Summary: The comfort that we receive from God we are to give to others.
COMFORT RECEIVED AND GIVEN
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
To go through life without trials and tribulations is truly rarer than either gold or silver. Living in a fallen world of bondage and decay one can’t help but experience times of personal illnesses, financial troubles, marital disagreements and the sting of numerous enemies. God never promised an easy life to His own but instead warned us that trials and tribulations would be the norm and so would being persecuted at the hands of those both within and outside of the church. Under the vice of pain, the minds of these fragile jars of clay often feel like they are going to break into a million pieces; letting despair rush in and completely drown all future expectations of joy. To those who minds are overwhelmed with pain Paul tells them to seek and they will find comfort from God the Father. The first part of this sermon will focus on various kinds of suffering as experienced by God’s people. The second and third parts of the sermon will focus on Paul’s comfort theology: while suffering is an evitable part of the Christian life it is also an opportunity to take the comfort one has received from God and offer it to others.
KINDS OF SUFFERING
While there are more kinds of suffering than can be described in this short sermon, I will focus on oppression, trials and tribulations and persecution.
Oppression and Suffering. The more contact one has with various groups of people, the greater the likelihood one will find some sort of oppression. While we are all created in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9) that does not mean that all of humanity respects each other’s differences. For example, at the beginning of the book Exodus we are told that due to the Israelites becoming exceedingly fruitful and great in numbers (1:6), the king of Egypt made their lives bitter with harsh labor and ordered the midwives to kill any male child upon birth (1:11-16). Imagine what it must have been like to go from your leader being second in command in Egypt to being forced into the kind of slavery that was intended to kill you! While you may not face this kind of oppression, most of us have felt the pain of being oppressed by a group of people just because we don’t have the same language, race, religion, preferences and so on. Most of us also know what it is like to live with emotional and maybe even physical scars from the aggressive attacks of a bully.
Trials and Tribulations. At the beginning of the book of James we are told to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of various kinds. While the promise to have one’s spiritual maturity increase upon faithful endurance can be a source of great comfort (1:2-4), it is not easy to persevere when one is suffering from the crushing personal tragedies of Job! To go from being rich, having a large family and considered to be the greatest amongst the people of your area to loosing almost everything in a matter of days would be painful beyond what most people could bear! I can only imagine the pain Job and his wife felt when they heard the news that a mighty wind had destroyed the house his family were meeting in and subsequently killed all his children! My first wife died when we only had been married for six months and the pain almost crushed me but to lose almost all of one’s family in one day, now that is pain! To make matters worse, Satan afflicted Job with painful sores all over his body (2:7). While you might not have faced the tragedies that Job had, most of us know the pain and suffering that comes from illnesses, financial tragedies and death of a loved one. Most of us have felt the kind of tragedy that leaves our fragile hearts broken in to a million pieces!
Persecution. In their desire to retain their authority and traditions (symbols of national identity, Torah and Temple) the Jewish authorities reacted with hostility when Jesus defined a spiritual Israel and predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This conflict per the book of Mark was intensified after Jesus had associated with sinners (2:13-22), touched an unclean leper (1:40-45), forgave the sins of the paralytic (2:1-12), worked and healed on the Sabbath (2:23-28; 3:1-5), and allowed His disciples to eat bread without washing their hands (7:1-23). Jesus faced conflict from his friends, family, and disciples. How hard would it have been for Jesus to face His “mother and brothers” who wanted to drag him back home because they believed He was out of his mind (3:21; 3:31-32) or to have His closest disciple Peter deny Him three times (14:66-72)! Jesus was spat on, beaten with the cat of nine tales and crucified (15:19-41). While it is unlikely you will be persecuted to this extent, Jesus promises that the world will always hate Christians and persecute them as well.