01 June 2013
I don’t take notes during sermons at church. Haven’t for a while. But today’s sermon, preached by our new Pastor at my church, was one that was heaven sent and noteworthy. When Pastor Nixon started his sermon, he remarked that “some of you will not like this sermon. But it’s coming STRAIGHT FROM THE BIBLE, so you know it will be true, and that will make it ok with you.” (Ok, my paraphrase of what he said, but you will see my point by the time you finish reading this.)
The scripture for his sermon was 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. When it was read in church, I was … put off. Don’t know if that is the right phrase, but Paul, the author of the book, has a way of tangling up stuff so that you don’t immediately know what he is talking about. (Ever heard of that verse: “the good that I should do, I don’t, but the evil that I shouldn’t, I do”? Yeah, that’s an example of a verse written by Paul.) Anyway, so I hear the verses read and go, “Ok, where is he (the pastor) gonna go with this confusing mess of scriptures about suffering and comfort and salvation?” Well, here is where he went:
POINT ONE: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: God does not say that you will not suffer, but He does say, that in your suffering, He will provide comfort.
All of us go through stuff. As Christians, that is just part of the package. There are some trials that you (and I) will go through JUST BECAUSE we are followers of Christ. For these trials, God comforts you freely in proportion to the suffering you suffer. (Ok, now I’m beginning to sound like Paul! Ugh!) In other words, as long as you are in the will of Christ, doing what He asks you to do, there will be trials. There will be people who will despise you JUST BECAUSE you serve God. As a result, they will persecute you, strive to cause you harm, make your life miserable. In these trials, you can rest in the peace and the comfort, that God gives you – knowing that He will work things out for your good.
But then there are the trials that are the result of our own stubbornness and foolishness and our will NOT to do God’s will. In those trials, we will never have the peace of God. Ok, when Pastor Nixon said this, I went still to my very core. I won’t go into details, but I KNOW a trial I am going through that is a direct result of my unwillingness to give up something that God has commanded me to give up. (Stubborn to the core). Y’all pray for me. Just because I am His Favorite don’t mean that I am not also spawn of the debla. And I’ll leave that there and move on.
POINT TWO: 2 Corinthians 1:5: God provides comfort in your suffering, so that you will provide comfort to others when they are suffering.
How many of you know that until YOU personally experience something traumatic: loss of a loved one, go through a divorce, miss a step in your walk of faith – you do not have sympathy for others going through that same trial? If you have never grieved the loss of a parent, you cannot say to someone who just lost theirs “I know what you are going through.” BUT ONCE YOU HAVE, you are never the same again. God uses our trials, our sufferings, and the comfort that we receive from Him during those times to help us be able to minister, strengthen and uphold others when they go through the same or similar trials. I didn’t have the heart I have for “caregivers” until I became one myself. I bet you can emphasize with this reality as well.
POINT THREE: 2 Corinthians 1:6-7: God allows suffering in order that you can find salvation in Him.
Some trials that we go through are placed in our lives for the sole purposes of drawing us closer to Christ in order that we can be saved eternally with Him. Now THAT is a paradigm shifting statement if you really think about it. We go through things – trouble in our family lives, loss of loved ones, stress on our jobs – because, it is through our trials, our suffering, our tribulations, that we draw closer to Christ and the salvation He offers us. Wow. How many of you know the TRUTH that when you are going through something, you spend more time in the Word, on your knees, and in the presence of the Lord? I know this is true for me. I wish it weren’t so, but when things are “going good”, it is easier NOT to do the things that strengthen your relationship with Christ so that you can handle the times when things are not “going good”.
So, that’s what I took away from Pastor Nixon’s sermon today. I wonder what else I might have taken away, if I’d taken notes.
©2013 Kristina E. Smith
If you want to watch the sermon for yourself, see what I missed, our church services are broadcast over the Internet at http://www.decaturchurch.comcastbiz.net/decatur_rebroadcast.html. Search for today’s date (June 1, 2013) or the title SUFFERING AND COMFORT. I guarantee, if you open your heart, you will be blessed.