The Only Real Comfort

“For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
(1 Corinthians 6:20)

What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

There are a lot of things that bring me comfort – many of them involve bacon and/or gravy.  There’s the comfortable pair of jeans that I wear when I know I’m not going anywhere.  There’s the comfy chair which is guaranteed to produce a nap if I sit in it too long.  There’s a certain sense of comfort afforded by a 7 game post-season streak and a 3 game lead in the ALCS.  There’s even the comfort of depositing my paycheck in bank and knowing that I’m able to provide for my family.

Yet with all of these “creature comforts,” there’s always this sense that something’s missing, that I’m wanting something more.  As good as these things which bring me comfort may be, they do not truly satisfy the longing of my soul.

The human soul longs for meaning, for purpose, for satisfaction, for completion.  We are social creatures because, deeply wired in our existence, we are meant to be fulfilled by something other than ourselves.  We want to know we have made a difference, we want to leave a legacy.  We want to know that we have been right, not just correct, but righteous – on the side all that is good and lasting.  We want to know that we are secure, not just for today, but for eternity.

This is why the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism resonates with so many, it gets to the deepest longing – what is your only comfort, in life and in death?  Kevin DeYoung, in his book, The Good News We Almost Forgot, gives a little insight into the makeup of that question:

“Comfort” translates the German word trost, which was, in turn, rendered consolatio in the first official Latin version.  Trost is related to the English word “trust” and has the root meaning of “certainty” or “protection.”  Heidelberg is asking, “What is your solace in life?  What is your only real security?”

DeYoung, Kevin The Good News We Almost Forgot. (Moody Pub., Chicago, 2010) pg. 21.

The answer is this;

That I belong – body and soul, in life and in death – not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation.  Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Our only – the Catechism says, only – sole, unique, lone – comfort is that we belong to Christ.  More than bacon, more than the love of family, more than a healthy IRA – our belonging to Christ is the only thing which will bring us consolation, security, protection.

Christ has purchased us through the shedding of His blood.  Acts 20:28 tells us that Christ obtained the church with His own blood; 1 Cor 6:20 teaches that we have been bought with a price.  We were debtors to God’s glory, slaves to sin and death.  But through His cross, Jesus ransomed and redeemed us, our sins have been atoned for – all through His blood.  Our guilt, our shame, our debt has been covered.  We belong to Christ Jesus, and this is for our comfort.

What’s more, I am safe, kept in him.  Romans 8 tell us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, Jude 2 that we are kept in Him.  We are not just saved from wrath and sin, we are kept for righteousness – that we might be kept blameless before Him at His coming.  We are so preserved and protected by God’s grace in Jesus Christ that “not even a hair can fall from my head without His knowledge – and without it being for God’s purpose for my salvation.”  In Christ, there is nothing that I face that is not ultimately for God’s glory and my drawing nearer to Him.

Belonging to Christ Jesus, I am assured of eternal life and I am willing and ready to live for him.  Because He has saved and kept me unto salvation, I will live in His strength, His grace, His wisdom, joyfully serving and testifying to His goodness all my life.  I know that it is His strength that makes my work successful; His love that empowers mine.  I do not need to worry about tomorrow, or tomorrow’s tomorrow, for I know that, as Alpha and Omega, He holds all things in His hand.

What greater comfort is there than belonging to such a savior, of having your life hidden in His?  This comfort is meant to be our foundation, our starting place.  When you know that you belong, in life and in death, to Christ who purchased you, and that your life is secure in Him… well then I suppose you can face just about anything that comes your way!

SDG

Live What You Believe

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25–26)

Dear Friends,

If you’ve ever shaken a bottle of soda then felt the pressure building up inside, that’s a little like what my life had become lately.  Since the Memorial Day floods here in Cherokee this spring, I feel like I’ve gone from one crisis to the next, from one major event to another.  Without any time to breathe or even think, all of this busyness was taking its toll.  My sermon preparation had become mechanical, my prayer life was withering, and I dreaded writing this weekly update because it required me to sit and think.

Last week I was blessed to be able to take some time for reading and spiritual refreshment and renewal.  This wasn’t a vacation, it was dedicated time away from the needs of the church (preaching, teaching, visitation, administration), and focusing on my relationship with God.  I had a stack of books on Pastoral Ministry that I wanted to read, and I got through those; but more importantly, I needed the time to examine my heart, time to come under God’s hand of correction and consolation.

One of the things that this week showed me was that I was having a hard time actually trusting God.  My God had become too small.

I saw this primarily as I reflected on the time leading up to our mission trip to Haiti.  I knew God could provide, that God could open the doors for the mission to be a great success, that God could guard and guide our team.  But I had a hard time trusting that God would.  I had to have everything planned down to the last detail.  I felt, in my moments of heightened self-importance, that I was the one responsible, I was the one in charge, and that the success of the mission rested entirely upon my shoulders.  I knew God could do it, but why bother Him when I can take care of it myself?

Friends, that’s not a good place for anyone, let alone a pastor, to be in.

One of the books I read during my Sabbatical Week was Kent Hughes’ “Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.”  It is an excellent book, one that I would recommend for every pastor, and every church member to read (it’s got a great chapter on how the congregation can really help their pastor).  In the book, I came across this:

What you believe about Christ is everything.  If you believe that he is Creator of everything, every cosmic speck across trillions of light years of trackless space, the Creator of the textures and shapes and colors which dazzle our eyes; if you believe that he is the Sustainer of all creation, the force presently holding the atoms of your body and this universe together, and that without him all would dissolve; if you believe that he is the Goal of everything, that all creation is moving toward him; if you further believe that his God is the Lover of your soul – then you believe in the God that “is,”  you believe that the God of the Holy Scriptures exists!

Hughes, Kent & Barbara, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. (Crossway: Wheaton, Ill; 2008) Pg 68.

The hard question that we must ask then is this: “Do you believe what you believe?”  So often what we believe gets stuck up in our heads so that it becomes nothing more than just a block of knowledge that has no real impact on our lives.  The faith of the church is reduced to mere doctrine that has little bearing on how we live.  For many of us, the reality of the things we believe about God fades, the implications of His existence are overshadowed by the fears of our anxious hearts.

I had the opportunity to take a long hard look at my life and ask myself some important questions, questions I think are helpful for each of us to ask:

  • Do I believe that God can take care of me?
  • Do I believe that He loves me?
  • Do I believing that He rewards, that He is morally active on the part of those who seek Him?

Ask yourself these questions, and answer them honestly.

Whatever crisis you are facing this week, whatever trials (at work or at home); Isn’t your God big enough to handle it?  Has He not shown you in the cross of Christ how much He loves you?  Has He not promised that if you seek Him first in your life, all these other things will be given unto you?

Through all of this I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism which says,

I trust in God so completely that I have no doubt that he will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul. Moreover, whatever evil he sends upon me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father.

God is able and willing to provide your every need.  Live like you believe it.

SDG