A Comforting Thanksgiving

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  1 : 3-5
Subject: Thanksgiving; Thanksgiving Day; Comforter; Jesus, Presence of

A Comforting Thanksgiving

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

God is the giver of grand and glorious gifts. One such gift is so magnanimous that the Bible calls it, "God's unspeakable gift." That, of course, is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Those who receive Christ, receive along with Him gifts too numerous to delineate. So great are our rewards in Christ that they are lumped together in the phrase that we "are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us remember to be thankful for the spiritual blessings above and beyond the physical ones. The earthly things are passing, but the spiritual blessings are eternal. How marvelous is our position and resources in Christ our Lord. Let us think today of gratitude for the comfort we have in the God of all comfort!

Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the steersman at his post holding the wheel unwaveringly and inch by inch turning the ship out once more, to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then the passenger went below and said, "I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well."

This Thanksgiving may not find you free of the storms, but if we can see the Pilot's face, the Master of the Sea, we will know that all is well. God's desire is not to free us of trouble, but to take us through it and use it to develop our faith. Ken Crockett wrote, "God places many of his blessings outside of our comfort zones, then asks us to come get them." (Kent Crockett, The 911 Handbook, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, (2003) p. 67.)

Occasionally the New Testament speaks specifically of some benefit which is ours in our Lord. It is as if God picks up a jewel from the treasure chest of His grace and holds it up for us to see every facet and every glittering gleam of beauty within it. "This," He says, "is yours." Such is the case in our text today. The Lord lifts out of His treasures a single sparkly gem. This precious gift is called the Comfort of God. What a gift it is! How thankful we should be for it.

I. A Comfort we are to Appreciate

The Greek word for comfort is "parakaleo." We must understand this word in order to grasp the depth and significance of the passage we are examining. The word "comfort," in its different forms, appears nine times in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians and thirteen times in the entire letter. The word means "to call alongside." The word has more to do with presence than it does with provision. The picture here is of God being called alongside one of His children to comfort and cheer him on life’s pathway. My dear friends in Christ, we simply must be thankful for the ever-present Savior! It is not what He gives us but the fact that He is always with us that is most important. Yes, we have many blessings from His hand, but there is something even more special about knowing He is with us in all of life’s circumstances.

The One called alongside, in the words of our text, is none other than the Lord Himself. In fact, He stated as much in His own words found in John 14:16, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever." The word translated Counselor here is the same word translated as "comfort" in our text. In fact, in the KJV the word used by the translators in John 14 is the word comforter. The point is that Jesus was promising His disciples His divine presence in their lives.

Why does our Lord come along side us? What does His comforting involve?

A. His Presence to Convict Us

In John 16:8-11 we read, "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned."

Jesus pointed out that the Comforter will come to bring conviction. In other words, part of His plan to comfort involves pain! Like a doctor setting a broken arm, sometimes He may have to hurt us to heal us. He may have to afflict us in order to show His affection.

Are you going through a difficult time this Thanksgiving? Don't fret! God has not left you. It may be that He is re-directing you. He could be revealing something that needs to be changed in your life. He is with you, and He never leaves you. His path for you may not seem comfortable, but the Comforter knows best.

In Zechariah 12:10 we read, ""And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."

This text reveals that the pouring out of the Spirit would bring tears and mourning. That means that the Comforter brings the pain of conviction regarding sin, before He brings the pleasantness of comforting to our souls.

B. His Presence to Counsel Us

The word is used of John the Baptist when he preached as recorded in Luke 3:18, "And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them." You will note in the passage that the same word that means to comfort can mean to exhort. Sometimes we need to be exhorted. It can be comforting to have a word of exhortation spoken at the right time from the right person.

In Acts 2:40 we read, "With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." The word "warned" in this passage is the same word for "comfort." The word is used here of Peter preaching and of the conviction which Zechariah talked about in the passage we read. As the people drew near to the Lord, He convicted them and they turned in faith to believe.

In John 14:26-27, we read, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Once we are saved, the Comforter comes to counsel and direct us in our walk.

The songwriter penned:

“He leadeth me, O blessed thought,

O words with heavenly comfort fraught.

Whate’er I do, where’er I be

Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,

By His own hand He leadeth me;

His faithful foll’wer I would be,

For by His hand He leadeth me.” ( Joseph H. Gilmore, 1862)

Yes, we praise Him for leading and counseling us with His own hand, and you know that no one can lead you by hand unless he is actually with you!

It is comforting to have good counsel and sad to have bad counsel. Have you ever had someone give you a bad tip or counsel on an investment? How about bad advice on directions for a trip? Someone told me the other day that a friend suggested a shortcut on a trip and the advice ended up causing a one hour longer trip because the directions led in the wrong way. The Lord will never lead you the wrong way! Let us give Him thanks today that He always guides us in the straight path!

C. His Presence to Cheer us

At the gateway to the famous Parthenon in ancient Athens stood an altar dedicated to TEARS. No sacrifices were consumed there and no offerings were made at that place. It was simply an altar where troubled people bowed to weep out their sadness. Perhaps the tears shed gave the weeping people some emotional relief, but you can be sure it never really relieved their deepest need!

The word is used to describe the state of the saints in heaven as recorded in Luke 16:25, "But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony." It is the opposite of the experience of people in hell, and it is the picture of people in heaven. Heaven is simply the place where Jesus will call us to come alongside Him forever when our lives here are over.

We note in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 states, "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." Note that Christ has already given us eternal "encouragement." The word encouragement used here is the same as that for comfort in our text today. Even though Paul told the people that they had eternal encouragement, he felt it necessary to pray for the Thessalonians to know this comfort and encouragement. It is true that God has given us this consolation and comfort already, but we may not be abiding in it because we are not aware that it is ours. Because we are spiritual beings living in a physical world and physical body, it is possible to become "blind" to the glorious presence of God which is in us and with us.

During the Thanksgiving season, we are prone to think only of the temporal and physical things in life. My dear friends, think on that which will never be taken from you. Give thanks for the eternal presence of the Lord to cheer us!

Think about a person who has been named to receive millions of dollars through an estate - a will. Let us assume that the person has not yet been informed of the will and is now living in poverty. Is the person rich? Yes. Is the person living as if he were rich? No! He must know what is his and claim it for it to take effect. You, dear brother and sister in Christ, are rich in the comfort and encouragement of the indwelling Christ. Claim what is yours and be fully aware of His presence and blessings.

Note that the passage links suffering and comfort together. A fire purifies a forest and this often allows for greater growth to emerge in the months and years to come. So, suffering in the life of a Christian may well be the tool of God to perfect, purify and promote growth and development. Through the suffering of Christ we have been born again. The symbol of Christianity is an object of suffering. Let it never be thought strange that a Christian should suffer, rather let us be thankful that our Comforter is always with us.

II. Comfort we are to Appropriate

A. Look below you and Call for the Comforter

In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul points out that we must be aware of an enemy at work beneath us. He states, "In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." There is one beneath us - a satanic enemy - at work to trouble us. Do not let him get a foot in the door of your life. When the devil knocks, let Jesus answer the door!

B. Look Around You and Call for the Comforter

In 2 Corinthians 11:23ff Paul writes, "Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."

One cannot read this without realizing that Paul faced much suffering from people and from the circumstances around him. We need the comforting power and presence of our Lord, because in this world we will have tribulation.

It may be in your work, your body or your finances that you are being troubled today. Do not be surprised by these things. God said it would be like this, but you have a Comforter to lift you up and walk you through all that you face.

C. Look Within You and Call for the Comforter

Perhaps our greatest enemy lies within! O, that we could realize that we do not have the strength to live the Christian life in and of ourselves. We are weak but praise God, He is strong! We need to look within and turn afresh to the comforting, empowering presence of our Lord!

Zig Ziglar tells of the comfort he found from the Lord at the time of his daughter's death. "The longest 24 hours of my life were those after my daughter's death. When making the funeral arrangements with her husband and his parents, I had to listen to a salesman who was an incessant talker and who told us 30 times he wasn't a salesman. Twice while we were making decisions about her casket and burial, I had to leave the room; I simply couldn't handle him. The night before I had hallucinated. Half asleep, half awake, I kept thinking my daughter was wondering when her daddy was going to come get her. The next morning I took a walk and was praying and crying the whole way. When I returned, the Lord spoke in such a distinct way: "She's fine. She's with me. And you're going to be fine, too. I'm all you need. You just keep walking. Keep talking. Keep praying. Keep crying." (Zig Ziglar, author and speaker, "More Oxygen to the Flame,"Leadership (Fall 1998), pp.22-23)

III. A Comfort we are to Advocate

Sometimes the word "comfort" speaks of that which we could and should do for each other. We see this clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Therefore encourage each other with these words." The word "encourage" is the very word translated "comfort" in other places in the New Testament. We are to "comfort" each other. We see this even more fully in Philippians 2:1-2, which reads, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Here we note that any person who has been the recipient of God's comfort and consolation, should offer that same consolation to another.

It is interesting that at Thanksgiving we are more prone to help others. Gifts are given to homeless shelters and meals provided for the poor at this season. It is fitting that we do this. We who have received the wonderful blessings that flow from God's grace and comfort should be passed along to others. Let this be a function of our lives all the year around!

A. We Can Share our Personal Experience

Often that is what we see Paul doing. He is sharing out of his own experience and thereby encouraging his fellow believers. We all need encouragement. It is much easier to seek comfort than to give it. But, giving comfort through Christ rebounds more and more back to you!

A story is told of a child who had to walk each evening past a dark, spooky house. Some adults sought to give him courage. One handed him a good luck charm to ward off the ghosts. Another had a light put on the dreaded corner. Still another said earnestly, "It is sinful to be afraid. Trust God and be brave!" The advice was good, but offered nothing more. Then someone said with compassion, "I know what it is to be afraid. I will walk with you past the house." He did nothing to remove the fear except to lift it from the child's shoulders and place it on his own.

What can you and I do to comfort someone else? As you are giving God thanks this season, what can you do for someone else? Is there someone you can bless? Is there a way for you to use your own experience of God's comfort to comfort someone else? Surely there is!

B. We Can Share our Personal Encouragement

Sometimes the word speaks of that which we could and should do for each other. We see this clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Therefore encourage each other with these words." The word "encourage" is the very word translated "comfort" in other places.

Conclusion

Perhaps you are struggling this as this Thanksgiving approaches. Can you simply rest in the Comforter who is with you? Yes, surely you can – if you will!

A woman went to church one morning. A deep sorrow filled her life, and she could find no comfort. While she sat there in the pew a bird came in at the open window, and flew up toward the ceiling.

The windows near the top were closed, and the poor bird in seeking to get out to the open air again kept flying against one window after another. In her heart the woman was saying, “Why can't the poor thing come down lower and see the open window there?”

The bird grew weary and dropped to the floor. As it did, it saw the open window, flew out, and soon was soaring away into the blue. Then the woman said to herself, “I have been like that. I have been trying to find peace in the wrong places, but Jesus has a window open, and His arms are beckoning to me. I will humble myself and seek Him, and I shall find the light even as the bird found it.”

This woman found her comfort by simply yielding to Christ. [Simple Sermons on Simple Themes by W. Herschel Ford, Zondervan, 1941. Pages 41-42.]

During this Thanksgiving season, rejoice in the comfort of the Lord. But, to do that fully, you will have to humble yourself and bow at His feet. The Thanksgiving meal will last a few hours, but the gift of God's saving grace and comfort is eternal!

Let us praise Him. Let us worship Him. Let us thank Him. Let us encourage those who do not know Him to receive Him now! This is a great time to do just that! For after all, "Today is the day of salvation."