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The GOD OF ALL COMFORT
In II Corinthians 1, Paul reveals a surprising amount of stress. He had been wanting to link up with Titus but had failed to do so, and in the foreign land with the vast mission, he had found a sudden sense of being overwhelmed. This was so contrary to Paul's nearly universal testimony, as in I Corinthians 4 and II Corinthians 4, where a vast array of sufferings and endurance stood as if no more than a series of gales to an experienced sea captain, that it is worth investigation.
The challenge to Paul's amazing sense of enterprise and vast resources of flair, always stirred up by the Lord, directed and energised from Him, in this case seems insurmountable "above strength", to the point that he felt that only death could result, as if he had already been sentenced as far as continuance on this earth was concerned (1:9). Yet at that very point, he was aware of the reality of the power of the God who raises the dead; and hence of the ridiculous short-sightedness of acting or even feeling as if there was something inordinate in his trials.
What had been happening ? He had inadvertently drifted in the midst of the vigours of his ways and days, his labours and his enterprises, in the gear changing and acceleration, if you will, to forget the engine. He had forgotten that it did NOT all depend on him, that it was NOT a pivot on his capacity; he had to learn the lesson he had for so long realised so well, one which had evaporated in the heat of the day, NOT TO TRUST IN HIMSELF! (1:9). This God, he then acutely perceived, returning in his heart to the peace and sense of rest in the living Messiah which was the normal prayer outcome, is the One who has death in hand, does deliver, has delivered and will deliver from it. "So great a death" - a flurry of worry and inflammed thoughts operating as if in a vacuum, with no point of application - this was out of the question. His deliverer, as with David of old, was alive and no such sentence would be or could be passed.
In view of this, Paul is able to commence II Corinthians 1 at any early phase with these words:
"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."
One notices that God is termed "the Father mercies." They come at His initiative and His engendering to the race of mankind. He is also the "God of all comfort, who comforts us in our tribulation..."
As "the God of all comfort", the Lord is shown in a light with which those who know Him and who know His word are familiar. How many are the aspects of this "all"!
Thus His comfort is comprehensive, comprehensible, encompassing, as well as personal, promised and effectual. It does not lack certain elements, as if there were a smudge on the canvas, a static in the air, for it is "all". It may be lacking for a time in a way, in order to make the heart aware of the paucity, and so seek; but in the end it is ALL which it covers. It is comprehensible in this, that God is strong, but man is weak, God is father, but man is creation, God is all-knowing, but man is limited, God is love, but man continually brings a smog of vexatious indifference or folly to Him, from which salvation is the exit door, and sanctification is the purging.
By no means indifferent to man's spoiling of environment, personal and physical, God is looking for HIS children, born not only of flesh but in spirit, so that He might comfort them, as a Father does. Hence even if some mature and remarkable Christian like Paul slips, or is feeling suddenly frustrated, and amazingly slips in a pattern normally far from him, God knows how to adjust the controls, clarify the mind, stir the heart, make one aware of the declination, the declivity, and lift one to the right way in the face of whatever headwind. He is the God of all comfort.
If His power were inadequate or His wisdom, to lift His own children into the peaceable ambit of His near mercies, than this would not be a testimony of God, as the fact itself however is! There is no sin so lively, no error so obscure, no dynamic so powerful, no heart bane so distressing but it is apt for His healing, open to His comfort, His company, His companionability, His chastening if need be, His kindness in the end (cf. Isaiah 44). The comprehensive character of His comfort is one more of the many testimonies of verification which we continually find. Unlike the specialist who must admit, This is an area where knowledge and skill cannot help you further! God in His comfort has no admission to make, where the heart and life is a ground for admission of His Son the Saviour. And when is this not so ? It is not so when people do not WILL to do the will of God, and so do not believe the teaching (John 7:17).
One well remembers a car belonging to a parent which was ruined in its automatic gear system, because the one who borrowed it FAILED to attend to the need of automatic oil! That is an illustration of not being willing to do the will of God. The matter was not ASKED about, material on it was not READ, and steps were not taken. No evidence appeared of taking the borrowing responsibly. No eyes or no book and trouble looms. If the book had been sought and the information had been found, then the car would NOT have been spoiled. Whether or not absence in such a case, makes the heart grow fonder, it certainly made the car last a shorter time.
When one sees from the word of God, moreover, in a large number of cases in Kings and Chronicles, that discipline is neither the objective, nor a gap, but that order and organisation provided in faith as one awaits the Lord's power for His own work is pregnant with blessing, then the comfort in His company becomes clearer. Josiah was made sharp, quick to see (II Kings 22ff.), Jehoshaphat was give a large supply of heavenly faith, with courage and conviction leading to a cheering speech (I Kings 22, II Chronicles 19) while Hezekiah was filled with faith and mercy (II Chronicles 28ff.) while King David had a fraternity which was both merciful and warm, and a devotion which spilled forth victories both personal and military alike (except for one vast chasm which cracked the surface of his life on one occasion - II Samuel 8-12).
All these people felt and found the strengthening, the companionship, the kindness, the help, the grace and the victory which is the Lord's, accounted to them in practice, working in them personally and enduing their missions with a splendour not majestic, so much as stable and secure.
If it were not so, how then would the Lord be the God of all comfort, and if He made omissions through carelessly, inability or variability of nature, how would that meet the specifications of One whose word makes the universe, whose will breaks rock, makes peace and provides it, whose purity is without alloy, since nothing is His premiss, and His will alone stands without invasion, and His work is in the field of His own creation, to which He owes nothing, from which He needs nothing, and on which in the greatness of His love, He bestows that faithfulness which is correlative to character and that to the Creator's all-sufficiency in Himself.
A MODERN CASE OF SUFFERING AND COMFORT
While some as in one missionary history, told recently concerning an Islamic horror story, in terms of gross mistreatment of missionaries incidentally captured for the sake of ransom money and world power grabbing vision, may find the test all but impossible to bear, it is not so. In this very case, the lady concerned*1 was beginning to consider thinking, so great the suffer, that God did not love her, but that all the rest was true, when her husband reminded her that it is one whole, a revelation without intrusion, so that she received with new force the reality of that love in her spirit, later with her body intact, to be delivered. Comfort was sufficient even when artillery fire, gross intrusion into their lives, vast hardships, enormous ignominy, incredible physical sufferings were laid and piled upon them for months in the jungle. Test was included. Patience was required. The Cross was not short-circuited for comfort's sake.
However, there was comfort as Christ's soul was smitten with the sheer agony of having to endure sin, about to come on the Cross, as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-44). An angel appeared strengthening Him. How often the joy about to be smitten with the sword of hard impact, escapes only to come back in greater measure! It bubbles like a spring, drops like rain, issues like a stream from the snow. It can no more be bound up by sudden circuits on the hard soils of its passage, with such a pressure behind it, than can the sun be smothered with the atmosphere.
Thus comfort is a constant spring, but patience is a frequent necessity, while trial is ever present, the more arduous and impactive when, for a moment, it seems to release its grip. It is often like the bull-dog, merely manipulating its teeth, for a better grip. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37ff.):
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
A BROADER OVERVIEW
It is then that we return to I Corinthians 4 and II Corinthians 4 to see the sort of conquest made, in terms of the resistance offered. Resistance or none, the work of the Lord was DONE, and the word of the Lord prevailed!
His kingdom is not as for pope with his absurd claim to prince and church domination (cf. Matthew 23:8ff.), nor Islam, with its inveterate thrust toward submission of all by this means or that to the vacuous unreality of the imaginary Allah (cf. More Marvels ... Ch. 4, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 8, Earth Spasm, Conscience Chasm ... Ch. 10, Divine Agenda Ch. 6 - News 138), nor does it involve a human paternalism, which makes women all but chattels and law ferocious, servitude chronic, like intoxication, nor does it require man to be enslaved to the thoughts of a few other men, as in Communism, where little Red Books or those of other colours, are scarcely colourable constructions for people who think, as if density of masses, or power of guns were in some way relative to wisdom!
If there is any relationship, it is that of utter disparity, for truth does not engender itself in the sweat of meetings, as if men were bees, and truth were honey (cf. Ch. 6 above, SMR pp. 925ff., Beauty of Holiness Ch. 4, *2, Divine agenda Ch. 3, News 37, Spiritual Refreshing Ch. 4, Earth Spasm ... Ch. 2).
Like the sales literature of inveterate sellers, so have these these unverified, anti-verified, invalid contestants constantly boomed their guns of force, albeit changing their mode from time to time as power gaps require, as if to subdue man by fanfare, magic, maestro delusions or sheer intimidation.
Yet there is no comfort in seeing the sad relics of humanity, struck by scimitar, hands chopped off, women scar tissue of violence and lust, preserved even in paradise in multiple numbers fastidious male pleasure, sunk in prisons, plied with drugs, lands confiscated, whether in the day of her power, by Rome or by Communism: it is all one in this.
On the other hand, in loving and helping and serving and letting liberty show, within bounds to prevent violence, what is so and what is not, if by any means truth might find her mark and man his measure, so bringing not only peace, but wonder and reconciliation with God, there is is comfort . Further, as Paul shows in II Corinthians 1:4, so fertile and so profound is the comfort which God gives, that one Christian may humbly pass on to another the account and testimony of how God provided comfort, so that the comfort is extended, like wave on wave coming into the shore, from one to another.
Thus from the deep heart of God comes superabounding comfort, and great is the joy in seeing things so, with the appeal to all, the exclusion from none, but in the precincts of that inveterate dabbling in darkness which would prefer eternal death to life, where it is to be found. As in surgery on hearts which do not function, which yet must be voluntary for all, doctor and patient alike, so is this comforting; for here is help for man, without man masquerading as God, and with God become man in order to make His path sure, His way clear and to pay for the construction of the Bridge to Heaven, the support of which is the Cross of Christ.
Comfort ye, My people, says your God: so speaks Isaiah. It IS comforting to each and to every generation to find that past all the fiascos and empty dreams, there is God. Past all the humanistic derring-do and vapid distillates of mirages that never, ever work, and the swelling words which always benefit the spouter, there is truth, and peace and love, with life everlasting the gift (I John 1:1-4). If it were not so, where would be the care of the Creator, who has already all He needs; but since it is so, there is the verification of His word, that He is the God of ALL comfort, no part missing, nothing soiled, nothing dependent on man, but man invited where light is, and the way free.
*1 This reference is to Gracia Burnham, who with Dean Merrill authored a book, detailing experiences and vileness, violence and evil under Moslem captivity, as well as citations made by her captors from the Koran as ground of many such actions. Its title ? "In the Presence of My Enemies" (2003).