Sunday, January 17, 2016

Comfort means more than a cuddly toy

Book launch more audience web small.JPGIt’s a command, not a suggestion. It’s personal as well. In Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort, yes, comfort my people!” says your God.” Those suffering, grieving, confused would sob “please!” Those, probably like you and I would want to know answers to two questions that verse raises. Who is defined as His people? How am I to express comfort, especially to those in far off places?
In the context ‘my people’ is referring to the Nation of Israel. God actually fulfilled His own command when Jesus was born into their Nation. Today, the Nation is in need of people and Governments offering ‘comfort’ and support. The attitude by some Denominational church leaders is to be thorns, not comforters, in the side of the Nation. That’s a sure way of getting into the Lord’s book of discipline
 ‘My people’ would also include Humanity in general for Yahweh is their Creator, according to Genesis. Therefore we have no reason for denying those in need because we have some racial dislike.

There’s another group (not extra-terrestrials) which come from out of both the classes above. It is called ‘the body’ or the Church. Over the centuries this people group have known the pain inflicted when they have withdrawn from one of the other groups. Why they withdrawal? They have joined up with Jesus Christ. They belong to an international and spiritual identity which, unfortunately often means they are given a hard time by former colleagues. 

When we consider the need of people for comfort the Lord is actually asking us to embrace one and all. Paul expressed it well in Galatians 6:10,”Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.’ It doesn’t take much imagination to know how to do good to the hungry, homeless, sick, lonely and others. This can be done in a detached and impersonal manner.

The words translated ‘comfort’ however calls us to be more personally involved to those who are hurting.

Psalm 23:4 tells us that God’s staff and rod bring comfort. The word means ‘it gives forth sighs.’ What does? The word is used in Psalm 119:50 and points us to God’s word. We are not peddling in pious and unthinking sentences. We are using the scriptures to offers hope and strength mixed with wisdom for the circumstances. Romans 15:4, ‘whatever things were written before [in the Old Testament] were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.’ As we read the Bible there is a realisation that God is sharing our scene and feeling for us. He sighs with us. We know we are not alone.

2 Corinthians 7:6, ‘God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.’ In this instant the word means that when Titus met up with Paul and company his presence was a blessing. What this young man had to share boosted the morale of the group. You may not have magical solutions to share with those who are downcast, but, coming alongside of them is a comfort. Giving them a hug as you shed a tear is therapeutic to their soul, and a joy to their heart. In Philippians 2:19 Paul says how he will be refreshed when Timothy comes with a report on the Church there. In Colossians 4 9-18 Paul once again reveals how the hurts, frustrations and house confinements were soothed by the friendship and visits, prayers and greetings of people.

I’ve conducted many funerals. Some have had a sense of hope that death was not the end. It was the entrance into an eternal realm of grace and glory with Jesus Christ. This is such a contrast to others who only see oblivion or perdition. There may be wishful thinking about being ‘up there looking down’ but that’s all they have to cling too.  What is the difference between the two funerals? It is hope grounded in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of who He is and what He achieved on Calvary’s cross and His resurrection our hope has substance. When we activated our understanding of the Gospel by faith and made Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, an eternal hope was born. Christians have comfort because they know Jesus keeps His promise. Christians want to share with all the wonder of what Jesus does in a life infused with hope, grace and comfort.

 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 informs us of a great ‘getting up from the grave’ event when we will meet Jesus Christ in the air. Then we will be forever with the Lord. It is by this promise, secured for us by Jesus Christ, we are able to comfort each other. How do we know He can and will deliver? The empty tomb, the risen Lord and the Bible are our guarantees.

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