Monday, May 25, 2015, 8:35 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “He Lifted Our Burdens.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (ESV). To Comfort Those 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. When you think of the word “comfort,” what is the first thing that comes to your mind? I think of someone putting his arms around me and holding me and telling me everything is going to be ok because he is there for me and he won’t leave me or forsake me, but that everything is under his control, and so I don’t need to be afraid. I am speaking of my Lord. Yet, when we look at the Greek word “paraklésis,” which is translated “comfort,” we learn that this word is not just about making us feel better. It also means exhortation, entreaty, encouragement, strengthening, warning, counsel and urging; or a "’holy urging’ used of the Lord directly motivating and inspiring believers to carry out His plan, delivering His particular message to someone else” - http://biblehub.com/greek/3874.htm. So, could we make a case for incorporating all of these possible meanings of this word “comfort” in this context? I believe we can. And, it fits with other scriptures, too, for as we read other scriptures about afflictions and sufferings we learn that they are intended by God in our lives for our good (See: Ro. 5:3-5; Phil. 3:7-11; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12-17; 1 Thess. 3:1-5; Jas. 1:2-4; Matt. 5:10-12; Lu. 21:12-19; 2 Co. 1:3-11). They produce within us endurance, character and hope. As I share in the sufferings of Christ, I am becoming like him in his death. When we are insulted for the name of Christ, we are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. We are destined to suffer affliction for the sake of the name of Jesus and for the sake of his gospel. Suffering is beneficial in our lives in moving us to maturity. When we are persecuted, it will be our opportunity to bear witness for the name of Jesus. As well, when we are afflicted and are comforted by God, it is also so we may comfort others who are going through similar trials, and it is so we learn not to rely upon ourselves, but on God for our all-sufficiency. So, if God has allowed a particular hardship or affliction in our lives to mature us, to strengthen us in the faith, to motivate us to particular action, to get us to repent of sin, to revive us, to teach us endurance, and/or so we learn to not rely on our own strength but on the strength and wisdom of the Lord, then it makes sense that his “comfort” may involve counsel, exhortation, urging and/or warning, too. If we have given way to sin and/or have wandered from our pure devotion to our Lord, and if he disciplines us for our good, then he is probably not going to console us, but will instead urge and exhort us to leave our sin and to follow him in obedience and in surrender. Too many people are putting Band-Aids over serious sin wounds, and they think they are doing the right thing by making people feel better about themselves, but that is not kind and it is not loving, and true comfort is both loving and kind. It considers not just the feelings of someone but their true needs, and it gives of oneself to help meet those needs, regardless of how one is treated in return. It is wonderful to be comforted (consoled), such as I mentioned in my first thoughts concerning comfort, yet if I was going the wrong direction, or I got off target, or if God was speaking to me but I just wasn’t getting it, and so I wasn’t doing what he was telling me, I would not want God or anyone else to just console me, i.e. to just hold me and tell me everything is going to be ok. I love to be consoled, don’t get me wrong! But, I don’t want consolation if what I really need is strong encouragement, urging, warning or counsel of some kind to point me in the right direction. It would not be true comfort to me, in other words, if someone is telling me everything is ok when it isn’t. I may need some counsel, instead, or someone to urge me to go in the right direction. And, that would be true comfort, because it would help me with my situation rather than just help me feel better temporarily, but with no real resolve. The same applies if I am suffering for righteousness’ sake. I may need someone to come along side me to encourage me to persevere in the faith and to not give up, or to give me a word of hope from God’s word as they are led by the Holy Spirit to do so. I may need to be reminded of truths from God’s word that I have temporarily forgotten due to the extent of my suffering, especially if I am really tired or if Satan is severely attacking me. I may need to be reminded, too, of God’s absolute sovereignty over all things, or I may need to be strongly encouraged that I need to trust God and not doubt and to not give way to fear. I may need reminded of the fact that I am not alone in this when I begin to feel alone, and that I need to put on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against me. Whatever the case may be, or whatever our suffering may entail, we must know that “comfort” involves so much more than just consolation, but it meets us right where we need it most and provides what is essential for us to do what is required to be strengthened in our faith so that we can endure and so we can persevere and not give up. To Make us Rely on God 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. Afflictions and sufferings, including persecutions, come for many reasons, and they come in various degrees of severity, too. Trials are trials, though, no matter the severity. Some come against us physically, others mentally, still others emotionally and some spiritually, though all have the potential to affect us spiritually. Most of the persecution Jesus suffered from his opposition was in the form of verbal attacks against his character and against his deeds, his beliefs and the words that he spoke. His persecutors were relentless in their verbal attacks and in their attempts to try to trap him and/or to discredit him. When that didn’t work, they plotted to take his life, and they did crucify him on a cross. So, just because someone is not being beaten or tortured, or just because he and his family are not being incarcerated or threatened with the taking of their lives, it does not mean that person is not being persecuted or that what they are going through pales by comparison. When we look at the persecution of Jesus, we have to look at his entire ministry and not just at what happened the day he was arrested and the day that he was put to death. Although Paul did face many beatings and imprisonments, he also faced much verbal abuse, false accusations, rejections, and much hatred and criticism from his opponents. Sometimes verbal abuse, in the form of verbal attacks, false accusations, mockery, and rejections can burden one beyond his own strength to endure and can lead to despair to where the person may not want to keep living, not that he or she would consider taking his own life, but that he would wish the Lord Jesus would just take him home, feeling as though he or she could not possibly go on. Yet, God allows these times in our lives to teach us not to rely on our own strength, but on the strength of the Lord; to not rely on our own resources, but on his all-sufficiency to meet our every need. It was Paul who said that when he was weak he was strong, because Christ’s strength was being perfected in his weakness. When we come to the place where we realize we are without resources and that there is nothing absolutely that we can do to keep going, in ourselves, and when we cry out to God to give us strength and endurance, he works miracles in our lives because we are not fighting against him, but we are yielded to his control over our lives and are surrendered to his will and to his work of grace in our lives in conforming us into the image of Christ. He will not always deliver us from our difficulties, but he will see us through them if we put our trust in him and not in ourselves. Knowing that all who are truly following Jesus Christ with their lives will be persecuted in one way or another for their faith and for their testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel of salvation, no matter where in the world they live, we should remember to pray for one another always. We should not confine our prayers merely to pray for those we know are being physically tortured, imprisoned and who face daily the real threat of death, but we should pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who are being persecuted for their faith and testimonies for Jesus Christ, because they stand on the Word of God, and do not deny the name of Jesus, and because they teach and live the true gospel of salvation, i.e. because they practice and teach that we must die with Christ to sin and self and we must be resurrected with Christ to living in Christ’s righteousness and holiness if we want to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God in glory, for that is true faith. He Lifted Our Burdens / An Original Work / February 15, 2014 Based off Isaiah 9:2-7 People walk in darkness. They abide in their sin. It has power o’er them. True belief escapes them. Jesus Christ came to save them. He gave His life up for them; Crucified; died for our sin, So we might be forgiven, And have life up in heaven. Many come to know Him. God’s love now o’erflows them. They rejoice in vict’ry. Their sin is but hist’ry. We were once bound in slav’ry. Jesus lifted our burdens; Set us now free from Satan, So we now walk in freedom. Sin has no more dominion. Praise be to our Savior! He showed us His favor. He took all our burdens; Cast them all upon Him. He is our mediator; The Light which shines in darkness. Counselor in our troubles; He gives peace now in our hearts; Joy which is everlasting.