“What is your only comfort in life and death?”
This question is the first of the Heidelberg catechism penned in 1576 Heidelberg Germany by Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus. It was written in a time that comfort was sought out in the mist of tyranny and confusion. The Roman Catholic Church did much damage trying to stomp out the light of the reformation. There was confusion about the new found faith of the reformation and the quest for comfort was the force behind this catechism. Fredrick III was the man who employed the two men previously mentioned to write out the confession desiring something for Christians everywhere, young and old, to help them understand just what the Bible taught concerning their salvation.
The answer to this first question is…
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.
While it is natural and not unrighteous to seek comfort, we must know from where true comfort comes. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says 3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” Here Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs us too our true source of comfort, namely God.
What areas do we most need comfort? Let’s look at just two that I think are over arching areas, covering our lots of ground.
1. The first area and most important is the area of our sin:
For the believer, there is seemly nothing more grievous to our own souls than the sin we battle. What once was our delight, and the thing we actively or passively sought after for comfort before we were in Christ, has now become the scourge of our existence. With redeemed eyes, we now see that sin is the cause of all the worlds’ miseries, and even now as believers it is the cause of all our setbacks and sorrows.
Yet our comfort, indentified in this passage, is God, who Paul writes is the ‘Father of mercies’. For all our sins, there is a multitude of mercies in God. Being the father of mercies, all mercy is thus from Him. In the battle against our sin we can find refuge in His mercy. There is no temptation we come under that Christ Himself was not tempted in, yet without sin, He is able to supply sufficient mercy for every single case. Whether we seek Him for deliverance from temptation or forgiveness for having fallen to temptation, mercy is there in abundance, from the father of mercies.
As Christians who know the battle scars of sin, we find our only comfort in the mercy of God provided through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have all mercy afforded to us. Christ did not sin once, and His perfect righteousness is accredited to us through faith. Christ shed His blood and washed away every sin we have, or will ever commit. Not one sin is left uncovered by His cleansing blood. In Christ’s resurrection we find our new life. Because He is alive we find comfort that our sins truly have been forgiven, for Paul write about those who denied the resurrection of the dead saying “If the dead raise not, than Christ is not raised and you are still in your sins”. Yet Christ is raised, and this for us is the proclamation of a full and complete redemption.
Let this comfort you as you battle sin. “Dealing with sin is the Christians way of life”. (Paul Steward). We are to believe and fight, but drawing all our strength to fight from the truth that Christ has already won the victory over sin for us. Let that be your comfort as you deal with your sin. Dear Christian, don’t believe the lie that the thing for which Christ died, is the thing that will hinder His love for you. How could the love of God be blocked from you because of your weakness and failings in sin when it was because of your sin He came to die and rescue you?
2. We seek comfort in our trials:
While our battle with sin comes from within, trails come from without. Whether it is persecutions or the trials of life such as sickness, poverty, or whatever trials you can come under, these are the tribulations we go through. Even though we are united to Christ, we are still in a fallen world that has been corrupted by sin. We are affected by this. Trials such as sickness or persecution and broken relationships are all because of sins affect upon this world. Though we have trials in this life, God is not unaware or unaffected by them. We are encouraged to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.(1 Peter 5:7) God draws near to the broken hearted.(Psalms 34:18) As a good father, God tends to our needs and is especially careful with the bruised and weak among us. I like what R.C. Sproul says “There is no maverick molecule” meaning there is nothing God is not actively or passively sovereign over. This includes our trials, which have a design to try our faith and produce patients which James tells us, “Let patients has its perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”. This beloved of God is comfort in the midst of trials.
Yet our comfort in tribulation is not the end….Our comfort has a purpose other than our own happiness for we see from verse 4 which says 4Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God”
We are comforted in all our trials, THAT WE MAY also be able to comfort others with the same comfort we received from God, who is the God of all comfort. We waste our trails when we seek to flee them without understanding why God has allowed them into our lives, Or by not taking what we have learned and comfort those who are undergoing the same things.
Recognizing that we are a body is the key to ministering one to another. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12. When I hurt my hand, it is the other hand than tends to the wound. The strength and tender mercies we receive from God should in return be poured out on our suffering brother or sister in the Lord. Jesus said “you will have tribulations in this world” and then He comforts them by adding “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.
Let us be reminded that God alone is the source of all our comfort and the same source of comfort for all who put their faith in Him. Whether our trials or suffering be from within or from without, we have a sure word that God is who we can turn to and find comfort. He is not the God of “some” comfort; He is the God of ALL comfort.
Too look outside of God for comfort in this life is nothing short of idolatry. In essence idolatry is to divide the world up into parts and serve each individual part to the end of our own happiness. Many religions do this by worshiping many different gods according to their own respected objective desire. They have a god for the Sun, the moon, trees, and animals, each false god promising something different in return for the worshipper’s service.
To more modern nations the pursuit of happiness comes from serving the god of self; seeking to find comfort in things such money, houses, cars, and they give their whole lives over to that individual desire.
Yet we are to worship the one true God, who has made all things and is Lord over all. Too have a Christian world view is to view the whole world as Gods and His alone to judge or to redeem.
The pursuit of comfort by its self again is not wrong, it is only wrong when sought from individual things.
King Solomon was the one man who could honestly says “been there, done that” having all the wisdom and wealth to pursue whatever His heart desired and after all his pursuits of pleasure under the sun, he tells in Ecc 12:13 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; Fear God and keep His commandment; for this is the whole duty of man”. And yet, we don’t do this to well, do we? So again I remind you, Because of the cross of Jesus Christ we find sufficient mercies from our father, and this is our comfort and joy.
Let us find comfort at all times in the God of all comfort. Whether this season brings bliss or trials, look to Christ who gives us the promised Holy Spirit who is the comforter from God and helps us in all our weaknesses (Romans 8:26).