2014-Mar/April-Article 10-The Ministry of Comfort

 

2014-MarApr-104x136Relief for the Mournful

 

“The Lord hath anointed me … to comfort all that mourn; to appoint [promise] unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

C. T. Russell

Our text is good tidings in a very broad and a very deep sense. Its message is one of “comfort,” not only to Zion, the consecrated Church, but to all who mourn; and as mentally we cast our eyes over the world we are deeply impressed with the thought that the vast majority of mankind is in mourning: as the Apostle expresses it, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22).

A few who are full, satisfied, and who mourn for nothing, under these conditions are excluded from any share in this promised blessing; but they are exceptions to the rule. Some of them are wealthy in this world’s goods, feel that they have need of nothing, and are busy with their efforts to enjoy themselves. Others, though not wealthy, have a self-satisfied feeling as respects their moral status: they do not realize themselves as sinners, they do not realize their daily imperfections, nor their need of a Savior. They are not mourning for anything, and not therefore in the way to be comforted with the assurances, promises, and provisions that God has made for those who mourn.

So Jesus’ ministry of comfort to the world is chiefly a future work, when all that mourn, all the “groaning creation,” shall be brought under the blessed influences and provisions of the Millennial Kingdom, and shall there come to know the consolations that God has provided in Christ — the balm for every trouble, every wound, every blight, sin, and imperfection. But the poor world, blinded by the god of this world, neither sees, hears, nor appreciates the wonderful provisions made for them. Hence they cannot yet receive the consolation.

But as respects Zion, the consecrated Church, this comfort is now her privilege, and all children of Zion need to be comforted. First of all, they need the comforting knowledge that their sins are forgiven, and that they are no longer strangers and aliens and foreigners, but children of God, joint- heirs with Jesus Christ their Lord, if so be that they suffer with him. They need to be comforted, too, with the assurances of the Lord’s Word that our God is very sympathetic, “very pitiful” (James 5:11), and that if anyone be overtaken in a fault he may be restored, and “not be utterly cast down” (Psalm 37:24).

If the children of Zion had no such consolations as these they surely would be utterly discouraged, disheartened, and faint by the way. Hence the Lord provides these comforting assurances. To this end they must abide in Christ by faith, coupled with obedience to the extent of their ability. What Christian is there who has not shared these consolations, these comforts; and what Christian has not needed them, and realized that without them he would long since have been undone?

Our comfort comes through fellowship with the heavenly Father and with our Lord Jesus. We are comforted with the assurance that although our every imperfection is known to the Lord he is yet very sympathetic, very merciful; and that having provided, in the great sacrifice at Calvary, a full satisfaction for all sins, the Lord is very pleased to apply, on behalf of each of his adopted children the riches of grace necessary to cover and offset every unintentional, unapproved error and failure. What comfort is here! What consolation! What privileges of fellowship with the Father and with the Son!

And this comfort comes to us through the holy Spirit — it is the channel, and, hence indeed, called the Comforter (John 14:26). Those who have the holy Spirit may have the comfort; those who do not have the holy Spirit may not have this consolation. Only as we receive of the spirit of the Lord, his disposition, are we able to understand and appreciate the heights and depths of his love, compassion, and provision for us, and to be comforted thereby.

This comfort of the holy Spirit reaches us through the Scriptures, for the Scriptures are the medium, or sub-channel through which the knowledge of God’s grace and the comfort of all knowledge reach us. “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

This comfort in great measure is communicated by the members of the body of Christ one to another. “Wherefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Similarly, the Apostle Paul sent Timothy to the Church at Ephesus, and to the Church at Colosse, that he might comfort their hearts.

This signifies that he was to draw their attention to the exceeding great and precious promises of the Lord’s Word, that thus they might drink in of all the promises and thus be comforted, not only with respect to the things promised, but with respect to the loving compassion and sympathy of him who prom-ises them.

Writing to the Thessalonians, the Apostle says that he sent Timothy “to establish you and to comfort you concerning your faith, that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto: for verily, when we were with you we told you we should suffer tribulation, even as it came to pass and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-5).

Here again it is evident that the comforting implies establishment in the faith once delivered to the saints, that all the terms and conditions of our covenant should be clearly held in mind, and that the promises of reward at the end of the journey might serve to comfort, strengthen and establish the children of Zion in their endurance of the tribulations as good soldiers. This comfort was of the Lord, through the holy Spirit, through the agency of Paul and Timothy. The same Apostle, speaking in the same strain, says, “Wherefore, comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

All of the Lord’s people, in proportion as they are ambassadors of the Lord, and his representatives, will have the privilege not only by and by in the Kingdom to “comfort all that mourn,” and to be the trees of righteousness, whose leaves will be for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2), but in the present life they have a ministry of comfort to perform also, toward all who mourn in Zion — toward all of the Lord’s people who are in any tribulation, physical or mental disquiet, disease. In proportion as they are filled with this spirit now, it is their privilege to bind up the broken-hearted and comfort the mourning ones. No one can have this spirit of helpfulness, this disposition to comfort and to strengthen, and to edify, and to upbuild the household of faith, except he have in considerable measure the spirit of the truth, the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love. In proportion as each seeks to cultivate this privilege of brotherly helpfulness, in comforting and upbuilding and strengthening, in that same proportion he will find the spirit of love developing and abounding in his own heart.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort, who comforteth 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” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4).

Our lessons and experiences in life with trials, difficulties, and tribulations, should make us more capable and efficient agents of the Lord in communicating comfort to others about us in their trials and difficulties.

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