I’d like to talk to you about something that we get wrong. A lot. It’s evidenced by a two-word phrase that we put at the beginning of a sentence. It goes like this:
“I deserve …”
“I earned …”
How often do you say that? Or think it? For me, it’s too many times. I think that I deserve security or forgiveness, friendships or my hard-earned money, even comfort. But over and over again, the Bible tells us that if we have those things, they were given to us by God. Oh, and since they were given to us by God, we should freely give them to others as well. Don’t believe me?
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:32 (God forgave us, so we should forgive others)
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” - 2 Corinthians 9:8 (God gave us grace so that we may show grace to others)
“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” - Acts 2:45 (The early church gave what they had to others who were in need)
Of course, there are plenty of other examples. All of these are ways that we can live out “love God and love people.” Another way that was surprising to me can be found in 2 Corinthians 1. Paul tells the church in Corinth that God comforts us so that we can comfort others. Check it out.
“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.”
2 Corinthians 1:3–6
Paul makes a couple of points that we need to learn. Many of us are suffering, whether from illness, job and financial issues, conflict with friends, or something else. Paul shows us that God is working in our suffering.
God comforts so we can comfort
Paul says God is the God of all comfort. ALL comfort! And He comforts us so that we can comfort others who may need it. Not with our own excellent comforting skills, but with the comfort of God.
Paul expands on his thought and says not only is our comfort for the comfort of others, but so is our suffering. Not only that, but our suffering and comfort could lead to the salvation of others, when they see how God comforts us in the midst of our affliction.
We suffer like Jesus suffered
See how Paul is going along, minding his own business, talking about how God comforts us, and then just throws verse 5 in there? We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings so that we can share in His comfort. Paul is not saying that we can share in Christ’s suffering on the cross to pay for our sin. That is only something that Jesus can do. But we do suffer when we live Christlike lives, when we imitate Christ.
What’s comforting is that we can be assured that whatever afflicts us will never be more than what Christ took on Himself to save us. And because we can share in His comfort, we can turn and comfort those around us who are also suffering.
I pray that this is an encouragement to you, so that you can be an encouragement to others!
by Rob Trahan