Comfort, Comfortable

Tea party 1905 (cup = tub).

Is your faith getting too comfortable?

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  – NIV Genesis 12:2

God promised to bless Abram and make him great, but there was one condition. Abram had to do what God wanted him to do.  This meant leaving his home and friends and travelling to a new land where God promised to build a great nation from Abram’s family.  Abram obeyed, walking away from his home for God’s promise of even greater blessings in the future.  God may be trying to lead you to a place of greater service and usefulness for him.  Don’t let the comfort and security of your present position make you miss God’s plan for you.

When God called him, Abram moved out in faith from Ur to Haran and finally to Canaan. God then established a covenant with Abram, telling him that he would found a great nation.  Not only would this nation be blessed, God said, but the other nations of the earth would be blessed through Abram’s descendants.  Israel, the nation that would come from Abram, was to follow God and influence those with whom it came in contact.  Through Abram’s family tree, Jesus Christ was born to save humanity.  Through Christ, people can have a personal relationship with God and be blessed beyond measure.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. – NIV 2 Timothy 3:1

In many parts of the world today it is not especially difficult to be a Christian – – people aren’t jailed for reading the Bible or executed for preaching Christ. But Paul’s descriptive list of behaviour in the last days describes our society – – even, unfortunately, the behaviour of many Christians.  Check your life against Paul’s list.  Don’t give in to society’s pressures.  Don’t settle for comfort without commitment.  Stand up against evil by living as God would have his people live.

Paul’s reference to the “last days” reveals his sense of urgency. The last days began after Jesus’ resurrection when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost.  The “last days” will continue until Christ’s second coming.  This means that we are living in the last days.  So we should make the most of the time that God has given us (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5).

 

Lot couldn’t let go of his:

When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. – NIV Genesis 19:16

Lot hesitated, so the angel grasped his hand and rushed him to safety. Lot did not want to abandon the wealth, position, and comfort he enjoyed in Sodom.  It is easy to criticise Lot for being hypnotised by Sodom when the choice seems so clear to us.  To be wiser than Lot, we must see that our hesitation to obey stems from the false attractions of our culture’s pleasures.

Notice how God’s mercy towards Abraham extended to Lot and his family. Because Abraham pleaded for Lot, God was merciful and saved Lot from the fiery destruction of Sodom.  A righteous person can often affect others for good.  James says that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful (see James 5:16).  All Christians should follow Abraham’s example and pray for others to be saved.

 

Doing God’s will doesn’t guarantee a comfortable life:

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – NIV Job 2:10

Many people think that believing in God protects them from trouble, so when calamity comes, they question God’s goodness and justice. But the message of Job is that you should not give up on God because he allows you to have bad experiences.  Faith in God does not guarantee personal prosperity, and lack of faith does not guarantee troubles in this life.  If this were so, people would believe in God simply to get rich.  God is capable of rescuing us from suffering, but he may also allow suffering to come for reasons we cannot understand.  It is Satan’s strategy to get us to doubt God at exactly this moment.  Here Job shows a perspective broader than seeking his own personal comfort.  If we always knew why we were suffering, our faith would have no room to grow.

And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born – NIV Luke 2:3-6

The government forced Joseph to make a long trip to pay his taxes. His fiancée, who had to go with him, was going to have a baby any moment.  But when they arrived in Bethlehem, they couldn’t even find a place to stay.  When we do God’s will, we are not guaranteed a comfortable life.  But we are promised that everything, even our discomfort, has meaning in God’s plan.

God controls all history. By the decree of Emperor Augustus, Jesus was born in the very town prophesied for his birth (Micah 5:2), even though his parents did not live there.

Joseph and Mary were both descendants to David. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies that the Messiah would be born in David’s royal line (see for example, Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 33:15; Ezekiel 37:24; Hosea 3:5).

 

Sensitivity in how you comfort others:

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathise with him and comfort him. – NIV Job 2:11

Upon learning of Job’s difficulties, three of his friends came to sympathise with him and and comfort him. Later we learn that their words of comfort were not helpful – – but at least they came.  While God rebuked them for what they said (42:7), he did not rebuke them for what they did – – making the effort to come to someone who was in need.  Unfortunately, when they came, they did a poor job of comforting Job because they were proud of their own advice and insensitive to Job’s needs.  When someone is in need, go to that person, but be sensitive in how you comfort him or her.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were not only Job’s friends, they were also known for their wisdom. In the end, however, their wisdom was shown to be narrow-minded and incomplete.

 

Ways to comfort those in pain:

Then Job replied –  NIV Job 16:1

Job’s friends were supposed to be comforting him in his grief. Instead they condemned him for causing his own suffering.  Job began his reply to Eliphaz by calling him and his friends “miserable comforters”.  Job’s words reveal several ways to become a better comforter to those in pain: (1) don’t talk just for the sake of talking; (2) don’t sermonise by giving pat answers; (3) don’t accuse or criticise; (4) put yourself in the other person’s place; and (5) offer help and encouragement.  Try Job’s suggestions, knowing that they are given by a person who needed great comfort.  The best comforters are those who know something about personal suffering.

 

Sacrificing yours to show love for another:

All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves.  so I looked for him but did not find him.  The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city.  “Have you seen the one my heart loves.  I held him and would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother’s house, to the room of the one who conceived me.  – NIV Song of Songs 3:1-4

Many scholars agree that in these verses the girl was recalling a dream that caused her to become so concerned about her lover’s whereabouts that she arose in the middle of the night to search for him. When you love someone, you will do all you can to ensure the safety of that person and care for his or her needs, even at a cost to your personal comfort.  This shows up most often in small actions – – walking downstairs to get your spouse a glass of water, leaving work early to attend some function your child is involved in, or sacrificing your personal comfort to tend to the needs of a friend.

 

Isaiah shifts his focus to:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  – NIV Isaiah 40:1

The book of Isaiah makes a dramatic shift at this point. The following chapters discuss the majesty of God, who is coming to rule the earth and judge all people.  God will reunite Israel and Judah and restore them to glory.  Instead of warning the people of impending judgment, Isaiah here comforts them.  Chapter 40 refers to the restoration after the exile.  Cyrus is the instrument of their deliverance from Babylon.  Secondly, it looks to the end of time when “Babylon” – – the future evil world system – – will be destroyed and the persecution of God’s people will end.

 

May come through adversity:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. – NIV Isaiah 40:1-2.

Judah still had 100 years of trouble before Jerusalem would fall, then 70 years of exile. So God tells Isiah to speak tenderly and to comfort Jerusalem.

The seeds of comfort may take root in the soil of adversity. When your life seems to be falling apart, ask God to comfort you.  You may not escape adversity, but you may find God’s comfort as you face it.  Sometimes, however, the only comfort we have is in the knowledge that someday we will be with God.  Appreciate the comfort and encouragement found in his word, his presence, and his people.

 

In knowing God keeps his promises:

It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you,  who will prepare your way”  – – “a voice of one calling in the desert,  ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,  make straight paths for him.’ “  – NIV Mark 1:2-3

Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah had predicted that John the Baptist and Jesus would come. How did he know?  God promised Isaiah that a Redeemer would come to Israel, and that a messenger calling in the desert would prepare the way for him.  Isaiah’s words comforted many people as they looked forward to the Messiah, and knowing that God keeps his promises can comfort you too.  As you read the book of Mark, realise that it is more than just a story; it is part of God’s word.  In it God is revealing to you his plans for human history.

Isiah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. The second half of the book of Isaiah is devoted to the promise of salvation.  Isaiah wrote about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the man who would announce his coming, John the Baptist.  John’s call to “make straight paths for him” meant that people should give up their selfish way of living, renounce their sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and establish a relationship with the almighty God by believing and obeying his words as found in Scripture (Isaiah 1:18-20; 57:15).

Mark 1:2, 3 is a composite quotation taken from Malachi 3:1 and then from Isaiah 40:3.

 

Holy Spirit comforted disciples:

While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. – NIV Luke 24:51

Jesus’ physical presence left the disciples when he returned to heaven (Acts 1:9), but the Holy Spirit soon came to comfort them and empower them to spread the gospel of salvation (Acts 2:1-4). Today Jesus’ work of salvation is completed, and he is sitting at God’s right hand, where he has authority over heaven and earth.

As the disciples stood and watched, Jesus began rising into the air, and soon he disappeared into heaven. Seeing Jesus leave must have been frightening, but the disciples knew that Jesus would keep his promise to be with them through the Holy Spirit.  This same Jesus, who lived with the disciples, who died and was buried, and who rose from the dead, loves us and promises to be with us always.  We can get to know him better through studying the Scriptures, praying, and allowing the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus.

 

©Kingsway “International” Church 1973.

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