The Face Of Comfort

God has strengthened and comforted me lately. In the midst of tragedy and dark days, He has carried me like a father carries His son. He has shown me that when I am dependent upon Him, deliverance will come, in one way or another (The God Of All Comfort).

God is a comforter.

It’s not just something He does, it’s part of the essence of who He is.

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus – 2 Corinthians 7:6

God comforts the downcast.

God comforts me.

This comfort is not something that leads me into complacency. In fact, the comfort of God on my life is the very thing that drives me forward as a follower of Jesus. Or, according to 2 Corinthians, it should be.

Let’s look at the basis for this assertion real quick.

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 affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God comforts me and you in our affliction. That’s beautiful.

But there’s a call in this. We are comforted in affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction

In my 2 Corinthians journal (if you don’t have any of the ESV Scripture Journals, you’re missing out), I wrote to the side “God’s comfort of me should lead me to comfort others.” Now I’m probably not winning any awards for deep and poetic rhetoric, but that’s the unavoidable truth of this passage. It’s what has been in the back of my mind all week.

I live in a city that is full of people who are in need of comfort and strength, both inside and outside our churches.

The same is true for where you live.

If I’m receiving comfort of God while refusing to extend that same comfort to those around me, I’m missing the point.

When you look at 2 Corinthians 7:6, it’s cool to see that Titus got to be the face of comfort in the lives of Paul and Timothy. God comforted them via Titus.

God is the source of comfort, but you and I can be the face of it.

So, what types of people can we comfort?

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Trials 

I pull out my phone, start to type out a message, but then quickly put it away. This happens again and again. Circumstances are weighing heavy on my heart, but taking the plunge to ask for prayer is decidedly difficult, even with trusted friends in my faith community.

We live in a church culture that sometimes makes it difficult to simply say “I’m in need.” As followers of Jesus who have been comforted by God however, we should strive to make our faith community one where people can be real honest about the battles they are facing. One of the enemy’s greatest tricks is convincing our brothers and sisters in Christ that the church is where you should pretend to have it all together.

I have a friend who texts me every once in a while with a simple “How can I be praying for you and your family?”. That simple text reminds me that there are men and women praying for me and my family. The more we can do that for others, the better.

What can you do to extend comfort and strength to those in your church who need it?

And remember, Paul and Timothy felt at the point of death itself (1:8), so it’s not weakness to admit you need help too.

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Sin

This is probably the group of people where I struggle with this the most. I see things in black and white, not much grey. But there are innumerable people in our churches who need strength and comfort in the midst of battling sorrow for their sin.

For the unrepentant habitual lifestyle of sin, there are hard words that need to be spoken.

But for the struggling mother, father, husband, wife, worker, friend, or neighbor who acknowledges their sin and desires to change, what they need is not a reprimand, but a word of comfort and strength.

so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. – 2 Corinthians 2:7

Paul is here addressing someone in the church at Corinth who had sinned, causing pain to many. Although I don’t know all the details of this situation (I love that there’s always more to study in the Bible), I find it interesting that Paul commands them to comfort him.

Our churches are full of sinners.

Sinners who see their sin but don’t see grace need to be strengthened and comforted.

Those Outside The Family of God Who Need Hope 

Lastly, we should be comforters of those outside our walls that need hope to keep moving forward. Our world offers innumerable distractions and false gods to occupy the hopeless mind, but ultimately what every person needs is Jesus.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing – 2 Corinthians 2:15

What a weird term.

I am the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing (without hope).

So the extremely weird question we gotta ask is do people smell Christ when they’re around us?

I’ve sat in so many budget meetings and committee meetings and staff meetings in my short life, and while there is a place for them, arguments about money and preferences and plans fall short when it comes to spreading hope.

Side note: this verse doesn’t say that your pastor or your church or your men’s ministry is the aroma of Christ for your lost neighbors.

Nope.

It’s supposed to be you!

In the wake of so many tragic situations in my city, I can’t help but ask myself regularly how I can continue imperfectly bringing hope to a world that needs it.

God can comfort and strengthen you.

He does that so that you can comfort and strengthen others.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The God Of All Comfort

I got home from work last Monday, and all I wanted to do was climb into bed and fall asleep. I had the same feeling on Tuesday. The enemy was reminding me of all the darkness in this world, as tragedy after tragedy assaulted the place that I call home. When tragedy strikes, when I’m faced with darkness, I tend to give the enemy a foothold and dwell on the tragedies that have happened in my life. I was in a tough place. I didn’t look forward to the next days and weeks with anticipation. Instead I looked to them with dread. What would happen next? What tragedy would strike? What problem would I be faced with? How would I be able to keep preaching the hope and joy that are found in Christ, despite deep darkness and real pain?

Thankfully, I have an amazing wife.

She gave me space to feel, to hurt, to shed some tears, and to rest.

Yet she made sure that I didn’t create space away from God. She made sure that I didn’t dwell on the enemy, she made sure I stayed active and thankful to God for the gifts He has given me.

She encouraged me to get into God’s Word, even when I didn’t feel like it. She encouraged me to actually commune with God, rather than just check things off a list. Thank God for her.

I have opened up my Bible this past week, reading various books. I have found comfort in a surprising place. Deuteronomy.

There are chapters upon chapters of laws in the book of Deuteronomy. They are absolutely important, but they’re not exactly the place where you might would think to find a solvent for an aching soul.

The prelude to these laws is in fact a place of great comfort to me however.

You see, in the first several chapters of Deuteronomy we hear the words of Moses to the people of God, as he recounts for them all the wondrous things that God has done for them. All the ways that He has intervened on their behalf up until this point of the Bible story. It was in reading these things that God had done for His people that my mind began to be filled with all the ways that God has worked in my life as well.

One particular image leapt off the page at me, and I’ve used it to guide my prayers this past week.

So I said to you: Don’t be terrified or afraid of them (them being great massive giants in the promised land)! The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. – Deuteronomy 1:29-31

Side note. This passage at the beginning of Deuteronomy is Moses talking to the people of God about the previous generation and how they failed to listen to his words. The previous generation didn’t take these words of Moses to heart, instead rebelling against God, leading to their destruction and wanderings in the wilderness. 

That last phrase is what God used to speak to me in this season.

God carried His people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, like a loving father carries his son.

Years ago, my family got a bit lost on a hike at a state park here in Texas. My younger brother Matthew was really little at the time, and the heat was beginning to take a toll on him. My dad scooped him up and carried him until we made it back to the parking lot. That’s what loving fathers do. My dad would have been wicked if he had no regard for my brother’s exhaustion.

Our Heavenly Father carries us.

In times of complete exhaustion mentally, physically, and emotionally, God is there for you and for me.

The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is ludicrous and found nowhere in the Bible. It’s plain stupid.

Rather, God helps those who know they need Him.

This week I needed God. I needed Him to carry me. I needed Him to lift me up. I was spent.

As I sought truth in His Word and His face in prayer, I found the comfort I needed to keep moving forward.

Let’s look at one more passage real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . . For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 8-11

Pastor Jason Meyer sees an alliteration in these verses that I believe will help us all.

Here’s the process.

Desperation. Dependence. Deliverance. Doxology.

Paul and Timothy make clear in verse eight that they were burdened beyond their strength (which reminds us that the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is also a lie that’s not found in the Scriptures). They were desperate.

Paul and Timothy’s sufferings led them to rely not on themselves, but God. We see this in verse nine. They became dependent on God to comfort them and to rescue them.

God is a God of comfort. All comfort. All mercies. God rescued Paul and Timothy from their difficulties. That’s not just part of what God does, it’s who He is. It’s in His character.

Where did this deliverance lead Paul and Timothy? It led them to praise. It led them to thanksgiving in verse eleven.

This word comfort meant “to strengthen” in Paul’s day. God did not put a blanket around them and give them a nice warm tea. He gave them strength to keep fighting, to keep going.

God has carried me this past week. He has kept me going. I can’t help but praise Him publicly for this.

I don’t know where you find yourself today.

Maybe you’re where I was last week, trying to cling to any semblance of light.

Maybe you’re in such a dark place that you can’t remember the last time you awoke with enthusiasm.

Maybe you’ve had year after year of brutal battering.

Know this.

God is your Father.

He is carrying you.

God is a source of comfort. Know amount of Pizza Hut pizza, Blue Bloods, NBA basketball, or friendships were going to lift me up last week. It had to be Him.

If you’re desperate, tell Him you are dependent on Him. He will bring deliverance, and this will lead to praise.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

No Country

As followers of Christ, we are just passing through. As followers of Christ, we are sojourners and exiles on earth. We are in a sense men and women of the future, purchased by the blood of Christ for a present kingdom which will come to full fruition in the future.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

I never felt out of place growing up. Sometimes I felt a little different due to my belief in Jesus, but I never felt like I was a sojourner or exile here on earth. This still felt like my country, my place, my home.

This wall of confidence in this world being my place, my comfort zone, and my home slowly began to show signs of weakness and unsoundness my latter years at OBU. This was because my world expanded with trips to Salt Lake City and Portland. All of a sudden the United States didn’t feel quite as homey for me. The hostility to Christianity here in the states is still not even in the same league as other parts of the world, but it was definitely growing and my little world was getting rocked as I got to see it and experience it via these NAMB trips.

This wall of confidence in this world being my place, my comfort zone, and my home came crashing down around me in Phoenix. In a city that was 93% full of people who don’t submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I felt the spiritual darkness, the spiritual warfare, like never before. It slowly began picking away at my defenses, my incorrect beliefs of this being my place. Over the course of many months this kept happening, until one day I lay defenseless in my bed listening to a song come under my door from the other room.

My roommate was listening to John Mark McMillan’s song No Country. In the song, McMillan will describe his feelings of being an exile and sojourner on earth. This lead to the lyrics that were reverberating throughout our apartment, “I’ve got no place to call my country, no place to call my country, no place to call my country anymore.”

My heart and soul put up all their defenses. I hated what I was hearing. I didn’t want to believe the words of the song, I didn’t want to believe that truth of Scripture. Sure, it’s not popular to be a Christian in the USA, but this, this was my place. This was my home. This was where I felt comfortable and at peace.

I fought this sojourner identity with all of my strength. I made sure I kept myself distracted, I made sure that I didn’t pay too much attention on Twitter at how ungodliness and wickedness and injustice fill our earth. I made sure I went and saw Dunkirk and ignored the gnawing realities that surrounded my heart. When Jamie arrived for the summer, I ignored them some more. This was my home. This was my place to start a family with Jamie and to live happily ever after. The culmination of all my joys and deeds would be me making a home here on earth.

In the moments of being alone in the car or at my apartment, the nature of my place here on earth came cascading in with every minute of silence. So I’d turn on the TV and fight. On and on this dance went, and then I got my ticket out. I got back to Texas.

I had somehow convinced myself that being back in Texas would quell the attack, and that I would again feel at home here on earth. Four months of seeing family, friends, Jamie, working in a place I’m familiar with, and having my own home on a quiet little street in Vernon, Texas.

Then it came again. In the quiet. And when you live alone, there are plenty of those quiet moments.

It came again. Feelings of not quite being home. Feelings of being out of place.

Now I’m starting to get it. This isn’t home. This isn’t my country. This world is not my place. The culmination of all my joy is somewhere else.

If you’re struggling with this too, surrender. There are amazing promises of God in the Scriptures that tell us who we are in Christ. Don’t miss this one. In Christ, we are exiles. In Christ, we are sojourners. In Christ, this is not our home.

This scared the snot out of me before, but now it doesn’t. Now it invigorates me. Or at least it’s starting to. Because each time I don’t feel at home here is a glorious reminder that I was made for more. Each time I feel weird, restless, like a wanderer, it’s because God is reminding me that I was made for heaven. I was made for communion with God not earthly trinkets.

This should not drive us to hide in our houses and wait for the end. Rather, this should motivate us out into mission. The verse I shared earlier in the blog is about as explicit you can get about our nature. We are sojourners and exiles, yes.

Because of this, we should deny our fleshly desires, the desires that tell us to partake of this world in ways that don’t honor God. The following verse teaches us more.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. – 1 Peter 2:12 

We should live in such a way that the people around us glorify God because of us.

I’ll close with these two quotes.

As Christians, we can trust in God’s guidance even while we are in exile here on earth. – Daniel Akin

We can walk in the faithful footsteps of those who have gone before us, knowing that God will sustain us – like them – all the way home. – Eric Landry 

So go ahead, accept that this place isn’t your home. It never will be.

You’re a sojourner.

You’re an exile.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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The Weeping Christian

When was the last time you cried over sin? 381H.jpg

When was the last time you shed tears over the sins of our country, the sins of your community, and the sins of your own heart?

This happened to me for the first time in a long time yesterday. I got into an argument with my girlfriend, resulting in me saying some hateful words. After dropping her off at her home, I was overcome by my sin as I was driving and broke down in tears. I was mourning the wounds that I had opened and mourning the way my words were a grievance against God. I’m thankful for a God who extends grace, and a girlfriend who does the same.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I actually mourn over my sin. I may pray confessions to the Lord throughout my day, and the consequences of my sin may have lingering effects, but when have I actually mourned my sin before God? Ever since I was a kid I have been quick at confessing my sins, in my attempts to get things back to the status quo. Yet when was the last time I allowed myself to really think through the reality of my sin, and how it’s detestable to the Lord?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:2-3

In the famous ‘Sermon On The Mount’ section of Matthew, Jesus makes these promises about those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn. These promises are based off of character qualities, not personalities or circumstances.

What I mean by that is this. It is definitely true that God promises the kingdom of heaven to those who at a particular moment are poor in spirit. It is definitely true as well that God promises to comfort those who are grieving and mourning whether that be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other major grief that we can face.

But in my humble opinion, these promises are for those who walk in the disciplines of confession and contrition.

The promise found in verse two is amazing. The poor in spirit will be given the kingdom of heaven. In other words those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy will be given the riches of heaven, the riches of grace.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgement of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. – John Stott

How often do we live this out though? How many of us are poor in spirit, living constantly, daily, in light of the fact that we have nothing to offer God to earn his favor? I honestly don’t know many in my faith community that exude the quality of being poor in spirit. Yet when we are in fact confessing our brokenness and nothingness to God, that is when we will receive paradoxically all that we need from the storehouses of God’s grace. It is in admitting that we have nothing, that we receive everything.

It is like the old hymn,

nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

The second promise we see in this passage is the one that has prompted so much thought for me recently. Those who mourn will be comforted. Like I stated earlier, it is true that God comforts the grieving and mourning of those who are facing chaotic circumstances in their worlds. This verse however is about something far deeper than that.

If we are broken-hearted over our sin, the grace and favor of God will bring comfort.

It is one thing to simply acknowledge our sin, it is another thing entirely to be broken over it.

While I was quick to confess my sins as a child, I was just as quick to pretend like nothing had happened, plastering the smile back on my face and going about my day. It used to confuse and annoy me to high heaven why my family or friends who I had hurt would not be so quick to let bygones be bygones.

Our Christian culture tells us that as Christians, we’re supposed to be joyful, happy, not dwelling on things that don’t bring us joy. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not all joy and laughter. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not about being overly-bubbly or boisterous. According to Jesus, there is a place for tears.

The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. – John Stott

When was the last time you cried over your sin?

Man oh man, this is such a lost art. In one certain ancient creedal statement of the Christian faith, it is said, ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins’. Its as if we as modern Christians have lost sight of just how grievous our sins are against God.

There is a pendulum that swings in Christian culture between grace and holiness in regards to the emphasis of our literature, sermons, musics, etc. Right now the pendulum is heavily in the grace camp. This isn’t evil or explicitly wrong, but the over-emphasis on the grace of God (which is a wonderful thing) can lead to us not being remorseful for our sins because ‘there’s grace for that’.

Yes there’s grace for that. Which is wonderful. But let us practice confessing and mourning our sins before God. It is in these moments where we will be comforted by His grace.

Ironically, when we confess our sins in mourning before God, we receive grace which is the very thing that often keeps us from mourning our sins before God.

Brother or sister in Christ, be mournful over your sin.

Brother or sister in Christ, be poor in spirit.

Brother or sister in Christ, be comforted by His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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