Friday, July 18, 2008

Christ our Comforter

"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. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Cor 1:3-5, NIV)
These are soothing words for today’s needy soul. It is a comfort from God, the One who fully understands our troubles and afflictions, is able to reassure us over and over again, that in Him, everything is going to be alright for He is in control. It is a comfort from the loving Father, who longs to hold us in his arms, to say ‘I love you’ in infinite ways. Most importantly, it is not in the multitude of methods that God has in his arsenal of love, but the magnitude of accepting us as we are, and comforting us in Christ.

Verse 3 of 2 Corinthians 1 strikes home the centrality of Christ in the comfort that God gives to us humans. There appears to be a chiastic structure organized by Paul in his introduction in his long letter to the Church at Corinth. In literary style, chiasms are words framed around a central point and purpose of the verse. I have rearranged 1 Corinthians 1:3 in the follow chiastic structure (ABXB’A’) as an example.

A-A’ begins and ends with reference to God the Father, the origin of comfort and the purpose of comfort. We are comforted so that we can comfort others. The word of God will not return to him empty. It reminds us to look back toward the Creator-God, from whom all blessings flow. Sometimes, we can be so enthralled in created things that we forget the person who made it all possible in the first place. Raising the bar a little more, B-B’ represents the father-heart of God. It is from God the Father that blessings flow from, it is from God the Father that all compassion is derived. This is important. Sometimes, there are people who claim that God is so high up in heaven, that they cannot fathom how God can ever come down to earth to empathize with lowly people in this world. How can he, maker of the Universe, fit himself into a small world called earth. If God cannot squeeze in, how can he comfort us up close? If A-A’ shows the Almighty God up high, B-B’ shows the loving Father up close and personal. Still there might be those who cannot comprehend how all these can ever make sense. That brings us to X, where only through the person of Christ, all things are held together. Sovereign God up high meets man up close in the person of Christ. X shows the pivotal central argument. Christ is 100% divine and 100% human. The blessings of God up high and the closeness of God the Father is driven home through the person of Christ. Jesus, being fully divine is able to know and understand the extent of God’s blessings. He knows completely the Father’s love. He is also fully human, and is thus able to understand the struggles and temptations mortal beings go through. That is why as Christians, we bear the mark of Christ, and only in Christ can we claim the comfort and compassion of God.

In a nutshell, all that the Father has, and all that anyone of us on earth can receive, is summed up in Christ. Jesus is central to our spiritual walk and faith. No amount of spiritual disciplines can replace this. A minute with Christ is better than hundreds of hours running on our own strength. We must be careful not to be too focused on the attributes of Christ, that we ignore the Person of Christ. This sometimes happen when we are too self-conscious and self-inclined, that Christ becomes another means to our selfish ends. Christ is our ever present help, a comforter in all our afflictions and troubles.

A Small Beginning is the Beginning of Comfort
Sometimes, starting small is the first step to accomplishing big things. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Ever wondered why Jesus uses the mustard seed as a parable for the kingdom of God? That is because smallness is something that everybody can identify and understand. Miniature size beginnings are more readily appreciated. When we look at a successful person in our industry, we may marvel at their achievements on one hand. Yet on the other hand, we bemoan our own ability to even reach a tiny spectrum of their feat, forgetting that these successful people often had humble beginnings. We see the external successes but fail to appreciate the internal toils and struggles that pay for it. Many great organizations of today began with a single vision, a sole prayer warrior or a dedicated individual who maintained hope in the midst of challenges and discouragement. Their most common denominator is a humble ordinary beginning. Be comforted, for Christ had a humble beginning. It is God who raised him up, and like Christ, we too will be raised up when the kingdom comes in its ultimate glory.

Being comforted is a wonderful thing. Sometimes it is necessary in order to make sense of the world, that while we live in a world of injustice and hardship, comfort brings a welcome relief so that we can get to hold out another day in hope. Little acts of kindness and goodwill is far better than procrastinating in the foolish waiting for one lump truckload of good deeds, which may never come. God often does big things starting with small deeds. If we can be faithful in little things, God will trust us with bigger things. Jesus came to earth as a vulnerable baby instead of a powerful ‘Rambo-like’ figure. He came to Jerusalem and was laid in a manger rather than a palace of safety and wealth. The baby was born at a dangerous time under the threat of King Herod who was killing baby boys, instead of being born in a safe hospital during peacetime. Baby Jesus came without weapons or wealth; exposed and defenseless; weak and dependent. In the midst of such helplessness, there is comfort in angels who ministered to him. He is almighty God but he chose to be weak for the sake of being with us.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Cor 1:5)

What a wonderful way to see comfort. Spirituality in Christ is a two-way street. As much as we are suffering, similarly we too will be comforted. Max Lucado has this to say about small things being used for God.
“Moses had a staff.
David had a sling.
Samson had a jawbone.
Rahab had a string.
Mary had some ointment.
Aaron had a rod.
Dorcas had a needle.
All were used by God.” (Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life, Nashville: W Publishing, 2005, 116)
Be comforted, and as you receive comfort, share and bring glory to God.


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