Living in this world can be very challenging and difficult at times, even Jesus noted, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). The term tribulation means, a pressing together, pressure, and metaphorically, oppression, affliction, distress, straits (Thayer p. 291. But Jesus is telling us that while we will constantly encounter such pressures in the world (they will never go away), the Christian can continue to have peace in a relationship with Jesus. There are enough passages that tell us that bad things do happen to Christians, and beyond that, bad things will happen to us precisely because we are Christians (2 Timothy 3:12),that we need some comforting and encouraging words now and then. Paul said that one of the purposes for Scripture is, "that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). The verse states that there is a tremendous amount of encouragement that can be gleaned from reading and studying the Scriptures. This same truth is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 "Therefore comfort one another with these words". In this lesson I want to offer some specific Scriptures that should give us comfort.
Romans 8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us"
Paul doesn’t deny that this earthly life involves many trials. Sometimes even Christians will say, "Well, I hope being faithful and enduring is worth it". Paul has a different attitude. Whatever we suffer in this life can’t even be compared with the happiness and joy in being with God for all eternity. If we can just look at things from an eternal perspective, we will realize that: 1. Suffering was such a small fraction of our entire existence. We can’t complain that our whole life has been one trial after another, because our whole life will include eternity. The period of time that we must endure tribulation is just a dot on a timeline. 2. Eternity will make all our sufferings look like nothing. 3. The joy and happiness of heaven will make even our most painful memories seem small (Revelation 21:4). 4. The greatness of heaven will make us realize that if anything, we should have endured more and suffered more in view of a reward that was beyond our comprehension. 5. The reward that God wants to give us, should humble us and make us realize that we are not worthy of such a great gift. The sufferings of a lifetime, even by the person who suffered every day of their lives, still doesn’t make one worthy of such a wonderful gift. 6. Instead of regretting that we became a Christian, our reward in heaven will make us realize that being a Christian with all the trials that came with the Christian life, was the best decision that we ever made in life, and one that we will never regret in eternity. All of the above truths are also found in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance"
This verse offers me the following comforting thoughts: 1. God is patient with everyone, which means that everyone gets a good and fair opportunity to learn the truth and become a Christian. 2. God isn’t just waiting to disqualify me, that is, God really wants me saved (1 Timothy 2:4). 3. Friends and family members, who died outside of Christ, were given many chances by God to change. 4. If I couldn’t get to a person in time to teach them, if it seemed like the door of opportunity never opened, this verse comforts me that there were other opportunities that I didn’t know about.
2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad"
This verse comforts me from the standpoint that I only have to answer for myself. I am not responsible for the sins of my particular race or culture. I am not accountable for something that a distant relative did or didn’t do. There are no family curses. In addition, while the world may ignore the Christian and his or her good deeds, God will reward me for everything I did that was right. At times Christians get discouraged because it seems like all the wrong people in life are rewarded and praised, while our hard work, sacrifices, and good deeds are deemed as not being valuable. But we must stop being interested in temporary human praise and realize that the only praise that is worthwhile is praise from God, a praise that is real, genuine and eternal. "To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life" (Romans 2:7); "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" (John 5:44); "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him" (John 12:26).
1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it"
The word overtaken means, "Has seized, and holds one in its grasp" (Gr. Ex. N.T., p. 862). "The verb is in the perfect tense denoting that the temptation is one which lingers" (Willis p. 331). "Common to man": This expression tells us that we aren’t being singled out, and that we can’t make the argument that it is harder to be faithful in our times than were true in other times. Every generation faces the same basic temptations. This verse gives me encouragement because it clearly states that there isn’t something genetic that places me at a disadvantage in overcoming temptation. For example, people who battle lust or anger often try to fix the blame on some genetic or environmental factor, i.e., "I was born with a bad temper", "Raised by an angry father", or, "My sexual desire is too strong". This verse says that none of that is really why we give into temptation. Everyone faces and deals with the same temptations! The good news is that if one person overcame a temptation, then everyone can! All men and women stand on equal ground as far as temptation is concerned. Note: The word overtaken infers that this verse is talking about temptations that we really find appealing, the type that linger, which are truly a temptation for us, and the type that can become besetting and habitual sins if we yield. This verse is talking about the temptations that are our biggest enemies. "Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able": What a comforting fact of life. With God’s help, we can overcome even the most alluring and desirable temptations. No man or woman is destined to be a "weak" Christian for the rest of his or her life. Sadly, some people, who have yielded to a particular temptation so often feel that there is no use in trying in any longer, that they simply aren’t cut out to live the Christian life. This verse says the opposite! Note the phrase, "that you may be able to endure it". Resisting temptation, at the time of the temptation isn’t supposed to feel good. One mistake that some Christians make is that they want to resist temptation and that resisting should feel as good as the temptation might have felt if they had yielded, that is, they want some sort of immediate emotional or physical pleasure in place of a particular temptation. "Shut into a cul de sac, a man despairs; but let him see a door open for his exit, and he will struggle on with his load...How different all this from the Stoic consolation of suicide: ‘The door stands open’!" (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 862). On an everyday level, what God is saying here is that there is always a way out of lust, anger, envy, depression, despair, anxiety, worry, and so on. If a person remains trapped or enslaved by a particular temptation, then the good news is that the only thing preventing one from escaping is one’s own choice in seeking the way of escape! The fact that sin is a choice over which we do have power and control is graphically demonstrated in the language of Ephesians 4:27-5:6 "And do not give"; "Let him who steals steal no longer"; "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth"; "Let all bitterness…be put away from you"; "But do not let immorality…even be named among you"; "Let no one deceive you with empty words".
Mark 10:21 "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him"
This verse encourages me because it reveals that God really has a definite affection for people who do the right thing. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God’s love for us is practical or cold and doesn’t really single in on me as an individual. Jesus liked what He saw in this young man. While the love of God includes doing what is in our best spiritual interest, it is also encouraging to note that God really "likes" people who do the right thing. God has an emotional love, and affection for faithful Christians. We see this in the fact that Abraham, a faithful man in the Old Testament, was called, "the friend of God"(James 2:23). Or, when the Bible says concerning David, " a man after My (God’s) heart" (Acts 13:22). I am greatly encouraged when I know that not only will God always do what is in my best spiritual interest, but that when I am being faithful, that God really loves me, and that He considers me to be His friend.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person"
It does take a tremendous amount of time and effort to live the Christian life, and some times even Christians might wonder if they are really using their time and talents wisely. It can seem that effort in other areas is more often rewarded. Verses such as the above andMatthew 6:33 and Luke 10:42 "Mary has chosen the good part", confirm the truth that time spending serving God is never wasted, and is in fact the best thing that we could do with our time. In being a Christian, we are not missing out, spinning our wheels, or beating a dead horse; rather we are laying up treasure in heaven. The Christian can avoid what so many other people face that the end of their lives, "Oh, how I wished I had done something else with my life".
1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"
I am comforted by this verse because: 1. Going to heaven isn’t based upon perfection or living up to an impossible standard. 2. If I can confess my sins, then I can certainly see them. If I can confess my sins, then the Word of God is sufficiently clear to reveal either potential sins or sins that I have committed (Hebrews 4:12-13). While I need to be diligent, I am not going to worry and fret over ending up lost because of some sin that I could never see. 3. There isn’t any reason for me to be ruled by guilt, because forgiveness is only one sincere and contrite prayer away.
Matthew 10:36 "and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household".
One might say, "What is comforting about this verse that predicts huge family problems because of the preaching of the gospel?" What is comforting is the fact that if my extended family or immediate family is divided over my conversion, that such a division isn’t my fault. If the truth has driven a wedge between family members and myself, I shouldn’t feel guilty or that I have done something terrible or wrong. Neither should I feel guilty for putting God ahead of the wishes of certain family members. In addition, this situation is not unique, rather, it probably happens somewhere along the line in virtually every family.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017