I am speaking to a group at Sandy Cove Conference Center this week (Monday-Wednesday) on the theme of meeting the God of all comfort in all our troubles.
My primary text is II Corinthians 1:3-4 where we learn that God is an active presence in our troubles and hardships.
These verses provide a God-centered focus for our troubles that fills them with purpose and mission.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
The Apostle Paul, the one who wrote about the God who comforts us in our troubles, was no stranger to hardship. He was marked out for these experiences by the Lord Jesus.
At Paul’s conversion, the Lord said, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).
The most extensive list of Paul’s hardship and suffering is found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (Read it).
It’s tempting to think that being a Christian should minimize the challenges and troubles of life. We have God with us! Shouldn’t He protect us from hardships? Shouldn’t life be easier?
But Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33) and Paul told new believers in Antioch that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
In the book of II Corinthians, the primary occasion for emphasizing God’s comfort and purposes in suffering was the accusations leveled against Paul. Those who wanted to harm Paul were claiming that his suffering called into question his ministry and apostleship.
It’s an old accusation to suggest that a person’s hardship is a sign of God’s displeasure. In this case, however, it was being used to accomplish an evil and subversive plot. Paul’s critics were trying to discredit God’s apostle with the intention of taking over his place of leadership in the church at Corinth.
But Paul opens his letter praising God for the very thing his opponents are using to discredit his ministry. Instead of suffering and hardship being a sign of abandonment by God, he revealed the truth that God is an active presence in our trouble and hardship (cf. Hebrews 12:1-15).
Here in II Corinthians 1:3-4 we find a God-centered, Mission-focused purpose for our troubles. These are truths that hold us in our troubles.
Look more closely at II Corinthians 1:3-4
- Verse 3 – who God is. — “He is the God of all comfort”
- Verse 4a – what God does. — “Who comforts us in all our troubles”
- Verse 4b – God’s purpose in what he does. — “So that we can comfort those in any trouble”
God brings us into His school of comfort where we study His ministry of comfort so that we can be equipped to be His instruments of comfort. This is the mission-focused part of going through hardships.
Everything God does to and for me is designed to equip me to serve Him by serving His people (Hebrews 6:10).
Reflect deeply on this truth
Our God is so personal that He meets us in our troubles and comforts us through them. People who know God can say with confidence, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
It’s a very personal relationship. And because the Lord is my Shepherd, I can say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”(Psalm 23:4; cf. II Timothy 4:16-18).
The apostle Paul reminds us to be good students of divine comfort. God is preparing you for a ministry of comfort when He comforts you!
(More to come on this theme as the conference continues)