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WHEN THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE

By Tim Sullivan

 

For many people, the world in which we live is a cold and lonely place. Theirs is an existence without hope or meaning, without joy or comfort. For them, happiness is only a fleeting shadow, vaguely familiar, while despair is a constant companion. The oppressor has no pity for the oppressed.

Ecclesiastes 4:1:
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Look around you and you will see a world of comfortless people trying to anesthetize the nagging pain of their existence. The marketplace has many opiates from which to choose, some that deaden the body and others that deaden the mind. But whether lost in themselves or in the company of strangers, theirs is a common quest – to escape to a place where they cannot feel their pain any more.

This is the world we live in. These are the people we live among, people who need Jesus Christ and the comfort He promises. Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18). “I, even I, am he that comforteth you,” says the Lord God (Isa. 51:12). As we read, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).

The story of Noah teaches us about the comfort that God brings. The name Noah means “comfort.”

Genesis 5:29:
And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.

What is the story of Noah if it is not a story of comfort and newness of life? “Old things are passed away,” we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Behold, all things are become new.” We are comforted in God’s promise to recompense good for good and evil for evil.

Ruth 2:12:
The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

Hebrews 10:30-31:
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.
31 And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We are comforted that by his mercy our iniquity is pardoned.

Isaiah 40:1-2:
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

Our warfare was accomplished when Jesus Christ made atonement for our sins on the Cross. Praise be to God, our iniquity is pardoned! What comfort indeed! This is the comfort wherewith God “comforteth those that are cast down” (2 Cor. 7:6a). This is the comfort that comforts us in all our tribulation.

2 Corinthians 1:4:
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Psalm 119:50:
This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.

So long as we live in this world, God wants us to be comforted. But that is not to say he wants us comfortable. There is quite a difference. The parable of the “certain rich man” is the story of a man who wanted to be comfortable in this world.

Luke 12:19:
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

The problem with the Church of Jesus Christ today, like the church of the Laodiceans written of in the book of Revelation, is that she strives to be comfortable.

Revelation 3:17:
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

The Laodicean church typifies a church that subscribes to the “gain is godliness” doctrine that is so popular today. Because she was abounding in material things, she believed she was likewise abounding spiritually. But in the eyes of God, she was wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.

Remember the title of this lesson: “When the God of all comfort makes you uncomfortable.” A comfortable church is a stagnant church, a church that has fallen asleep. God wants his church stirred to action.

Revelation 3:18-19:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

God wants us “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). He wants us awake and not asleep. You see, the more comfortable the bed, the more inviting it is to stay asleep.

Proverbs 6:9-11:
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

It is far easier to sleep in the dark.

John 3:19-20:
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

In the light, you have only two choices: either to close your eyes or repent unto good works.

John 3:21:
But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Have you ever sat through a sermon that made you squirm in your seat because you knew God was using that preacher to speak right to you? Maybe you tried hiding behind your Bible or ducking down beneath the pew! You see, for us mortals, one of the most uncomfortable places to be is in the light of God. In the light of God, we see the nature of our sinful deeds, and this makes us very uncomfortable indeed! It was as Paul stood in the light of God that he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

How did God bring you to Christ, except that he first made you uncomfortable with your sinful condition? In your Christian walk, God draws you closer to him by first showing you the way of repentance. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel!” (Mk. 1:15). When God wants to spur you toward a new stage in your Christian life, he first makes you uncomfortable with your present condition. He snatches the pillow out from under your head. He shakes your bed. He wakes you up.

Ephesians 5:14:
Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

1 Corinthians 15:34a:
Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God....

Romans 13:11:
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

There are many “Laodicean Christians” in the world today who swear they’ll “join the cause” once the going gets really tough. But those who are waiting for our adversary to become obvious are already under his spell. The effectiveness of his attack lies in his subtlety. The devil is more than happy to see Christians cozy in their beds, groggy with spiritual slumber. “You don’t need to change,” he lullabies into their ear. “I like you just the way you are. I accept you just the way you are. Now, go back to sleep!”

The more we desire to be comfortable, the less likely we will be to finish our race. Like the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, our great challenge will be to stay awake, “lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping” (Mk. 13:36).

Yes, when Jesus Christ comes knocking at your door, He comes to give you a wake-up call. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

For the vigilant Christian, being uncomfortable is a way of life. The more we try to live up to our Christian calling, the more our inadequacies will become obvious to us. But be of good comfort! God shows us our weakness so that we learn to rely on his strength. And when the God of all comfort makes you uncomfortable, it is because he is stirring you up to a greater level of spiritual awareness and growth.

Revelation 3:19:
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

 

 


From the September 2001 issue of The Vine & Branches