The Christian Way of approaching Adversity (Part 4): The God who motivates you
Sunday English Service – 21 MAR 21
Let’s turn to the book of 2nd Corinthians – 2nd Corinthians. We’ve been talking about the Christian approach to adversity. That is, how do you as a Christian, handle adversity, problems, suffering, times of difficulty, challenges and so on? How do you respond? How do you live in the midst of them? What is the Christian way? There is a Christian way and it becomes especially important to know that during times like these, the times we are living in, where there is so much adversity and challenges. And so, if we are not careful to learn the Christian way, and follow the Christian way, we will end up following some other way, our own way, the way of our flesh, the way of the world. There are many other ways, right? We will follow some way, we will develop some way but the thing is, is it the Christian way? The New Testament, very clearly teaches us, how Christians ought to live in times of crisis, challenges and so on, suffering problems, severe adversity and that’s what we’re studying.
We saw important truths about this from James, chapter one, for the last three weeks. Now, we turn to 2nd Corinthians because I believe that this will be a helpful continuation to what we saw in James 1, and I believe it will be practically useful. Also, the reason I’m taking you from James to 2nd Corinthians is so that you will get a fuller picture of the New Testament teaching, regarding this important matter. Some things that are not said in James will be said in 2nd Corinthians. Like I said, there are many passages in the New Testament about this. So that’s one reason why I want to move from James to another book, another author, the apostle Paul, 2nd Corinthians, and so that you will get a more a holistic, fuller, more rounded, picture of the New Testament approach to adversity. 2nd Corinthians is one of the best places to go because more than, I think, more than any other Pauline epistle, it is in this epistle, 2nd Corinthians, that Paul talks in detail about his own sufferings. In fact, in chapter 11, he lists his sufferings in detail. I’m not going to read it, but you can read it on your own: chapter 11 of 2nd Corinthians. You will see how many times he was beaten, how many times he was shipwrecked, all his sufferings. If you feel bad about yourself, and you want to feel better about yourself and your sufferings, go read the sufferings of the Apostle Paul in chapter 11. It will make you feel better about yourself and what you’re going through. Very terrible, you know, what he went through, for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the Gospel. It is in this epistle; he lists them out in detail and so on. And he talks about how he approached his own suffering and he teaches us in this epistle, how we ought to approach it. And, there are many passages that deal with this in this epistle, but I want to, before I read our main passage for today and talk about that, I want to talk about why in this epistle, Paul focuses so much on teaching this truth: suffering and how to approach it as a Christian. Why in this epistle, more than others in some ways, why in this epistle, does Paul focus so much on this? I believe the clue is found in the first chapter itself: why Paul takes extra effort in this epistle to teach this truth. In the first chapter, I want us to read this because it’ll help you understand the importance of this book, for this topic. And therefore, the importance of today’s passage, okay?
If you look in 2nd Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 8 to 10. Here’s the clue as to why Paul gives importance to this matter in this epistle; 2nd Corinthians, 1: 8 to 10. 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.
If you paid attention to the words I just read, you would have been surprised because Paul usually doesn’t speak in this way. He is saying, something happened, some great “affliction”, he says in verse 8. It happened in Asia. And what he says about that, is a little shocking. He says, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself”. This is the Apostle Paul, who always talks about hope. He’s not a person who despairs, but he says something very terrible happened to me (to Paul), so much that, I despair, I lost hope, I almost gave up, I almost lost all hope. And then in verse 9, he says, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death”. Now, Paul is not one to be afraid of death, even usually, this is the Apostle Paul, we’re talking about. He’s the one who said, “O death, where is your sting?” He is the one who when they warned him – in the book of Acts, you will see this – they warned him, when he was about to go to Jerusalem. A Prophet came and warned him, saying, “If you go, they will chain you, they will arrest you and that’s it”. And then many brothers and sisters, Christian brothers came and pleaded with him, saying, “Don’t go; please don’t go”, you know. He said, “No. If God told me to, I’ll go. I’m not only ready to be put in chains for the Gospel, for Christ; I’m ready to even die for Christ.” He is not one to be afraid of death. But here, you see something happened, something very terrible happened. For him to speak like this. It shows that something very – “Indeed, we felt that we received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead”. So, what I want you to realize is, just before he wrote this epistle, something very significant and terrible happened to Paul. He has experienced a lot of sufferings, a lot of persecution, but something out of the ordinary, something that even he felt like he could not, simply could not handle, just too much for him: despaired of life itself, almost gave up, almost lost hope, something so terrible happened. But then, God helped him, God rescued him.
Look at verse 10: 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. Something happened, but then God delivered him and then, now, he again has hope, that God will deliver him again and so on. So, what I want you to see is, just before writing this epistle, Paul went through something, a once in a lifetime kind of experience, even for him. That burden, it was beyond his strength. It made him almost to give up, almost to lose hope. But then God helped him, delivered him, gave him back that hope. Paul went through a great period of affliction, suffering, came out of it successfully, learned important lessons, and then writes this book; comes fresh from that experience and writes this epistle and that’s why, in this epistle, you will see a lot of this topic: how to approach suffering and how to handle it and so on and we’re going to begin at the beginning of the epistle itself. Today, our main passage is going to be from 2nd Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 3 to 7; that’s the passage for today: 2nd Corinthians, chapter 1: 3 to 7, just before this, what we just read now, right? So, let’s read it.
I want you to notice, as we read, how, right at the beginning of the book, in verse 3 itself, Paul is talking about our subject. 2nd Corinthians 1: 3 to 7: 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. It’s hard to miss that he’s talking about suffering, right? So many times, this word “suffering” or “affliction” comes, right? Just scan that passage again, you will see it everywhere. I mean, in verse 4: Who comforts us in all our affliction; and “affliction” again in verse 5: Christ’s sufferings – we are sharing in that, it seems. And verse 6: If we are afflicted; and verse 7: As you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
So, these words: “sufferings” and “affliction”, they come again and again in this passage. But another word also comes again and again; I hope you noticed that. There’s another very important word, in fact, more important word and that is the word, “comfort”. That would have stood out, as we read that. Look how many times that word “comfort” comes. In verse 3 itself: God of all comfort; in verse 4: 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. My goodness! How many times does he have to say that, right? 5: For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. Verse 6: If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. 7: Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that you will share in our comfort.
I counted and saw how many times affliction and suffering comes; and how many times comfort comes. Comfort comes more than affliction and suffering. It’s as though Paul, I mean, if I counted, I’m sure Paul counted. It’s as though Paul is trying to say, yeah, in this world, we have tribulation, we have suffering, sometimes. When we live in a fallen world, especially during certain times because we live in a world that hates the Gospel and, you know, that is antagonistic toward Christ sometimes. We face suffering, Christ’s sufferings, we share in that, there is affliction. And there is, you know, there is all kinds of trouble sometimes. Yeah, that’s true. But where there is suffering and affliction, there is also something else and that is God’s comfort. Everybody, say: “Comfort; God’s comfort”, right? And, he made sure to say it more times, just to point out that, where there is a lot of suffering and affliction, there is even more of God’s comfort manifest in that place. Right? In verse 5, he puts it like that, doesn’t he? In verse 5, he says, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too”. It’s not just life of suffering and tribulation, and problems. No, no, no, there is comfort; there is “God’s comfort” and that one thing, can make all the difference; God’s comfort, in the midst of our afflictions. That’s what we’re going to talk about today: God’s comfort, in the midst of our afflictions. We’re going to see what an amazing truth this is.
First of all, I want to show you what this word, “comfort” means. What does that mean? Why does he say that again? I mean, it must be an important word for him to say it again and again. But what does it mean? Does it only mean what we generally think it means? I’m going to show you. No, it means a lot more than that. What does that mean? That’s first? What does comfort mean? Secondly, if it means something so great, then what kind of a difference does that make? What kind of a difference will it make, when we’re going through suffering or affliction? Thirdly, why we can be sure that God will surely give us this amazing comfort. Will God fill us with this amazing comfort? Yes, Paul, gives the assurance in this passage, and I’ll show you. He gives a certain surety, a confidence, that God will surely fill us with his comfort. What does it mean? What difference does it make? How do you know you’ll get it? Let’s begin.
What does it mean? What does this word “comfort” mean? It’s very important to note this because, like I said, he repeats it many times. It’s at the beginning of the epistle; it must be important. What does it mean? We generally think it means, you know, something like this. So generally, I’ve used this passage, for example, in the case where somebody dies, right? So, someone close to the family or something dies, and so that creates a big environment of grief and loss and pain. And in that setting, what do the people need? They need comfort, right? And so, I’ve read this passage, and I’ve preached on it, sometimes; I’ve understood it like that. Comfort means, you know. Let me just, before that, let me just clarify: comfort is not comfortable sitting in a comfortable sofa or something. No, that’s not the meaning. Obviously, it’s not a life of ease and comfort. That’s not what he’s talking about, right? Comfort, generally, we take it to mean as, we comfort the people who are grieving, who have gone through some kind of loss, who are in deep pain; we comfort them. We say, “Don’t worry, I’m here for you, I’ll help you”. Right? What does that do when we comfort them in that way? What does that do? That reduces their grief, it reduces their pain, it reduces that sense of loss, right? There’s some relief; they get some relief from that pain. It’s like taking an aspirin when you have a headache. The pain is so much and you take the tablet, and the pain may be still there, but it’s not so much; it’s reduced now, right? Comfort is like that. It reduces, it lessens the severity of the pain, and the grief and so on. Where there was only pain and grief, there is now some sort of solace, or a soothing feeling, there is a relief. We all know this meaning and people in the world also understand it. And that’s how people generally understand a passage like this. God comforts us, means God says, “Don’t worry; I’m here”. He gives us some kind of a relief.
Now, even in the Bible, this this kind of, shall I say, simple, ordinary meaning is there. This kind of simple, ordinary meaning is there in some places. For example, when Isaac’s mother Sarah dies, in Genesis 24:67, we are told that he was comforted by his wife, Rebekah; he was comforted during that time of grief. So that’s a case where a simple ordinary meaning is there. So, if you take this passage with a simple ordinary meaning, right, just very ordinary, common simple, meaning, that itself is quite powerful. That itself is something that people long for, especially people who, like I said, who have lost someone very near and dear to them. There are people like that, especially in times like this. There is death. People have gone through death, their family, their close circle, so on, and they’re looking for comfort. My friend, here’s a passage; you don’t need much explanation. Just look at it. What does it say? It says, “Where there is much affliction and suffering, there is also much comfort. God will give us comfort”. Look to God, if you’re going through a time of grief, loss, severe pain like that, because of the death of a loved one, somebody family close like that. There are people like that in our church and I want to say that. Look to God, for His comfort; look to God for His comfort.
I want to say, don’t look to God for an explanation. That’s our natural reaction, to look to God for an explanation. Why did this happen? You know, what wrong did this person to do? How can this happen? We want an explanation. But God wants to give us comfort. In fact, if God gave us an explanation, it will still not give us comfort. Have you thought about that? Even if God were to explain to us, it will be too much for our minds and it will lead to more confusion, I think. Sometimes God graciously withholds explanations from us. We think He’s rude in doing so; we want explanations, but explanations will not provide comfort. Comfort is when somebody comes and puts their hand on your shoulder and says, “Don’t worry, I’m here with you”. But when that somebody is God, that goes to the next level. When God comes in, when you feel like He’s putting His hand on your shoulder and says, “Don’t worry, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I’m right here with you”. That’s the word of comfort we need; people may need it. Look to God for comfort, in your time of grief, and you will get it. Just simply reading the verse with a simple understanding itself can. Those people are longing for comfort. It can give you great comfort, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble. But there’s a lot more to this passage. It’s not just about comfort in the times of grief. It includes that; there’s a lot more because this is the beginning of this epistle and Paul is setting the stage for an entire epistle. He has a lot more in mind than just comfort.
Now, let me give you another meaning. So, simple comfort is one meaning. Another meaning that this word, the Greek word that is used here, which is translated “comfort”, is the Greek word, “paraklesis”; “paraklesis”. And it’s a very rich word, with very rich and broad meaning but let me give you one important meaning in that. Probably the most important meaning in the New Testament or the most repeated meaning that occurs in the New Testament for this word, and very important is, if I can put it in one word, it is to encourage. Everybody say: “To encourage”; to encourage. That’s a very important meaning in the New Testament from the book of Acts. Throughout the epistles, you will see this word occurring with that meaning. If you think about it, comforting comes under encouragement. Comforting is one kind of encouragement, right? If you are trying to encourage somebody who is in grief, what do you do? You comfort them. Comforting is one kind of encouragement, but it is only one kind. Encouragement is a broader concept; comforting is just one aspect of it. To encourage, is to motivate, is to give support and confidence, hope and so many things to, you know, urge somebody to do something, to encourage them.
There’s so much in that one simple word, “to encourage”, right? And let me show you some passages in the New Testament, where this word is translated like that. For example, look Acts 14: 21, Acts 14:21. I want to show you that this translation is very common, in fact, most times. Acts 14:21, When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith. Look at that: …encouraging them to continue the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. Here’s that “tribulations” again. But what are they doing? They’re strengthening – look at 22: strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, so that our tribulations… but in the midst of that, what are these Apostles doing to the believers? They are strengthening their souls, their inner person, inner man and encouraging them to continue in the faith, motivating them to continue, urging them, giving them an impetus, pushing them in a good way to continue in the faith.
Another passage, Hebrews, chapter six. Go to Hebrews, chapter 6. In Tamil, because it’s translated differently, I had a little bit of trouble trying to explain but in English, it’s so simple. It’s translated consistently many times as encouragement. Hebrews, chapter 6; let’s read from 17, 18, 19. The word encouragement that you see, is the same Greek word that is there, okay – “paraklesis”. Verse 17, Hebrews 6:17. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. Everybody say: “Encouragement”. Strong encouragement – paraklesis – to hold fast. Why is this encouragement given? Actually, the book of Hebrews was written to a persecuted group of Jewish believers. They’re persecuted; they’re actually thinking about whether they should continue in the faith or give up the faith. To those people, he writes, and he says, “Listen, God has actually made and oath, guaranteed his promise, with an oath. It’s impossible for God to lie”. Why? So that we who have fled for refuge; you have fled for refuge, you believed in Jesus; He wants you to have a strong encouragement. To what end, with what purpose? The encouragement must cause you to hold fast, to hold tightly, to the hope set before us. These people are wavering, they’re thinking whether to leave or continue. And this Apostle says this, this writer says, “Don’t leave. God wants to give you strong encouragement”. God will give you strong encouragement. You have fled for refuge, so that you might have strong encouragement. And the result of the strong encouragement, will be, you will hold fast to the hope, you’ll hold on to that hope, tightly. Verse 19: We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain. Similar, if you notice the passage we read before this, the Apostles are strengthening the soul, encouraging them to continue in the faith. Here also, they’re writing to a persecuted group, and saying, “Listen, you’ve fled for refuge to God. Now, don’t run away. God wants to give you this strong encouragement, which will cause you to hold tightly, hold fast, the hope. The encouragement will make you to hold tight”. These people are losing grip. And the writer says, “God will give this strong encouragement to make you tighten your grip on this great Christian hope”.
Another passage, 1 Thessalonians 3; 1 Thessalonians 3. I want you notice how similar these passages are. Here Paul is saying, “We sent Timothy to Thessalonica, to do this encouraging work. This paraklesis work was very important in the New Testament early church. 1 Thessalonians 3, verse 2, And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the Gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith. Look at the word, “exhort”. Everybody say: “Exhort”. Exhort is to strongly encourage. Exhortation is in fact, a particular kind of ministry in the New Testament. It’s listed as a gift. The gift of exhortation included within that is, you know, an encouragement. A strong encouraging word, a motivating word, for people who are feeling down and out. Notice again, in verse 3, these afflictions come; That no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know, right? So, he’s saying, you know, you should not be surprised by all these afflictions; you should not be moved but by the afflictions; shall be shaken by them, and fearing that they might be shaken, that’s why he sends Timothy. Look in verse 5: For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. So, he’s far away, he’s thinking about this group of believers in Thessalonica, who are going through tough times and affliction, and he is afraid that they may waver, be moved in their faith. So, he sends Timothy to establish and exhort them in the faith, so that they won’t be moved. That’s this word, “paraklesis”. Now, very clear, encouraging.
Why did I say all this? I said all this so that we’ll understand that this meaning of this paraklesis word in most places, is actually to encourage, to motivate, to inspire, to continue in the faith. The purpose of the encouragement, the motivation, and the inspiring is so that these people’s faith will be strengthened, built up. The wavering, so that the faith will be steadfast. The encouragement is given so that they will not waver in their faith. That word “encourage” itself has the word “courage” in it. It’s imparting a certain courage, an inner courage, a fortitude, right? The ability to remain steadfast, no matter what circumstance comes.
So, now, go back to our passage, 2nd Corinthians, chapter 1. So, when Paul repeats this word, again and again in 2nd Corinthians 1:3 – 7, it is translated as comfort, comfort, comfort, comfort, comfort. We see comfort, and hope we don’t think comfortable sofa. That’s, of course, not what it means. But it’s not enough to even think comfort in the time of grief or something. You know, the English word, “comfort”, they say, why it is translated like this is, it is following a tradition left by William Tyndale, many centuries back – William Tyndale. So, he’s the one who chose the word “comfort” at the time. Now, at the time, comfort was a very strong word. Now, it’s become softer. Comfort has become soft, right? Just a pat on the shoulder; comfort. No, no, in those days – I’m talking 500 years ago – comfort was a very strong word in the sense that, that word fort, right? They say, in the Latin, “Fortis”. Fortis means to be brave and courageous, to be strong. And so, comfort is to give strength, to strengthen, to make strong, to make brave. That is the meaning that was there at that time. Right? It applies to people who are grieving as well because they also need to be made strong, but the word had a much broader sense when Tyndale chose it. Ever since that, people have retained it in the translation. It’s a wonderful word, but the thing is, today, it doesn’t convey what it conveyed in Tyndale’s time. And so, when you read this passage, important passage, in an important epistle, setting the stage, the opening of the epistle, if you read it as just comfort in today’s meaning it’s not enough; read it as encouragement.
Let’s read it like that, once, right? Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all encouragement [comfort] – that means, all kinds of encouragement, including comfort – who encourages [comforts] us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to encourage [comfort] those who are in any trouble with the encouragement [comfort] with which we ourselves are encouraged [comforted] by God. What is Paul saying? God doesn’t just comfort, He encourages us, He exhorts us, He motivates us, He inspires us, He gives us great inner courage. God Himself does this. God Himself becomes our motivator. Okay, that’s point number one. What does it mean? It means encouragement, right?
Next, I want you to think about: if it means encouragement, what a great difference this makes. What a great difference this makes, when we are going through trouble. If God becomes our encourager, our motivator, if God starts motivating us. Have you thought about that? We take it lightly sometimes; we take this business of encouraging lightly, motivation lightly, but the world understands its value. Because in the world, they have these motivational speakers. Right? Have you seen motivational speakers? They’re very popular and some of the best motivational speakers, the most popular ones, are paid hefty sums, to come and just speak for half an hour. Sometimes before big sporting events, sporting matches like the Super Bowl and all that, they’ll speak to the teams, just for half an hour like that, just a pep talk. A motivational speech by a great motivational speaker. They’ll pay them sometimes in crores for one speech. That’s the kind of value placed on motivational speech – hundreds of thousands of dollars – sometimes are paid to these great motivational speakers. Why? Because these teams realize, in half an hour, you cannot change a player’s skill; you cannot change a player’s experience. But if you can motivate them, boy, that is enough to push them across the line. If you can, in half an hour, they can be motivated by some words and that motivation will push them, to give extra effort, to keep going and others are giving up and that will give the victory. So, that’s why they pay hefty sums for these guys to come and motivate these bunch of players, who are already skilled and experienced. Because they know motivation, sometimes, is more valuable than skill or experience.
What the bottom line is saying is; basically, you know what Paul is saying here? When things get really ugly in life, when we’re surrounded by affliction on every side, God becomes our motivational speaker. The God we have, He seems to be silent, sometimes, quietly sitting in the back. But when things get rough, He gets ready to motivate His people and to encourage them. This is a great ministry that God does. When things get rough, God wants to encourage us and motivate us. Right? One word of motivation can go a long way. Just for example, one great motivational speaker says this; listen to this line, it’s such an amazing line. “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up.” What a neat line, you know. What a motivating line. He says, “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back because as long as you can look up, you can get up.” Sounds like an ordinary line but you know, he’s being paid for that line. That line is worth its weight. That one line can inspire somebody, that one line can get a fellow who’s down and out and he listens to that and he says, “If I can look up, I can get up! My goodness. That’s all it takes. If I can look up” … and this is not even Bible motivation; it’s more common. There’s nothing wrong with it. Yeah, I mean, it applies that there are some general principles of motivation. It’s not even Bible-based, Gospel-based motivation. It’s just general. “If you look up, you can get up”. That is counted as so valuable in the world. Now, if one line from a human motivational speaker can do so much, and is worth so much, think about if God speaks one line. Now, think about if this human didn’t say it. If God looked at you and said: If you can look up, you can get up; that has more power. Because the difference between human motivational speakers, and God, is the human speaker can speak and go away and their words may or may not carry the power to do something. But when God utters a word, it’s not just a line, it becomes reality. When He says, “Light be”; light comes. When He says, “If you can look up, you can get up”; the moment you look up, the ability to get up will push you up. Think about, I mean, I don’t know if we think about God as a motivational speaker. I want you to take that image with you home today.
What is God’s main, you know, one of God’s main interests, shall we say, one of God’s main, what is his response to our affliction? Shall we say? I’m talking about what is our response? But today really, it’s more about what is God’s response to our affliction, right? He wants to motivate you. I mean, if He motivates a person, no matter how down and out they are, they will come up. I’m thinking about, you know, how God has motivated people, for example, Joshua. In Joshua, chapter 1. Here is a guy, young leader, no experience. The great leader, Moses has passed away. He’s probably just sitting there thinking, how am I going to lead this, you know, rowdy, rebellious group of people, who didn’t even pay attention to Moses, really? And this is their children now. How am I going to lead these people into the promised land? Moses couldn’t do it. The great Moses, who, at the stretch of his hand, this Red Sea split open. The great Moses is gone and now, here I am. But then, here comes the motivational speech by the Almighty. God looks at him in Joshua, chapter 1, and He says – listen to these words; imagine how Joshua would have felt – No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Here he’s maybe thinking, I don’t know if I’m good enough. Moses is great; I’m not. How can I ever fill Moses’s shoes? Imagine what he would have felt like, when he heard the voice of God says, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life”. The power of that is, the moment God uttered that word, it’s like a shield formed around Joshua. From the moment God uttered that word to him, no man could stand against him. That’s it, it became reality. When God becomes your motivational speaker, this is a whole new level we’re talking about. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. If anybody hears those words from the Almighty God, it will be very difficult not to get up and get strong, my goodness. No man can stand against me? Amazing how God motivates people.
Hear these words. If a person down and out, who’s ready to give up, who’s thinking how can I ever get through this? Listen to these words. If these words are heard, in the bottom of your spirit, in the bottom of your heart, if you can hear these words from God, I’m not talking about the words I hear. Yeah, I know the words are here. You know the words. But can you hear it in your heart? In your spirit? Do the words take life? And do they resound in your heart? “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”.
Oh God, I don’t know how it’s going to be, you know, I fall this side or that side. No, God says, “I will uphold you with My righteous right hand – the hand that split the sea; I will uphold you with this hand – the hand that made the heavens and the earth; I will uphold you with this hand”. If you can hear this, my friend, in your spirit; if you can hear it, this one word is enough to give you enough strength, and enough courage, and enough fortitude, enough encouragement, motivation; that’s what people need. A person who’s ready to give up, a person who feels like he cannot go on further, what does he need? We think what he needs is money. You know, whatever his problem is – health, this, that. We always think like that, right? No, what he first needs is some motivation, some encouragement from the living God. If he can get that, everything else will come.
Here are some other words; these are familiar words. But what makes them special is, what makes the difference is, when the Holy Spirit sounds these words, in your spirit, when the light turns on there, when it flashes there, when the sound of God’s voice is heard deep in your spirit, that’s what changes things. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you”. You see, these words are here but the Holy Spirit needs to sound them in our heart. You know, this requires our effort. This requires the Holy Spirit as well. Both. This requires us to go to the Word of God, seeking motivation, not seeking explanation. This requires us to go and spend time meditating, seeking God to motivate us and say, “God, here I am. Speak a word to me; fill me with your inner strength”. Right? That should be our response, our approach in the middle of affliction, and when we approach it like that, and when God does His part, the Holy Spirit – I say the Holy Spirit because I think, the Holy Spirit is the specialist. One of the great names for the Holy Spirit is what? Comforter. Remember that?
John 14, 15, 16. How many times Jesus calls the Holy Spirit as “The Comforter”. I will send you another comforter. Again, don’t think comforter soft word; think comforter hard word. Comfort. The one who will give you fortitude; comforter, strengthener, helper, comforter. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God most often, to instil strength. This is so wonderful to me because it is a good continuation, needed, much needed continuation from what we saw in James, the last three weeks. James is saying, you know, you need to have this inner strength, this inner fortitude, this steadfastness, this immovable nature, right? You should not be double-minded like this, wavering back and forth but the problem is, sometimes we are like this, in the midst of the problem and we wonder how is this going to get right. Here’s the answer: The God of all encouragement will set it right; the God of all encouragement will speak a word and instil you with His fresh new straighten, so that you can be steadfast, immovable, established, and you can continue under faith.
Here’s the answer to the problem, in James, 1. If God will motivate you; if God will encourage you; just one word will make all the difference. Think of the Apostle Paul, you know, the famous passage in 2nd Corinthians, chapter 12, right where the Apostle complains about the thorn in the flesh, famous passage. 2nd Corinthians 12, he talks about how he had a thorn in the flesh. He doesn’t really complain; he just says he has a thorn in the flesh and people talk about what the thorn in the flesh is and they go, start guessing from this to that to everything. But we are not told; he doesn’t tell us, so it’s no point guessing. Whatever it is, it’s some kind of affliction, it’s some kind of suffering, it’s some kind of irritation. It’s like a pain in the neck, it’s like a thorn in the flesh. And he wanted it to go away and he says in 2nd Corinthians 12: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me”. Next verse. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness”. Now, people look at this and say, “Look, if God did not answer the Apostle Paul’s prayer, where are we? But did God answer the prayer? Did God come up with a sufficient solution? Did Paul take it as a good answer or not? That’s the key, isn’t it? It’s what people think today. How did Paul take it? It’s right there in the passage; if you keep reading, Paul says, after God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness”. What does Paul say? Does he say, God, I am your dear Apostle. Three times I asked you, I’m not taking still. What is this? No, look what he says. He says, (after God says, He speaks), “Therefore I boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me”. Is this a person who feels dejected, that God refused to grant him his request? Listen again. He says, after God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness”. He says, Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses”. Boasting means to take joy, to take pride in my weaknesses. Who takes pride in their weaknesses? That sounds like nonsense. How do you take pride in your weakness? It’s not nonsense, when you realize what God just told Paul. He said, “My power is made perfect in weakness”. God says, you have a thorn; you’re weak. Things that don’t seem to change for you; you seem to remain weak in this area. Don’t think that’s a bad thing, because the way I work, is my power is made perfect in weakness. And so, Paul gets the point and he responds, saying, “Oh great then! I will boast in my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
In verse 10 he continues, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. Is this a person who’s dejected, that God refused to grant his request? No, no, Paul got the answer. The answer was a motivating word, an encouraging word. What was the word? Paul is saying, “God, remove this thorn. God says, “My grace is sufficient for you”. One word changes Paul’s outlook. One word, gives hope a new perspective. One word, and Paul goes from saying, “God remove this” to boasting in the weakness. “My grace is sufficient for you; my strength is made perfect in weakness”. Paul says, if that’s the case, oh boy, weakness is nothing bad. It’s good because here, I’m going to see God’s strength, and God’s power, manifest in a special way. Where I am weak; there I am strong. That is enough; I got it. That’s what God’s motivation can do to you. That’s what God’s motivation can do to you, my friend. One word from God, in your spirit, by the Holy Spirit, changes everything. It changes you. We want the outer outside circumstances to be changed. We want everything on the outside to be changes but God says, “No, no, first, I want to change you”. We are just interested in the outer circumstances changing, right? God just delivered me, you know, that’s it. Our agenda is very clear, simple. Just get me out of this. I’ve had enough of this ‘thorn in the flesh’, you know. God says, “Well, I work a little differently; I first change you. Let’s work on you now”. But the thing is, He does it in a way that is motivating and encouraging, so that you’re not complaining about it. You are in fact, rejoicing, boasting.
In another place, Paul says, you know, about this comfort. Look at this. I didn’t read this, but let me read this now: 2nd Corinthians, chapter 7. In 2nd Corinthians, chapter 7, he connects comfort with joy. The boasting itself, is a kind of pride; taking pride and joy. But look at 2nd Corinthians: 7, verse 4: I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort – same word – I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. One sentence – I am filled with comfort; next sentence – I am overflowing with joy. That does not compute very well. A person filled with comfort will say, “I feel a lot better”, you know. But they are not going to say, “I’m rejoicing”. Now read it like this” I am filled with encouragement; I am filled with great inner courage. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. God’s comfort; this kind of comfort; this God’s encouragement, leads to overflowing with joy.
You know the psalmist says, in Psalm 94, verse 19: When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations – your comforts – cheer my soul. Your comforts cheer my soul; they give me cheer, not just peace, not just rest but cheer. They cheer me up. I’m rejoicing, basically. That’s what he means. When God comforts, it ends up in that kind of place, you see. It can make such a difference.
Look at Isaiah 51: when God comforts, when God encourages, everything changes. Isaiah 51, verse 3: For the Lord comforts Zion; He comforts all her waste places – and then look what happens when He comforts – He makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. This is a whole different level of comfort. When God encourages, when God motivates, when God strengthens you on the inside, everything changes. You change; your faith is strengthened; you are able to hold fast to the hope that God gives; you’re able to stand steadfast, immovable, no matter what the circumstances are like; you’re able to persevere and endure and keep moving forward, continuing in the faith. That means, you’re succeeding even if the problem has not gone away. Our thing is, the problem must go away immediately and that’s natural. But the thing is, what do you do until it goes away? How do you live until it goes away? You live this this: you look to God for comfort and you’ll receive it. And when you receive it, it will change the way you react, you respond to everything. You will boast in your weakness; you will be filled with joy, while you are in the trouble itself. And later on, outer circumstances will change, as Apostle Paul tells in 2nd Corinthians 1, in 3 – 7, he says God comforts, comforts, comforts, comforts and then in verse 10, he says, God delivers. So that’s coming. But it starts here. It starts here. God wants to encourage us. God wants to comfort in this way, motivate us, inspire us. That’s the second. When God inspires and motivates, it makes a huge difference, makes us steady and strong on the inside. We’re able to persevere.
Number three: if it makes such a big difference, then we really need it. Now, the question becomes, will God give it? Will God give us this great encouragement? During the right time, will He speak the right word into our hearts? Will this happen, really happen? Can this happen? Will it happen to me? Will God do it for me? Will God encourage me personally, through the work of the Holy Spirit? Yes, God will. Yes, God will and let me tell you why. Let me give you the assurance; let me give you reasons, how you can be sure that God will. It’s right here in our passage, 2nd Corinthians. Go back to 2nd Corinthians and let’s look in our passage. You can get the assurance that God will comfort, right from the passage itself. You can be sure that God will give you this great encouragement because of who God is. Who God is, gives us the assurance that God will comfort us. Who is God? Paul says, “God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort”. Look how he calls God, right. Look at the name, the title, “the God of all comfort”. Everybody say: “The God of all comfort”. That means He is the source of all comfort and encouragement. He is the dwelling place of all comfort and encouragement. He has, with Him, in Him, all kinds of encouragement. It also means He is a God, whose nature it is to comfort. He’s the God of all comfort. This is who He is; this is His nature. Like we said, it’s in His nature to give. He likes giving things, like wisdom. He likes giving things, like encouragement, to people who are in the middle of affliction. Why does He like giving encouragement to people who are in trouble? Why does He really want to do it? Why is He the God of all comfort? Because – look at the other title – He’s the Father of mercies. He is full of mercy, filled with mercy, down to the core. He is the Father of mercies and His mercy causes him to give comfort and enjoyment to his people.
I think of Jacob and how God was merciful to him. Here’s a man, who cheated his way, stole the blessing from his older son. And runs away and he sleeps in a place and has a dream. And God comes to him in that dream, you know. You’d think God will throw a person like that, saying, well, you know, I don’t want a person like this. You may think God will do that but God is so merciful. He’s the Father of mercies; He tells that conniving, Jacob – what does he say? He says, in Genesis 28:15, He says, “Behold, I am with you and I will keep you wherever you go, and I will bring you again into this land. I will not leave you until I have done all that I’ve spoken to thee”. He does not abandon him; He does not leave him; He is merciful – the Father of mercies. He comes down to our level. He knows sometimes we waiver and we are like this and like that and we have not built up our faith. We thought we had it sorted, but now, we’re in trouble, and He is a Father, and He has compassion; He has pity. He is a merciful Father. The best title is, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He starts there: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. It flows from one to the other. What he’s saying is, above all, this God has revealed Himself, in and through His Son, Jesus Christ and look at His Son. Look at how merciful Jesus was. Anybody who came to Him, Jesus never rejected them. Anybody who came to Jesus, anybody who came to Jesus. Jesus said, “Him that cometh to Me; I will never cast out”. “I will never cast out”. How many times, that verse, has brought strength? Him that cometh to me; I will never cast out. The mercy of Jesus.
You know what Paul is saying? I think, he’s saying, you know Jesus? You know merciful He is? Well, we are talking about His Father. If the Son is so merciful, then the Father, who’s behind the Son, the Father, who is the fountain of all the Son has; how merciful is He? Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul has no doubt that God will give comfort. That’s why he doesn’t say, God will give. In this first verse, he doesn’t even say, “pray”. He says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”. He’s just praising God. You see, God I praise you, for you are this kind of God. Who you are, gives me the assurance that I will receive comfort. Who He is. Look to who He is, my friend; don’t look to who you are. You’re not going to get confidence that way. Who He is, gives you the assurance, that you will receive God’s strength.
Not only that; who He is. The next thing is, what He does; His ways. He has a certain way of working. God has a certain style, shall we put it like that? Look at His ways, in verse 5: For just as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Paul is saying, God has a certain way He works. Where suffering abounds, His comfort also will abound. Where there is much affliction, there will be much comfort. This is His style. What does that mean? If somebody says, Well, I’m surrounded by problem after problem, suffering and affliction, in trouble on every side; they’re piling up on me. My friend, I want to tell you, if your trouble is increasing, that means your comfort and your encouragement and your motivation from the greatest motivator is going to increase. It will manifest itself there. That one thing will be enough. The more these increases; the more He will motivate. You know, I think of these boxing matches right. The fellow gets beaten up and he comes and sits at the ringside; he has no energy like this and there’s a guy talking to him there. Are you seeing that? I don’t know what he’s saying but I think, that’s a wonderful picture of what happens, when we get into trouble and we feel down and we sit there like that. We say, “I’m done; I don’t want to go into the next round”, you know. And God is there and He’s going to say, “You can do it”, and when He says you can do it, you can do it. That’s not just a line; that’s reality. When He says, “My power is made perfect in your weakness”; that’s reality. When He says, “My grace is enough for you”; get up and go and face this. That’s enough!
The greater the problem; the greater His inner strength He gives. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord, raises a banner. You think: how am I going to face this and there comes the Holy Spirit. This expert. He raised the banner by encouraging us. Who He is, gives us assurance that we will receive comfort. He’s style, His ways; that’s how He works. Comfort increases, where trouble increases. It does not increase, where trouble does not increase. God will comfort us. [Let’s all stand up]
God will strengthen us. What we need today is this: that inner courage to face anything. And then will come the deliverance. We’re talking about how to live until the deliverance comes. What do you do, while you wait? You look to God for comfort. There’s no point, looking for explanations. And it’s not enough, just to say, “God deliver me”, although that is what comes naturally to us but God wants us to grow. And the way He wants us to grow, is to expect, look to Him as the God of all comfort; the God of all encouragement and receive from Him.
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