The Purpose of Comfort

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are painful to read.  Yesterday David asked if any of us had ever experienced having a person we were trying to help question our motives and speak negatively about us to others.  I sadly answered yes in my heart as I read David’s prompting.

That experience was difficult for me.  Today’s reading challenged me to grow. Especially verses 3-7.

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

God is our comforter.  Παράκλησις, translated as comfort here, could also be translated ‘encourage’.  It holds in it the element of acceptance, council, and courage.  As if to say God is the one who finds our sorrow acceptable (or not) and strengthens us to continue on (if it is acceptable, more on this latter).

Παρακαλέω, translated as comfort three times in verse 4, could also be translated as urge, implore or exhort.  This helped me understand the activating (or reactivating) nature of this word as if strengthening one to get back in the fight.  God provides us the strength to continue Glorifying Him.

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

‘That we’ is a purpose clause.  God strengthens us so that we may be strengthened and encourage others.  Citing God’s character as the Comforter; the source of strength gives God glory.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

This was the most challenging part for me.  The comfort supplied has no limits, so long as our sufferings are in Christ.  Put another way, God supplies us with all the comfort we need for righteous suffering.

The question then became, what if the suffering was not righteous?  That is, what if the suffering was actually a result of my selfish ambition, seeking my own glory and not God’s?  This was my wake up call.

If I did not receive strength and comfort for the sorrow I felt, does it then mean that it was chastening rather than suffering for Christ?  I am inclined to consider this deeply.  Afterall, are we to believe that all suffering is because we are seeking Christ glory perfectly?  If not, as I reflect on a past wound that lingered too long, that sapped my strength when I know it shouldn’t have, I am inclined to think it was due to my sin and pride.

Ouch and amen! God is the righteous One who judges.  I am the sinner who is judged.  God is the Merciful One who gives grace.  I am the one in desperate need of His mercy and grace.   Admitting this depravity is the first step to receiving that which I need from God.  Confessing our Sin is our humble gate that protects God’s glorious reputation. (see extra credit below)

6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

We are to thank God for the righteous suffering.  We will know it by the degree to which we are supernaturally strengthened.  This is to be shared with and passed on to those who suffer.  All the time giving glory to God as the Strengthener.

7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

 

Extra Credit: God’s Glory and Confession of Sin

All things were created for God’s glory. (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7)  The proud are too busy seeking their own glory to give God His glory.  Confessing our sin proclaims God’s character as holy and His Law as right. (Luke 23:41)  Not confessing our sin is a way of blaming God for sin.  Notice the first sin and how Adam blames God. (Genesis 3:12)  Confessing our sin humbles us and gives God glory. (Joshua 7:19) In summary, when we do not confess our sin it is disagreeing with God, a form of attack on His reputation.  When we say, “God I deserve this” it agrees with God and brings Him glory.  We were designed to bring God glory.  This is one way we can do it.  Confessing our sin.  

The world says, ‘find your strengths and play them up.” the Word says “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12:10)

5 Essentials for Christian Growth

Have you ever seen a W.W.J.D. bracelet?  If you’re wondering, it stands for ‘what would Jesus do?’  When I was growing up my friends and I all wore them.  We had them in all different colors.  We wore them inside out and upside down.  We were all about our W.W.J.D. bracelets.  

I always thought W.W.J.D.  was a great reminder to do the right thing.  Growing up there are so many choices that we are faced with.  Finding the right answer was not always easy but this bracelet seemed to at least start us looking in the right direction.

As a Christian grows up they hope to mature in Christ.  They hope to have the right answers and make the right choices more than they did when they were young.  This is what happens when a Christian matures.  Scripture is clear that Christ followers will grow (2Peter 3:18, 1Peter 2:2, 1Timothy 4:15, Ephesians 4:15, 1Corinthians 13:11, Colossians 2:6-7, 2Corinthians 3:18) From our reading today, Philippians 1:9-11 reveals to us the 5 essentials for Christian growth. That is, the 5 ways the Spirit works in us as we follow Christ.

  1. Love

We love because He first loved us. (1John 4:19)  It is no surprise that the first essential to Christian growth is love.  After all, love is the greatest attribute of a follower of Christ. (John 13:35)  In a world that tosses around this word seeking to destroy its meaning, it is always a good idea to return to the truth to test our definition of this defining characteristic of our faith in Jesus.

Agape is the word here translated as love. It is a self-sacrificing love.  Later in Philippians 2:1-8, Paul gives one of the fullest descriptions of agape love in the Bible. One statement from this scripture stood out to me, “…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  What would our lives look like if everyone’s interest were always placed above our own?

Love is not blind.  Quite the opposite love is very perceptive, very discerning.  True love produces obedience that requires knowledge of the truth.  (John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23, John 15:10, 1John 3:24)  Here is a list of 1236 commands from the New Testament.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Philippians 1:9

  1. Excellence

Verse 10a begins, ‘that ye’ or ‘so that’ in the ESV, indicating that the first point is foundational to the second.  The word here ‘approve’ is ‘dokimazo’, meaning to allow, examine, prove, and discern.  The love of God, with its foundation in the Word (commands), not only helps us discern right from wrong but helps us discern what is best from what is only good.  God’s will is not good, it is perfect. (Romans 12:2)  Love and the Word help us find what is excellent.

When John Wesley went away to Oxford his mother wrote the following in a letter to him: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the delight for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin.”

That ye may approve things that are excellent;
Philippians 1:10a

  1. Integrity

Verse 10b also begins with ‘that ye’ or ‘in order to be’ in the ESV, again making clear the continued progression of the text.  The word ‘sincere’ is ‘eilikrines’ and carries with it ideas of cohesiveness, oneness and unity.  What would our lives look like if everything touched everything else and ‘gelled’ as it were with no offences?  Does Christ touch every part of your life?  Is there any part of your life that you are keeping for you?  

that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
Philippians 1:10b

  1. Good works

Verse 11a begins with ‘being’ or ‘having been filled’ in the ESV, a perfect passive participle in the Greek indicating something that happened in the past and is continuing here and now.  It is essential that we understand the progression of this Scripture.  The fruit’s appeal is instant gratification but trying to skip ahead or jump right to the fruit is a lie.  The fruit itself is not something to strive for in a direct sense.  The fruit is the byproduct of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Forced fruit without the leaven of love is legalism.  

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ
Philippians 1:11a

  1. Glory of God

Verse 11b begins with ‘unto’ or ‘to’ in the ESV, this is the purpose clause, it answers the question ‘why?’.  The most important essential is the glory of God.  Indeed it is the reason for the others.  

For a time I thought of reversing this list so that it would begin with God’s glory and end with love.  Though I decided against it, the reason was that it all actually starts here, with the end in mind.  

Our heart attitude is what sets all growth in motion, through the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit.  Glory to God.  Glory to God is on the believer’s heart.  If God’s glory is our focus the Spirit will be at work in us, helping love abound in us, producing in us spiritual excellence, personal integrity, and genuine good works all to God’s glory.

As I made my way through this study I realised that there was one simple answer to that question ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus brings glory to the Father.

unto the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:11b

God, may our eyes be single for You. Amen.

 

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