Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: comfort

Still searching for comfort

Last week I wrote about finding comfort in God.  It sounds “spiritual”.  It sounds “Christian-y”.  But is it possible?  In this up-side-down, hyper-political, messed up world we live in – life can feel overwhelming, even too big for God to step in and fix.  Every day, we get more than our fill of discouraging news from around the world.

It’s not only us modern-day believers who look at the state of the world and struggle with God’s apparent…(dare we say it out loud?) ...absence?  …lack of involvement?  …delay of justice?

We saw last week that Paul counseled the Corinthian believers regarding God’s involvement in their afflictions.  But we can go further back and still see similar questions being asked of God.  When the psalmist who wrote Psalm 94 looked around at the state of the world and how his fellow Israelites were treated, he had this to say:

Psalm 94:3-7
Lord, how long will the wicked – how long will the wicked celebrate?
They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
Lord, they crush your people; they oppress your heritage.
They kill the widow and the resident alien and murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord doesn’t see it.  The God of Jacob doesn’t pay attention.”

What he sees seems a lot like what we see – wickedness and arrogance ruled the day.  People selfishly acting as if God doesn’t notice or doesn’t exist.  Although he doesn’t see an immediate end to the state of affairs, the psalmist knows where to find some measure of relief…and he still believes, that at some future point, God will come through for Israel:

Psalm 94:12-15
Lord, how happy is anyone you discipline and teach from your law
to give him relief from troubled times until a pit is dug for the wicked.
The Lord will not leave his people or abandon his heritage,
for the administration of justice will again be righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

And while looking forward to a God-fixed future can provide some measure of hope, he didn’t end the psalm there.  The next part of the psalm is what caught my attention:

Psalm 94:16
Who stands up for me against the wicked?
Who takes a stand for me against evildoers?

The emphasis is personal now – Who stands up for me…Who takes a stand for me?  The psalmist knows that rescue and justice and right-ness are all coming at some point, but what about me: right-here, right-now, in all the mess I’m living with?

He continues:

Psalm 94:17-19
If the Lord had not been my helper, I would soon rest in the silence of death.
If I say, “My foot is slipping,” your faithful love will support me, Lord.
When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.

Earlier, the psalmist acknowledged that God’s discipline and teaching from the law gave him relief from troubled times.  Now, the psalmist affirms that if not for the Lord’s help, he would be overcome by the wicked and evil present around him.

Lastly, we can all identify with the feeling of being filled with cares.  We even have phrases to describe this – When it rains, it pours | Bad things come in threes | That was the straw the broke the camel’s back.  But the psalmist has shown us that it is the culmination of God’s discipline, teaching from the Scripture, and trustworthy help that brings us supernatural comfort and joy.

God will fix it all in the future, but He hasn’t abandoned us.  He hasn’t left us to go at it on our own until the time He finally brings justice to the world.  His comfort is here for us now.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Comfort food

When the world has us feeling tired and worn down, we often seek an escape in what’s comfortable.  Maybe it’s a particular type of music, a favorite movie, a hot bath/shower, or curling up in a blanket on the couch.  Typically, though, when we’re looking for comfort, we go looking for what’s known as “comfort food”.

A family recipe or a dish from a favorite restaurant is what we usually go after.  Living down here in the South, the term takes on a whole new meaning.  They take their “Southern Comfort Food” pretty serious.

A few years back, I was in a men’s Bible study and heard another guy talk about finding his comfort in God.  He said it was kinda weird at first, but that after some practice, he was naturally turning to God when he was feeling battered and tired.  He also said that going to God first helped him rest and recharge faster than the other things he had been previously seeking out for comfort.

To be honest, it sounded a little weird to hear him talk about it.  I had my suspicions that it was just “Christian talk” as opposed to real practice (we wouldn’t say that out-loud, right?).  But really, I think my skeptical thoughts were more out of a deeper concern that he had figured out something that I hadn’t yet.

But maybe he had.

When Paul was writing to a group of believers in the sin-saturated city of Corinth, he acknowledged their difficulties and pointed them toward finding their comfort in God.  However, he also gave them perspective on why God allows us to have afflictions in the first place:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Notice that God will comfort us in ALL our trials.  That’s a great promise!  In addition, as we learn to lean into God for comfort, we are also learning how to comfort others in their afflictions.  While our afflictions and difficult seasons can be all-consuming in the moment, God sees them as the vehicle to demonstrate His love and comfort to others. 

I find it interesting, too, that while He comforts us in ALL our affliction, we will then be able to comfort those who are in ANY kind of affliction.  We don’t have to have traveled through the exact situation someone else is going through in order to provide care and comfort.

I fully admit, this is a concept that I am still learning.  But maybe that’s why I’ve had the health issues that I’ve dealt with and are still dealing with.  God is teaching me to lean into Him, to find my comfort in Him.  At some point in the future, I can expect to share comfort with someone else, the same kind of care and compassion that I have received from God.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Fighting the temptations of money

We joke about it, but there’s certainly some truth to it – There are no luggage racks on a hearse.

We’ve also heard the more serious advice – You can’t take it with you when you die.  Travel light.

However, our consumerism-driven American lifestyle isn’t the first time Christians have had to wrestle with the desire to acquire things.  There really is nothing new under the sun.  Every generation is faced with the same issues, they just might come at us in slightly different ways.  When warning Timothy about the dangers of greed-driven false teachers, Paul made this observation:

1 Timothy 6:7-8
For we brought nothing into the world,
and we can take nothing out.
But if we have food and clothing
we will be content with these.

Paul is telling Timothy that we can choose our perspective on acquiring money and the things money can buy.  But…we will be content.  That is a choice.  When we stop and consciously think about it, it makes all the sense in the world.  Having lots of money in this life provides no guarantees on how life in eternity will go for us.  We can’t buy our way into Heaven, and anything we accumulate will get left behind with our physical bodies when we die.

And yet it is so, so easy to get caught up in the pursuit of money and the things money can buy.  Our selfish desire to be comfortable, to “live the good life”, actively creeps into our thoughts and attitudes.  From my experience, the desire to take it easy has gotten stronger the older I get.  As my career and experience progresses, so does the value of my work.  With more money comes the opportunity to selfishly spend it on myself.

Which is why Paul then warns:

1 Timothy 6:9-10
But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Whether we’re wise with our money (and have no debt) or we’re unwise with our money (and buy everything with credit), the world repeatedly tells us that we deserve to take it easy.  But believing that lie is only the first step down path to a trap leading to ruin and destruction.

Don’t think for one moment that this kind of temptation only ensnares “false believers” and that “true believers” wouldn’t fall into the money trap.  With his very next sentence, Paul tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:11
Now you, man of God, run from these things…

We must choose to run…and we must choose to be content.  Paul isn’t advocating that we live with just the minimum food, clothing, and shelter needed to stay alive.  In just a few verses, Paul will tell Timothy that God gives us all things to enjoy (see 1 Timothy 6:17).  Paul’s warning is for Timothy (and us) to guard against the human tendency to take something meant to be enjoyed and allow it to become something that we focus on and love.  The best way to protect ourselves is to remember Paul’s words and choose contentment:

1 Timothy 6:7-8
For we brought nothing into the world,
and we can take nothing out.
But if we have food and clothing
we will be content with these.

Keep Pressing,
Ken