Monday, May 5, 2014

God of the Comfortable

We started a new series at Pleasant Bay yesterday; we’ll be working through 2 Corinthians for the next few months. I kicked things off with the benediction that opens the Apostle’s letter (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). There is one word that dominates these five verses: comfort.

Comfort hasn’t necessarily been one of the first words I would associate with Christianity. When I hear the term “comfortable Christian” it is universally pejorative. If you described me as a “comfortable Christian” I would assume you meant to take a jab at me or even land an insult. When I think of a comfortable Christian, I think of one who is selfish, lazy, unadventurous and indulgently religious. 

But a comfortable Christian is often very different than a comforted Christian.  

In Paul’s benediction, the word comfort isn’t so much about being comfortable; it is more about relief, rescue, encouragement, and deliverance. In this passage, comfort does not stand alone, but rather it is paired with suffering.

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 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. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

As a standalone concept, comfort might mean something less than positive, even pejorative. But when paired with suffering, comfort has a far more precise meaning. 

There is a lot in this benediction (for more of what I had to say about this, check out my notes or audio posted at, but let me just say this:  

Comfortable Christians often think that they can offer comfort out of their abundance. But comforted Christians know that the most meaningful comfort is often offered out of our suffering. 

It is not just a matter of a blessed few reaching down to pull up those who suffer. We are called to be transparent with our suffering and the comfort we need and receive from God… AND we are called to offer comfort to others through it all.

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