trust in Egypt when they were threatened by the Assyrians. It is natural for us to seek comfort from that which is close at hand and familiar – God seems too remote and far off.
How can I turn to Him for comfort, if I have ignored Him – lived without prayer & Bible reading; I have disregarded His laws; I have brushed aside & rejected and rejected His promptings. I know He is of purer eyes than to look upon my iniquity. And when I call to mind what I have been, and what I am, surely He is the last one I ought to expect comfort from.
This is what we must take to heart – God wills that you & I be comforted, and He intends that He will do the comforting Himself. So God is not only willing to comfort you, He is also opposed to you going anywhere else for comfort. He knows you need comfort.
Jesus said, – “He that loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” They are the words of a jealous God. He is jealous we may allow another god in His place, and put Him in second place and that applies to what comforts us, and where we seek it. His love is a jealous love. In His love, He knows He is the very best for us. He knows all other things will only disappoint us.
I don’t doubt for a moment, there is comfort to be had from friends, and from books, & TV, and from ministers, and from many other sources. There is no sin in that. They are God given gifts, but they must all be put under God; otherwise they will prove to be like Job’s comforters – What did he say, ‘miserable comforters are you all.’ They will let us down. In some unexpected time and some unexpected manner, they will let us down. They will leave us with nothing, because we did not have God. So it is important that we get this right.
It is very plain and very straightforward. There is no way that we can misunderstand what God means when His Word declares Him to be the “God of all comfort.”
He had just been wishing grace and peace, to the Corinthians. There is nothing more comforting than grace & peace. And where do they come from? Look at V.2 with me. “from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus”. But then he can’t hold himself back … V.3-4.
He repeats this again in 7:5-6. The only thing I want to emphasise here – is that, God is in the habit of comforting those who are cast down. It is not something strange or unusual with God to provide comfort. The apostle Paul saw the Father and the Son working together in this wonderful work of comfort.
Let me refer you to 2Thess.2:16-17. Aren’t they beautiful consoling words. If there is anything we ought to expect from God, it is comfort.
There is perhaps no greater illustration than what is repeated throughout the book of Psalms. There are a number of different authors to the Psalms. David wrote most of them. All of the writers were in trouble in some form or other. They all found their comfort in God – not in running away from Him, but in coming to Him. It was knowing what God said that David relied upon; and if that had not been comforting, it would have been of no use to him.
‘Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has revived me.’ [Psalm 119:49] And again he says in verse 76 — ‘Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, According to Your word to Your servant.’
In the 86th Psalm David speaks of being “poor & needy”. He prays – “Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” Have you ever felt so flat & heavy – your circumstances are not greatly different, but you feel so lacking in purpose; what a terrible thing it would be to feel there is no answer for that.
H.G. Wells, said at age 61: “I have no peace. All life is at the end of the tether.” The poet Byron said, “My days are in yellow leaf, the flowers and fruits of life are gone, the worm and the canker, and the grief are mine alone.”
Ralph Barton, was a world famous cartoonist. He left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with filling up twenty-four hours of the day.”
I am not saying that Christians never feel “fed up” & robbed of all motivation, but what a tragedy when there is no avenue of comfort. David said, “I am poor & needy – I have no joy;” but he had an answer for that – “You are my God – Save Your servant – bring some joy & happiness to my soul.” Do you think God would not be pleased when you turn to Him in such a need. Isn’t that why He describes Himself as “the God of all comfort?
And David is a testimony of someone who did not waste his breath in looking to the Lord. On one occasion he was utterly & completely perplexed – totally bewildered – This is how he put it in Psa.94 – V.19” In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” He felt like H.G. Wells & Byron – one translation – “when doubts filled my mind” – but he knew how to answer those inner disturbances – “Your comforts delight my soul.”
So we should not be surprised that he could view the dark valley of the shadow of death with the anticipation, that the God of all comfort will be with him – “Yea, tho I walk ….!”
You know, it is worth building up as many examples as possible, because this seems to be a message that is very slow to penetrate our hearts – this message that God Himself, is the One to go to in our search after comfort.
The NT often refers to the Church as Mt. Zion; from which we understand that Mt Zion represented the church of the O.T. – and again and again, Zion is said to have departed from the Lord. When that happened, they were usually disciplined. That was the process. After sin comes punishment. Zion should never have become a “waste place, or a “desert’ or a wilderness. And when you consider how Jerusalem provoked God with their idolatry, You might naturally assume that the last place where the Jews would seek comfort – would be from God. And it would be the last place where you would expect it to come.
But the word which the Lord told the prophet to speak was a word that not even the prophet could understand. Here it is, from Isa.51:5 ‘For the Lord shall comfort Zion, He shall comfort all her waste places, and He shall make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.’
In Jeremiah, He says of Himself, ‘I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them.’ [51:13.] ‘I will speak comfortably unto her,’ He says in Hosea 2:14. ‘I am He that comforts you,’ He says in Isaiah 51:12. And in the day of thanksgiving – this is to be the song [Isa. 12:1] ‘0 Lord, I will praise You: though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.’
In all these passages, you can’t help but notice how generous & overflowing God is, in pouring out His mercy and comfort. But this is God’s way of comforting. This is the God who has revealed Himself through the Bible. And we should never forget this about God. He is the God of all comfort.
He yearns over rebellious Israel – “How can I give you up”. – “My bowels are troubled for him.” (Jer.31:20)
He showed & felt compassion, wherever He was. He looked upon the people and He was “moved with compassion.” The original word means bowels – our modern equivalent is ‘guts’. Feelings can run so deep, it may actually hurt us, in our guts. The old AV translates it – “moved in His bowels”. Just as Jeremiah (Jer.4:19) “My bowels, my bowels, my heart is pained within me.” The Grk word is SPLAGNA – with a very guttural sound. It means to be moved in the “inner organs”. Today we use the expression, “From the bottom of my heart.” All this indicates how serious God the Father is, & our LJC is, in being willing to comfort us. The Lord declares, “In all your afflictions, I was afflicted.”
(1) Get firmly convinced that God, God Himself, God the Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father, is a God of comfort. Be convinced of it. Get this sermon on the internet and hear it again – it will be there tomorrow or Tuesday. Read the many Scriptures & declarations which He has given of Himself, and ingrain the idea into your hearts; comfort is a thing God thinks about – He searches where He can apply it. He knows how much we need it. He is the God of all comfort.
(2) Do not look anywhere else for your first & primary comfort. I don’t deny that there is comfort in friends, and other things – but we must be convinced of this – the only sure & certain comfort is with God. “God is our refuge and our …!”
(3) Expect Comfort from God. Our expectation is generally a prelude to God’s action. I am speaking of you, as a believer. The needs you feel, and which spur you to prayer, and a normal process which leads to the gracious action of God. We must first open our mouth, and then He will satisfy us. Just as Jesus said – “Fill the water pots with water – we need to come to Him with faith, believing He can turn our water into wine.
And one final thought – to you who do not believe these things. You might say to yourself – I would like to believe, but I just cannot believe these things are certain. My friend – you do not believe, because you will not believe. You go out of your way to flick a switch to turn the light on. You expect when you do so, the light will appear. Don’t you think you are a greater miracle than electricity. Where did you come from? How can you see – how can you think – what makes you keep going? You can’t explain it apart from God. You are here because He put you here. And yet you think that the God who did all this for you, cannot speak to you and comfort you. My friend, you do not believe because you will not believe. May God help you to see that. Amen.