Saturday, August 2, 2014

Does Anyone Care?

Scriptural Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Devotional Reading: Psalm 46

Last year a visitor stood and thanked the church for the love, encouragement, and assistance given his sister who he stated was on the verge of Lo-Debar. I immediately wondered where Lo-Debar is located and what did he mean. Having an inquisitive mind, I pulled out my Bible and reference materials to research. Geographically Lo-Debar was a real place on the eastern side of the Jordan River during the Old Testament times. It was a wasteland, a dismal place without pasture, a land of nothing. You end up in Lo-Debar when you are crushed by the storms of life. David had covenanted with his best friend, Jonathan, he would never cut off his kindness from his family. (See 1 Sam 18:1-9; 20; 23:15-18) In reading 2 Samuel 9 we find how great his love was for his friend and the extent he went to prove his love and keep his promise.

Saul and Jonathan had fallen in the Battle of Mount Gilboa. Upon learning this news, the nurse swooped up the child hastily to escape. However, she dropped the five-year old Mephibosheth causing him to be lame for life. They fled to Lo-Debar where he found refuge. King David inquired if there was anyone left within the lineage of Saul to whom he could show kindness for the sake of Jonathan. Saul’s servant advised that a son of Jonathan was alive, lame, and living in Lo-Debar. King David invited the heir to Jerusalem. Upon meeting him, Mephibosheth fell on his face, bowing deeply as he would before a superior. David told him there was no reason for fear as he meant no ill will against him. All of Saul’s inheritance would be restored to him and Mephibosheth would be able to sit at the king’s table for the remainder of his days. David graciously restored him to his father’s line of royalty. He was out of Lo-Debar, and it no longer mattered that he was lame. Mephibosheth was able to gain self-respect. He now “…lived in Jerusalem, … he always ate at the king’s table.” (2 Sam 13a NKJV). He was delivered from his suffering and became an example of the goodness of God.

My friend appears to be suffering in the wasteland of Lo-Debar. In actuality she eats regularly at the table of King Jesus. She knows Him because He comforts her and He is her strength. That makes her a perfect witness in the midst of suffering. When I first met her I found that her ministry is to comfort the sick and those who have just lost a loved one. Psalm 46 states, “God is our strength, an ever-present help in trouble…He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” (NKJV) If you don’t know Him, pray for an understanding to get to know Him.

Our lesson is found in the quarter of study entitled “The People of God Set Priorities”. We are in Unit III – “Bearing One Another’s Burdens” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first lesson of a five-lesson study of 2 Corinthians listing ways to sustain the community among believers. Today we shall look at the divine source, purpose, and power of comfort.

Paul identified God as the source of all comfort. It is He who gives us strength, not we ourselves. So Paul blessed and praised God at 2 Corinthians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, (NKJV) In the Old Testament He was “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob”. This described His covenant relationship to Abraham and his seed. In the New Testament He is described as “The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ”. He has a covenant relationship with Christ, our Redeemer, and the spiritual seed. He is the Father of compassion. All mercies come from God. He “...delights to show mercy”. (Micah 7:18 NKJV) It was from God that the Comforter was sent by Jesus Christ. The Apostle John records Jesus as stating, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.” (John 15:26 NKJV) It is from God that all our mercies and comforts flow.

What is the purpose of comfort? Many times Christians say they know God is the source and strength of their comfort. He is their Comforter. Yet they do not turn to Him in times of trouble. Paul made it clear there is a divine purpose for comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7. It reads, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (NKJV) When God comforts us we must be willing to comfort others with the same comfort we received from Him. The Corinthian believers had tribulations in the world, but they had peace in Christ. They abundantly suffered due to their belief in Christ, but they were comforted abundantly through Christ for suffering in His Name. Today’s believers suffer reproach, rejection, hostility, hatred, etc. because of our association with Christ. However, we shall continue to be comforted through Christ for suffering in His Name. We are qualified to receive the comfort of God’s mercies when we give Him the glory while speaking of our experiences and His goodness. By speaking of His comfort and mercies to others which blessed us, we become a blessing to others to hold on in the face of suffering. We become His vessel as we share God’s comfort with others so their faith will not weaken during times of crisis or suffering.

Having spoken in general terms of affliction and comfort, the Apostle Paul now mentions a severe testing he had gone through and the divine power of comfort. He described it as a life-threatening incident at 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” (NKJV) Paul tells the Corinthians, on a personal note, that he would not have them ignorant of the fact that he and his traveling comrades had experienced a very grievous matter in Asia. It is not certain what event Paul is referring to. He is adamant that the situation was outside of their control and they had been given a death sentence. They could not trust themselves to get out of the situation. They were delivered by the Almighty God who is able to do all things, even raise the dead. They are convinced God has delivered in the past, does deliver and will deliver in the future until the final moment when tribulations and persecutions shall cease.

Paul had confidence that he and his traveling companions would continue to be delivered from deadly troubles with the assistance of the prayers of the Corinthian church. “Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Cor 1:11) Trusting in God must not supersede the use of any proper means; and prayer is one of those means. We should pray for ourselves and for one another. The Apostle desired the help of others’ prayers. It is our duty not only to help one another with prayer, but in praise and thanksgiving.

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess 5:11 NKJV)

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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