This final part will give you three biblical reasons we must and four results that will change your life…from worshipping to witnessing!
This final part will give you three biblical reasons we must and four results that will change your life…from worshipping to witnessing!
Key Verses: “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 will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5
Her life was hard from the day she was born. Babies born into poverty seldom find their ways into the comfort most of us, and our children, have known and, quite frankly, take for granted. Her dad was seldom around. When he was, she often wished he was not. Her mother did the best she could, but they barely got by. Her only real possession was a used comforter she received as a gift one Christmas from her mother. She treasured it as if it was woven from the finest silk, though the label read “100% polyester”. She had no idea what that meant and did not care.
Eventually the young girl and her mother found themselves on the street with just the clothes on their backs…and, of course, the comforter. It was now beginning to show some wear and tear, much like the lives of this woman and her daughter. They found shelter at the local mission and other places that offered temporary housing, but never a home. God not only made little children very huggable, He also made them very resilient and trusting. No matter what happened, she felt safe as long as her mother was around, and she could wrap herself in that fraying comforter.
Street life eventually takes its toll on even the hardiest of people. Her mother began to have health issues that went too long unattended. That happens more than it needs to with people on the street. Sadly, the illness took her life leaving the girl, now approaching her teen years, alone – except of course for the comforter.
It grieves the heart of God that our affluent churches and society are too often MIA when it comes to these young “ladies” left to fend for themselves on the streets. The outcomes are almost never good, often leading to lives of drugs or prostitution and eventually incarceration. Such was the plight of our young “lady”. Perhaps the saddest thing was when she went through the booking process into the holding cell, they took away her only possession…the comforter.
Sitting alone in a cell, she wept bitterly. And,as so many people do when bad things overwhelm them, she blamed God for all that happened in her life—an abusive dad, her mother’s death, and now they took away the only thing that mattered in her life—that ragged old comforter. It was only gift she ever remembered receiving and last memory of her mother’s love. Now even that was beginning to fade.
The Comforters of this World
At times, all of us have sought comfort from the world. We often begin with other people who we hope can at least sympathize, but in the end little real comfort. Consider these words from Job, David, and Solomon.
“Then Job answered and said, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all.” Job 16: 1-2
“Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.” Psalm 69: 20
“Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun and behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them.” Ecclesiastes 4:1
When people feel rejected, they often take one of two bad paths. The first is substances—alcohol, drugs, anything that brings immediate or short-term relief that takes pain away or at least makes us numb to it. I have been among many hundreds of men (and women) who sought comfort there. So tragic. That is the first step in Satan’s clever schemes to entrap us then lead us into the chains of addiction—bondage God never intended for His free people.
The second untoward path is when people who feel strong rejection turn to anyone who will accept them as did the girl in the story. That often puts them in worst places, i.e., the wrong crowds or in dangerous relationships that imprison or lead them to do things they never intended. AND they never found the comfort sought.
God our Comforter
Let’s look to David again for the best verse in the Old Testament about the comfort of God. In the best-known of all Psalms, 23rd, David said this in verse 4,
“Your rod and staff, they comfort me.”
The meaning may surprise some. The rod is for authority, protection, and discipline. Knowing someone loves us enough to speak biblical truth and exercise authority – at times by setting boundaries – is a great expression of love. The rod was used for discipline to get sheep back in line and keep them there. Doubtful any of us would argue we need that at times. I found over the years, many i minister to wish they had it when they did not. God said He “disciplines those He loves as a father does his children.” (Proverbs 3: 12; Hebrews 12: 6)
The shepherd’s staff was there for guidance, safety, protection, and rescue. Again, the love of God is demonstrated in every aspect of these tools of the shepherd.
Jesus Our Comforter
it is both painful and joyful to remember this. God did not comfort Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the Cross! The Father did not take the cup of death away as Jesus prayed. Neither did He send angels to destroy evil and save Jesus from the cross. Rather He allowed Jesus to go through the most uncomfortable period of suffering and abuse the world has ever known—crucifixion.
Jesus knew no comfort, so we would be comforted in knowing He died for our sins and rose again. (Read again the key verses above.) From God’s indescribable acts of love, we draw our hope eternal and the kind of comfort the world will never know apart from Him.
The Holy Spirit – Our Comforter
Jesus did HIs best to comfort His disciples. They were getting more and more anxious about all His talk of leaving them. Would He really abandon them? Of course not. Neither does He abandon us. Here is the promise He made to His disciples that we can stand on today.
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14: 16 – 18 KJV
So by now many want to know what happened to the young lady in the story? When we left her, she was entering prison for drugs and prostitution – without her comforter, full of anger and bitterness.
The Rest of the Story
Strange things happen behind prison walls. God does some of His most amazing work in those confines. Don’t misunderstand. Most enter and leave without ever finding any comfort at all. Statistics bare that out. But for some who realize their desperate place in life, and that they have nowhere else to turn, the name of God is known to pop up in some circles of conversation. By God’s grace, our friend was incarcerated in a prison where the chaplain was a Christian and a local church with a prison ministry was engaged.
Because she had arrived at such a place in life, she attended a service one night with below zero expectations. Her mind simply could not escape the thoughts of all that had happened to her and her mom. Anger and bitterness can fill even the tender heart of a child and render it hard as stone as it had done in hers. But God…
The speaker passed out some old worn King James Bibles. When he returned to the podium, he asked them to a certain page. He read that passage in John 14 on the Holy Spirit. But the only word she heard was “comforter”. That got her complete, undivided attention. She had heard a little about God and Jesus as a child – who hasn’t? But she never felt His presence or saw Him in action. No one ever told her how much God loved her or showed the compassion of Jesus to her or her mom in a meaningful way. All she heard and knew were just empty words.
Now something quickened a lifeless spirit within her. She hungered for something or someone to fill that empty void in her life she filled in every way possible from drugs and evil men. Prison life had isolated her even more. But now someone said the magic word—Comforter. She wanted to hear more about this Comforter that promised love and life and offered hope she never knew.
As the weeks and months went by while she served out her term, she became alive again and soaked up all the Truth she was taught. Finally, completely broken, she fell into the arms of the only Comforter Who could wrap His arms around her and never let her go. She gave her life to Christ and found the comfort she had longed for since losing her mother…and the comforter.
One final note. When she was paroled and on the way out of the prison, they gave her a bag that contained what she was wearing when she entered. It contained some dirty old clothes and one ragged old comforter. She embraced and buried her face in it. She wept as she sniffed it hoping for a familiar smell that would remind her of her mother. But it only smelled of must and dust.
As she walked out of the prison into a world where she was really free for the first time, she thought about throwing the old comforter in the trash. After standing by the can for a few minutes, she decided to keep it as a reminder—a reminder that once she found her only comfort in this ragged old piece of fabric. Now she had lasting comfort from the One Who turned her heart of stone back into flesh replacing anger and bitterness with love and hope. Jesus Christ, her risen Savior and Lord.
You and Me as Comforters
My dear sisters and brothers, if you have found any comfort in these words the Lord shared tonight through me, use them to comfort someone else. I call your attention again to the Apostle Paul’s words in verse 4 above. The Lord did not give us His comfort simply to wrap ourselves up in it as a comforter like the one in the story. No. Like any gift from God the Holy Spirit, He intends for us to use it for ourselves for the purpose He intended, then give it away.
Our greatest moments of comfort come from the comfort we ourselves have received in Christ then sharing it with so many others who, like the girl in our story, seek comfort the world cannot give. In Christ alone, we have hope and comfort that bears us up no matter what human condition or place we find ourselves.
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 2: 15)
Acronyms help us remember what a word means or just a funny play on the letters in a word. For example, LOL – laugh out loud or AWOL – absent without leave. And most everyone has heard of the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid.
One human need that all share is the need for hope. Once hope is gone, only bad things happen. There is not a more lonely or desperate feeling than hopelessness. Hope may be defined as to long for, expect, or trust that something we want to happen will.
What are you hoping for? Some hope for fortune and fame. They want to win the lottery or be on TV or in the movies. Others hope for a good job, so they can make money and feel fulfilled. Still others hope for health.
Christians always have hope. Perhaps I should say that Christians should always have hope. The word ‘hope’ is used more than 140 times in the Bible. Whether or not we have anything else this side of Heaven, we have hope. For us, it is eternal hope. But for some, that does not seem like enough. We want hope now!
Every time I teach, one of my goals is to always bring hope to the hearer. When you teach from the Bible as I do, finding messages of hope is not difficult. What can be difficult is teaching the hard truths of God’s Word which can be frightening to those who are lost and without hope. But hopeful if you are honestly and humbly looking for real HOPE. When we do that—read and look hard enough, we will always find His message of Hope – Jesus.
Tonight I am bringing you a message of HOPE in acronym fashion—actually three messages of HOPE.
(Jesus speaking to the Pharisees) “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to (pardon) sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God Matthew 9: 6
“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against (pardoning our sins) them.” 2 Corinthians 5: 18-19
Have you sought and received the pardon from your sins only Jesus can give? If not, why not? Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6) for the lost. And if you are in Christ, seeking His pardon restores our broken relationship when we fall back into sin.
(Jesus) “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” John 14:27
“(God) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in Him, all whose thoughts are fixed on Him!” Isaiah 26: 3
You may have seen the bumper sticker:
Know Jesus…Know Peace No Jesus…No peace.
Finally as Christians we know the third fruit of the Spirit Paul teaches us is PEACE. This is the kind of peace he later told us is the kind that “passes all understanding”.
“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.” v 29 from Isaiah 40: 27 – 31
In the New Testament, Jesus promised Power to His disciples (and that includes us).
“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1: 8
As Christians, our power to live in this world – full of all its temptations and troubles – comes from one Source – the Holy Spirit. Why do we keep trying to do things in our own power when we have His? For some of us, it is a control issue. We surrender part of our lives to Jesus but hold onto other areas.
We get the most power from God when give up control. Our surrender brings His power. The Apostle Paul said, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
My dear brothers, take heart. No matter how difficult your situation—no matter how desperate your need, there is One who knows and understands where you are right now as I am teaching here tonight. He alone can bring hope to what you may believe is hopeless. My strong admonition to you tonight is to bow before Him and ask Him to restore your hope. Jesus never ever turns away a man with a humble, repentant heart.
He is our Hope today and forever. Amen.
Beauty and the Beast – a promise kept. I recall when my daughter was a little girl, she came downstairs and asked me a loaded question. “Daddy, why do kids have to keep their promises, but grown-ups don’t? I knew where this was going. I asked what that might be, to which she replied, “You promised to take me to the movie, and you didn’t. We saw it that afternoon.
Most of us do not make promises we do not intend to keep. Circumstances may arise that prevent us, but the promisee is not always understanding—even if s/he is not a child. Breaking a promise you can keep insures one thing. You are a liar. That is a strong indictment, but it comes from a strong source—the Word of God. I could list more than a dozen verses in both OT and NT that speak to the subject.
What about God? What was said above about us holds even more true for God. If every promise of God is not true—
if He does keep even one of them, then He is a liar, our faith should crumble, and we are simply back depending on ourselves or others.
But, indeed, God is not a liar and all His promises are true. Biblical Christians believe the Bible is the true Word of God, i.e., it contains no errors or inaccuracies (in its original form). He is Truth (Jesus words in John 17), and we can take God at His Word. The question is “Do we?”
Three Promises of God that “stand out” so we can “stand on” them
1. Promised to be God to His People (that includes us)
Let’s begin by letting God speak for Himself regarding His promises. The first example is fascinating because the words are spoken by a profit-seeking prophet named Balaam. His story may be read in Numbers 22-25.
This so-called prophet was hired by the king of Moab to curse God’s people—instead he ended up blessing them. It may be hired to understand, but God speaks to and through whomever He chooses. BUT only to accomplish His purposes, i.e., bless or punish His people. Here is part of Balaam’s response to the pagan king.
“God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19
From Abraham to Jacob to Moses to David and throughout the Old Testament, God made and kept His promises. Joshua summed it up best (Joshua 23: 14)
“Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed.”
2. Promised to send a Savior (Messiah) – From Genesis to Malachi, there are many prophecies about this Promised One:
If His promise was not kept, we are all as Paul said,
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15: 16-18
3. Personal Promise to all who are in Christ
“…being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”” Heb. 13: 5-6
The part of verse 5 in caps is quoted from Deuteronomy 31:6 when Moses was about to die and passing the baton to Joshua. He said those words to encourage their hearts as I do now to encourage yours.
And one more. Perhaps the most important promise of all—eternal security. The Apostle Paul taught the following to the church to reassure them (us) that God keeps His promises and our salvation is secure because He does.
“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” 2 Corinthians 1: 20-22
I know some of you are still not convinced. You look at your circumstances and question why you are here or why God would let the bad things happen in your life that have? The first question we have to ask ourselves is what is my part? Did my bad choices or decisions bring me to this point? That can be the hardest truth for men to face—looking first in the mirror.
Or perhaps it is someone else’s fault. “They are to blame. I am a victim.” Brothers, no matter how you arrived at this point, God promised all I have covered tonight with one condition – that you take Him at His Word that Jesus is His provision for our sins and receive Him as Savior. The Apostle Paul told us “we can do all things through Christ. But perhaps the words of Jesus bring more truth to this lesson. Jesus Himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
So let us trust the Lord our God and take Him at His Word. Let is be said of us as it was of Moses by the writer of Hebrews,
“By faith (Moses) he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king (Pharaoh); for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible (unseen).” Hebrews 11: 27
God has answers for desperate men from all walks of life…