Devotions

Category Archives: Still A Mess

Lesson Three • Devotion #5: Comfort Hoarder

As a child, my grandma used to sing an old hymn that reminded her to remember the blessing of God even in difficult circumstances. It was called “Count Your Blessings,” and it was a staple of her day. I remember the chorus of this song and often use the words to help me when I feel afflicted. It can feel so great to think about all the ways God has blessed our lives, but as I read 2 Corinthians, one section challenged my thinking with concern to comfort.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, 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.”

In reading the book of Acts, as well as the epistles authored by Paul, we become familiar with the abundant and diverse sufferings met by Paul. Ranging from poisonous snake bites and shipwrecks to imprisonment and beatings, Paul, much like Jesus, was a man acquainted with suffering.

It would seem, given the circumstances, that Paul may consider stopping the above passage at the start of verse 4, “Praise God, the Father of mercies who comforts us in all our affliction.” That sounds wonderful! However, Paul continues and divulges the greater, selfless purpose of the comfort in our sufferings. God comforts us not that we may simply feel better, but instead that we may provide similar comfort to those around us. 

Although most of us will never suffer in a similar fashion to Paul, as Christ-followers, we are undoubtedly surrounded on all sides by a sinful world and a prowling devil. Our destruction is being sought by all manner of spiritual powers of darkness. The more we give to Christ, the more we will find ourselves under attack. The easy way out is to only seek God for personal comfort, but the Jesus thing to do is to take that comfort from God and give it to those around us who are similarly suffering. This requires two huge actions. First, we must be honest enough to express when we are hurting. This can be truly embarrassing but is essential if we are to live in real community. Second, we must be willing to dig deeper into the lives of others in order to empathize with their difficulties and then demonstrate and speak of the mercy of God continually seeking to comfort as God comforts us.

Hardship seems to find a way to snowball. One hurt is followed by another, and before we know it, there is a tidal way of damage tearing through our lives. God desires to comfort us, reminding us of His great mercy. In this comfort, we must remember to turn outward and pass the blessing of comfort to others.

Lesson Three • Devotion #4: Comfort Food

I love comfort food. It is usually my go-to when I am stressed or overwhelmed. Food calms me down and makes me feel better. A lot of people know that I get “hangry,” and often, my mood will change drastically for the better after I eat. I get made fun of often for this, but I choose to embrace it as much as possible as part of who I am.

Food is comfortable, but it is always temporary. Reading through some of these verses is a great reminder to me that God is our everlasting comfort when many earthly things are all very temporary.

Psalm 146:3-8 says, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.”Here we see our hope is in the Lord, who is forever.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Paul talks a lot about God being our comforter, “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. 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.”

One of the awesome pictures I get reading through this is our purpose in life, and why God sometimes allows us to go through things. He ultimately will give us the comfort that we need, and He provides us a promise that He will help us through our hard times. However, one of the greatest things we can do is be there for others. What we learn both through our experiences and then receiving God’s comfort, we can ultimately use to help others.

Another awesome promise in 2 Corinthians chapter 1 is the power of prayer. Here we see an awesome picture that God blesses because of the prayers of many. A great takeaway today for me as we navigate through each of our own challenges is to give thanks to the Lord for getting us through it, using those experiences to help those around us, and remember those in need around us and pray for them often.

Lesson Three • Devotion #3: Our Comfort

I have been addicted to some form of carbonated beverage since college (several decades now). If I had a dime for every time someone asked me, “How many of those do you drink a day?” or “Doesn’t that keep you awake?”, I would be a wealthy woman. Some have sent me articles describing the adverse effects on my health and its contribution to weight issues. Truth be told, I did not read them. Nothing had an impact on me until about 15 years ago. Circumstances were hard. I was dealing with financial issues, marital issues, and trying to navigate my son’s struggles with Autism. I went to the drive-through window at McDonald’s to get my morning Diet Coke. As the young lady handed it to me, I was shocked to “hear” my thoughts, “I have got my pop. It is a good day.” At that moment, I realized I depended on pop the way I should depend on God.

Dawson McAllister, with The Hope Line, states that between 60% and 70% of Americans have some form of addiction, costing 500 billion dollars a year. He cites four main reasons for addictions from his research. Number one on the list is to fill the void, satisfy, or comfort. Believer, what comforts you? For many, it is alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography. For some, it is a more socially acceptable addiction, such as caffeine, comfort food, retail therapy, or a relationship. Some Christians find comfort in more spiritual things like a thriving ministry, a successful church event, or a well-delivered sermon. The continuum is long, but they all have one thing in common: they are substitutes for God. 

In 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul refers to our Lord as “God of all comfort.” It is not some, not most, but all comfort. The God we serve promises us eternal comfort (2 Thessalonians 2:16), through His ever-presence (Hebrews 13:5), His complete provision (Philippians 4:19), and His unconditional love (Romans 5:8). We settle for poor, temporary substitutes when complete comfort can be found in intimate conversations with Christ and time spent clinging to His promises of the Bible.

The second reason for addiction, according to McAllister, is the need to escape the struggles of this life. Believer, how do you escape? Some turn to the self-destructive options of alcohol and drugs, while others choose a more culturally acceptable means. When I come home and hear, “Don’t Look Back” by Boston(ironic) or “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beach Boys pouring through the windows, I know my husband has escaped. I am known to escape via an episode of “Andy Griffith” before going to bed. It offers simpler times and simpler problems that are solved in a half-hour (less without commercials). Others take a more spiritual approach; they pray and beg God to change their circumstances. We request relief or escape instead of comfort and strength as we persevere. 

Years ago, I had a mentor who was walking the agonizing road of end-stage breast cancer. I will never forget one of her posts on her blog, “I realized the very thing I was asking the Lord to remove was the very thing he was using to transform me into his likeness.” In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul continues to describe our God of all comfort as the One who “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.”

We all need to escape now and then. However, perpetual escape from God-ordained struggles robs us of experiencing complete comfort. We are meant to experience divine comfort so that we can then comfort others. My mentor grew spiritually from the battle of her life. Remembering her words and the truth God revealed to her has comforted me in my own struggles. I am reminded that there is purpose in our pain. Do not avoid it. Embrace it. Grow from it. Share it.

Full disclosure: Those who know me will tell you I continue to battle my addiction to (now) Diet Dr. Pepper. I can honestly say that I first reach for God when things get tough, but the bubbles are a close second. One day I will have complete victory! 

Lesson Three • Devotion #2: Pray for Us

In the first chapter of 2 Corinthians, we find that Paul has endured trials of a severe nature. Through a riot in Asia, to other travel encounters, Paul would risk his life on a daily basis for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With the likes of Demetrius, the silversmith, and others in Ephesus, we see Paul being persecuted continually. Having already seized his traveling companions Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul was in a dangerous time.

Yet, as he is pressed on all sides, Paul finds comfort in the Lord. Experiencing solace and strength through prayer and supplication, Paul is able to endure. Finally, using his own experiences to bring comfort and understanding to others through the peace that only Jesus can bring, Paul presses on.

In Philippians 3:14, he wrote, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

For the most part, ministry looks nothing like this today. Here in America, we are free to preach and teach the Gospel. Unencumbered by travel and cultural differences, we are able to give the Good News to those who will listen. Without fear of reprisal, we are able to gather in a way Paul could never do in his day. Whatever push back we receive is of little danger to us or others. However, in other parts of the world, it looks very different. So much so, that the mere mention of Jesus could get you killed or imprisoned. Yet, we know there are men and women, who through their higher calling, are serving under a death sentence. Like Paul asked almost 2000 years ago, “You also must help us by prayer.”

In 2 Corinthians 1:11, he pleads, “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.”

While I am not under a death sentence for teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I, too, will ask for a prayer of intercession on my behalf. It is needed so that I may be blessed with the strength and perseverance to finish the race I have been called (2 Timothy 4:7). With humility, I will continue to seek the growth needed in my own walk and those around me. My goal is to be sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and to see Him work in the lives of others. I also want to see that the seeds that are planted will find fertile ground just as they did with Demetrius! 

In 3 John 1:12, we read, “Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.” The same Demetrius, who had started a riot against the Lord (Acts 19:23-27), was now for Him. God is in the life-changing business. 

Lesson Three • Devotion #1: Avoiding the Middleman

All of us are familiar with the phrase “avoid the middleman.” In our efforts to prevent paying too much for a product or service, we strive to cut out anyone that may be adding their fee onto what we will eventually pay. It is a great goal for anyone trying to save a few bucks! 

However, we may be making a mistake if we apply this type of thinking to other areas of our life. For example, if we just received news that someone we know is going through great difficulty in their life, we should take this matter to God in prayer and ask Him to help and bring comfort to this situation in a way that only He can.

You probably have prayed this prayer or one like it. I know I have. Someone in our life needs God’s comfort, and so we go to God and ask Him to handle it. However, do we “avoid the middleman” by praying such a prayer? I believe we sometimes do because, as with any middleman, we know there is a cost associated when using one. 

Read Paul’s words in his letter to the church at Corinth and see if you can spot the middleman. 

“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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3–5 (NKJV)

Did you spot the middleman?

Too often, when praying for others in trouble, you and I pray, “God, would you handle it?” However, many times, it is we who have been positioned perfectly by God to be the middleman! We are called to be part of the process but “avoid the middleman” because of the cost involved, mainly our time. Being a comfort to those in trouble with the same comfort we ourselves have been comforted by is going to interrupt our schedule. Yes, there is a cost to becoming the middleman, but if we “avoid the middleman,” the price is paid by those in trouble. 

Paul’s words teach us that God comforts us in all our troubles. If you know God, you probably have been comforted by Him through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus more times than you can count. Yet, Jesus is not the middleman; He is the source of our comfort. 

So, how has He comforted you?

Is it His love for you? (John 3:16)

Is it His overcoming the world? (John 16:33)

Could it be His triumph over all troubles? (Revelation 21:4)

Next time we go to God on behalf of those in trouble, maybe we could pray, “God forgive me when I avoid being the middleman, please help me be a comfort to those in trouble, with the same comfort by which I myself was comforted.”



Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 | info@theriverchurch.cc

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.