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God’s Comfort in Your Corinth – II Corinthians 1:3-9

by Jake Roberts

Lecompte AM 7/26/20________________________________________   ______________________________________________________

Intro: Supposedly during Queen Victoria's reign, (she was queen of UK from 1837-1901) she heard that the wife of a common laborer had lost her baby. Having experienced deep sorrow herself, she felt moved to express her sympathy. So, she called on the bereaved woman one day and spent some time with her. After she left, the neighbors asked what the queen had said. "Nothing," replied the grieving mother. "She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together.

 

      Today, I want to talk to you about another person leaving their throne room to comfort those in need. The God we are here worshipping is the God of ALL comfort. Turn if you would to II Corinthians 1.

 

Context: At the time this letter would’ve been written, it would’ve been at the tail-end of a long and elaborate, if not estranged, relationship Paul had with the Christians in Corinth. Though we only have 2 letters of Paul to Corinth, we know he wrote at least 4 – in I Cor. 5:9 he mentions a “previous letter” that he wrote; in addition to the two we have in scripture and that reference he also mentions what scholars call the “severe letter,” or “letter of tears” in II Corinthians 2:4.

 

     You need to understand Paul helped found this church, which you can read about in Acts 18. It would also be beneficial for you to know that the city of Corinth was a Greek city situated on an isthmus – a tiny strip of land – between two ports and two well-traveled bodies of water along the coasts of Greece. The city’s location meant it would come into contact with all facets of every walk of life – like any major port city (think of NOLA). Because it was on an isthmus, many sea-travelers would, if their vessels were small enough, actually move their boat across the land to save time and effort. Elsewise, a large ship’s cargo could be unloaded on one side of the isthmus and transported to another ship on the other side. Furthermore, Corinth was an epicenter for idolatry, sexual promiscuity, and immorality. There were shrines to several pagan gods, Greek & Roman. Corinth held a famous temple to Asclepius – the god of healing. Several buildings were constructed around the temple for the sick who came for healing. The most significant pagan cult in Corinth was the cult of Aphrodite – the goddess associated with love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. The worship of that god involved sexual rituals and temple prostitutes, both male and female. Historical records tell us that there were over 1,000 temple prostitutes in service at that temple.

 

     Therefore, you can understand, the city of Corinth had a lot going on. It was a major port city, it was an important economic and religious epicenter, and it was truly a source of licentious living. That’s why one of the lists of abominable sins, and sexual sins at that, was written to Christians THERE. It has been said that Corinth was the free-living, “Amsterdam of the ancient world.”

 

     The Scottish theologian, William Barclay once commented on the city: “She had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a byword for evil living…to live like a Corinthian, had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery ... Aelian, the late Greek writer, tells us that if ever a Corinthian was shown upon the stage in a Greek play he was shown drunk. The very name Corinth was synonymous with debauchery and there was one source of evil in the city which was known all over the civilized world. Above the isthmus towered the hill of the Acropolis, and on it stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. To that temple there were attached one thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes, and in the evenings they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth, until it became a Greek proverb, 'It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.”

 

     Can you imagine how hard it must’ve been to be a Christian in a city like that? Can you imagine how difficult it would’ve been to practice sexual purity and submit to Christ when you used to be a temple prostitute? Is it any wonder, then, why Paul worked so heavily in this city and with this church? Is it any surprise that these Christians had so many questions for Paul?

 

     Today, we want to discuss what it means to have a God who can comfort us in our struggles; and I can’t think of ancient Christians who struggled with sin as blatantly as the Corinthians did. I can’t think of Christians who were surrounded by evil as densely as the Corinthians were. Now, after years of working with these believers and writing to them previously, Paul sends them another letter. He writes:

 

II Corinthians 1:3-9

     Dear friend, I say to you, that if you wish to know how to have comfort in the midst of the craziness of 2020, if you want to know how to be comforted in your struggles today, whatever they are, hearken to and heed the words of Paul to our spiritual ancestors in Corinth. He speaks much of comfort in this passage. Firstly, Paul shows us:

 

  1. THE AUTHOR OF COMFORT (vs. 3-4a)

Paul says God is the father of mercies and God of ALL comfort, who comforts. That is to say you’ll not find comfort in anyone or anything else! Sure, you may find a temporary alleviation in your life elsewhere, outside of God. Yet, I submit to you, you’ll never know lasting comfort until you know Christ, the author of comfort. Jesus, when warning his apostles about departing from this world and giving them a heads-up about the struggles they’d face, told them,

John 14:16, 18 ESV  16And I will ask the father, and he will give you another Helper, [“Paraclete” COMFORTER-KJV] to be with you forever…18I will not leave as orphans; I will come to you.


     John 14:18 KJV I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.

The “God of all comfort” is the author, the SOURCE of true comfort – every other solution is just a band-aid. Some of us seek comfort in possessions, some of us seek comfort in pills and prescriptions. Still, others among us seek comfort in pleasures and performances. Nevertheless, the true source of comfort is in the person of Christ, in our God, the God of all comfort.

 

     Paul tells that to the Corinthians, who were surrounded by other opportunities in life that promised comfort (the temple of healing, the temple of sex and love). It is worthy of note that the world will give you all sorts of comfortable alternatives, rather than acknowledging the true author of comfort, who is God.

ILLUST: Hotels vs Home – Those of you that travel, have you ever noticed there’s sort of a comfort-war going on between the different hotel chains? All the places one can stay when traveling - hotels, motels, condos, town-houses, villas, bungalows, suites, and time-shares – you ever notice they’re all saying that THEY are the most comfortable place to stay? This one boasts about its amenities, that one boasts about its service. And while many of these places are nice to stay in, on a temporary basis, I think if you stay in them long enough you start saying what most older folks say at the end of a vacation…Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” “I want my OWN bed to sleep in.”

 

     The comfort offered by the world and the comfort from God is a lot like that. Oh yeah, the resort’s most expensive suite is nice for a week or two, but truly, there’s no place like home. Similarly, the comfort one can find on this earth is nice, but it cannot even begin to compare to the comfort offered by God – it IS “out of this world.” In the contest of hotels vs home, we both know who wins. And I pray the author of comfort would outshine in alternatives the world offers, in your life. Paul explains this to the Corinthians; then, tells them about:

 

  1. THE ASSURANCE OF COMFORT (vs. 4b-5)

Within this passage, one can find a promise – from God – to comfort those in need.

Isaiah 66:13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

II Thessalonians 2:16-17 16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

 

Just as Jesus promised the HS/the “comforter/helper” to the apostles, so too has God promised to comfort YOU. And I’ve got to tell you, God keeps his promises! ILLUST: God’s (land/descendants) promise to Abraham – in the OT, this promise was threatened many times. Twice Abraham tried to pass his wife Sara off as his sister – so nothing would happen to them; Isaac did the same thing with his wife Rebeca. God always intervened and protected the matriarchs as well as the patriarchs. What about Jacob/Israel, his 12 sons and the famine that brought the 11 brothers back to Joseph? What about when the nation of Israel was enslaved by the succeeding generations of Egyptians? What about when Moses had to lead them out and so on? At every avenue, God stepped in and ensured his end of the bargain – he keeps his promises.

 

     Therefore, when God promises to comfort you in your time of crisis, take heart and know it to be true. ILLUST: Investing and Stock history – I’m not investment mogul; Ariel knows way more about that side of our finances than I do – she eats it up and reads about it all the time. That said, I do know one thing. When you look at a prospective financial investment, one of the ways you can determine whether you get a decent rate-of-return, is looking at how that investee has performed in the past. Let’s say you’re investing in a stock; to determine whether that’s a good stock to invest in – look at its performance history to determine how it will behave and perform in the future. The same can be said of where you will invest yourself to seek comfort. Will you invest in the world’s offers, or in God’s? God has shown himself to perform above our expectations and ensure his promises are kept – this is why we call it the assurance of comfort.

 

     Paul shares these thoughts with the Corinthians who were obviously suffering a great deal. Paul said that Jesus suffered, but Jesus also comforts. Like Queen Victoria and that bereaved mother; Jesus willingly left his place as King to comfort those in need by paying for their sin. Paul speaks about the assurance we have in Christ. Thirdly, Paul expounds on the author and assurance of comfort by describing:

 

     III. THE ACQUISITION OF COMFORT (vs. 6-7)

Paul says, “Even we as apostles are struggling, we have struggles too – you’re not alone. We struggle so YOU can have comfort.” But notice his words: “…It is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.” I have to point out the obvious, ALL people struggle and suffer – that’s life. Be that as it may, it is only those who suffer for Christ that can find comfort in the midst of struggle. Paul says to acquire God’s comfort, we must “Patiently endure the same sufferings” that he endured. This fits nicely with Jesus words to the ancient church of Smyrna: Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

 

     It is apparent that you cannot have comfort unless you something to be comforted from or comforted about. If you are struggling in this world, for the right reason, you can find comfort in Christ – and you find it by enduring WITH him, as Paul said. If you’re struggling with your flesh or sin, to make the right decision, to do what God wants you to do, to be a good spouse/parent, WHATEVER – you may acquire comfort. Just endure but a little while

 

     However, if your struggle is more sinful than that, that is, you’re struggling with running away from God, being master of your own life, constantly rejecting the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart you WON’T find any comfort! For there is, as we’ve said, no comfort outside of Christ. I pray, that if there is anyone here today or listening online/within earshot of my voice, that is struggling with running away from God, that they would continue to be comfortless to the point where they’re drawn back to God.  To acquire God’s comfort, one must go to him – suffer in following after him – and he will carry us through. Yes, you may find “comfy” comfort in the world but it is no lasting peace and satisfaction, the likes that God can give. There is a difference between being comfortable and being comforted.

 

     Conclusion

I don’t know what your personal “Corinth” is. I don’t know what you’re struggling with today, but God does. God knows what’s surrounding you and scaring you. He has promised to comfort you in your personal, “Corinthian” crisis. Notice, he didn’t promise to remove your struggles in this life! II Corinthians 1:8-9. Notice, Paul said their afflictions and burdens were “BEYOND” their strength.

 

     Folks, the things that drag you down in this life are in fact beyond our own strength. But we were never meant to carry them without God on our side. Paul’s phrasing here about being afflicted “beyond” their ability is akin to our saying when we say we’re “At our wit’s end.” Or, when we say, “We’re at the ‘end’ of our rope.”

 

     If you’re there today, if you’re beyond your ability and struggling severely, know that there is a God of all comfort who wishes to comfort you. A God who happily leaves the palace of heave to come to the poverty of earth and console us in our suffering.

-Jake Roberts is the preacher at Lecompte Church of Christ, Lecompte, LA




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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 have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4