Choice, Challenge, & Comfort – A Word from Dr. Mike

J. I. Packer, in his book Knowing God wrote about the tendency of some to downplay the “rougher side fo the Christian life… as to give the impression that normal Christian living is a perfect bed of roses, a state of affairs in which everything in the garden is lovely all the time, and problems no longer exist – or, if they come, they have only to be taken to the throne of grace, and they will melt away at once.” 

This false narrative can be deceptively misleading. The world, the flesh, and the devil still exist. Adversity will be a Christian’s constant companion throughtout his/her life. So, how do we as followers of JESUS, respond to the trials of life? Paul the apostle gives the answer in II Corinthians 7:4b-7. In reading this text, 3 words come to the forefront: Choice, Challenge, and Comfort. 

Choice. Adversity functions just like a water hose – ready to put out the fire of your faith. Yet, you control the faucet. You determine whether or not to turn the hose on or leave it off. You choose how to respond to adversity. 

Look at vere 4b: “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” The word “exceedingly” is the merging of two words: huper (“above and beyond”) and perisseuomai (“to overflow”) – in other words, a big flood. In the midst of adversity, Paul chooses joy. In this verse, Paul is saying that joy was overflowing the “banks” of his soul and spilling out into his life. Hence, GOD’s Word challenges us to choose joy in the midst of “all our tribulation.” James also pick up on this them in James 1:2: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” 

Challenge. Paul’s circumstances were very challenging. He writes in verse 5: “For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.” The word “troubled” comes from the word thilipsis, which means “intense pressure.” 

When you think of the word “troubled,” think of a pressure cooker. It cooks by building up pressure, and it can become dangerous if mishandled. Your adversity can function as a spiritual pressure cooker – you face pressure from all sides. Paul writes his adversity was relentless. It was “beating him up,” attempting to put out the fire of his faith. Problems waited for him wherever he turned. 

He writes “outside were conflicts,” as he makes reference to persecution and suffering. “Inside were fears,” as he makes reference to his concern for the division at the church at Corinth. Paul understands Satan attempts to use adversity to put out the fire of our faith – to cause us to lose our passion to love and serve JESUS. 

Comfort. To keep the fire of our faith going in the midst of adversity, GOD offers us His comfort. Look at verses 6-7: “Nevertheless GOD, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.” 

Paul’s external and internal pressures brought him to the point of being “downcast” – that is, depressed. But GOD comforted him. It is GOD’s nature to comfort His people. When Titus arrived back from Corinth, he brought good news. Some problems still persisted there, but the majority of the Corinthian believers had repented and reaffirmed their loyalty to Paul and the truth he taught. The fire of Paul’s faith was stoked by GOD’s comfort. 

II Corinthians 1:3-4a states, “Blessed be the GOD and Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Father of mercies and GOD of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation…” 

Pastor Mike

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