Saturday, May 28, 2016, 3:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Keeps Me Singing.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (ESV). The God of all Comfort (vv. 1-7) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. In this life we will have trouble, hardship, sadness and pain. It is inevitable. Some people may experience only minor difficulties, while others may go through enormous suffering, trials and tribulations. Yet, no matter the level of severity of our troubles, we can know that, if we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, God is with us, he will never leave us or forsake us, and he will give us all we need to endure and to keep singing his praises. I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “comfort,” I think of something which makes me feel good in my spirit, which encourages my heart, and which spurs me on to keep moving forward, even despite the suffering I am going through. Yet, there is more to this word than just that. This word also means exhortation, entreaty, and/or urging, “motivating and inspiring believers to carry out His” (God’s) “plan” (biblehub.com). So, this isn’t just about making us feel good inside, but this also involves counsel, even pressingly, for the intended purpose that we might learn something of value through our times of difficulty, which may then result in spiritual maturity and a change of mind or actions. When we go through these tough times, not only are we to learn from what we experience, and to grow in our relationships with Jesus Christ, but God takes us through these times of suffering so that we can share with others what we have learned from our own hard times, in order that we might help strengthen and encourage them when they go through their own trying times. This comfort we receive from God, and thus impart to others, may come in many different forms, such as a kind and thoughtful word, a hug, a listening ear, a kind and thoughtful act of kindness, or it may be that we are to give a word of counsel, too, based on wisdom gained from our own learning experiences. Basically, we need to reflect Christ in how we treat others so that we treat others in the same manner as he treats us. The Affliction We Experienced (vv. 8-11) For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. There may be times in our lives when our afflictions are so severe that they may seem absolutely unbearable, and we may long for our heavenly home with greater intensity than ever before. Yet, even these times have a purpose in our lives. When things are going well for us it may be easy for us to become complacent or casual about our relationships with God, but when the going gets tough, we are more likely to call on God for help. So, he uses these times in our lives to teach us to rely on him and not on our own strength and resources. In other words, I believe this fits in the category of God disciplining us. “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” To us who have been trained by it, “afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:3-11). God does not always deliver us from our trials and difficulties, but he does deliver us through them. He comforts, encourages, strengthens, counsels and he leads us in the right way. We need these times to mature us spiritually and for us to learn perseverance, and to develop godly character in our lives. We need these times to humble us, too, so that we do empathize with others when they go through trials, and so we don’t get high and mighty, thinking we are where we are because of something we did to get there. So, even though these trials will sometimes threaten to undo us, no matter how big or how small, we must put our trust in the Lord, and listen to his voice. We need to let him teach us what he wants us to learn, because these trials have a purpose, and they are for our good. Since we know what it is like to go through difficult times, not only can we comfort one another with the comfort we receive from God, but we need to remember to pray for one another, too. We all need prayer. Every one of us does! We don’t always know what others are going through. Many people bear the pain of unjust suffering in silence. We can’t judge people by what we see on the outside. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. So, we just need to pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for us when we don’t know what to say, because we don’t know the circumstances of other people’s lives. And, in all things we must rely on the Lord to lead and to guide us, and to open the doors he has open for us to minister his love and grace to the lives of other people. He Keeps Me Singing / Luther B. Bridgers There's within my heart a melody Jesus whispers sweet and low: Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still, In all of life's ebb and flow. All my life was wrecked by sin and strife, Discord filled my heart with pain; Jesus swept across the broken strings, Stirred the slumbering chords again. Though sometimes he leads through waters deep, Trials fall across the way, Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, See his footprints all the way. Feasting on the riches of his grace, Resting neath his sheltering wing, Always looking on his smiling face, That is why I shout and sing. Soon he's coming back to welcome me Far beyond the starry sky; I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown; I shall reign with him on high. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know, Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.