In the evening, when all of my responsibilities for the day are done, one of my favorite ways to relax is to read a Christian novel, especially a mystery story. Since these stories usually center around solving a puzzling crime, they keep my interest until the end.
In the Bible, the word mystery isn’t quite the same as the world’s idea of a mystery. It refers to truths that are undiscoverable by human understanding. Only by revelation from God do these truths become learnable. The focus of this week’s Advent devotions from God Is In The Manger, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, center around the biblical theme of mystery.
To live without these mysteries is to live limited to human reason, seeing only what is visible on the surface. Mystery is used over 45 times in the Bible, most in the New Testament. A few of these are the mysteryoflawlessnessandiniquity, the mysteryofthe will of God, the mystery of Christ and the church, and the mystery of the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven in Mathew).
But there is one mystery that stands out above all the others. To live without God’s mysteries being revealed is to live without Christ Jesus, because we cannot come to the a knowledge of Christ Jesus or accept Him without the Father drawing us.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:44 NIV
In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul speaks of Christ as “the mystery of God.“
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 NIV
Bonhoeffer calls God’s willingness to become human “The Wonder of All Wonders.” That God loved the people of this fallen world so much that He gave His only Son, Christ Jesus, that those who believe in Him will not perish but would have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Jesus Christ is the unrecognized mystery of this world:
He became lowly and weak, out of love for mankind.
He shows that God loves the world, not an ideal world but the real, fallen one.
He is God revealed in flesh, the God-human Jesus Christ.
He was born as a human baby, placed in a lowly manger where animals had been fed.
Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, was also the Lord of glory.
He lived a sinless life, then took upon Himself all of our sin.
Because of His sacrificial death on the Cross, we can all be forgiven.
He is coming back soon for those who eagerly await His return.
During this Advent Season, I’m reading God In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, a book of daily devotionals by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943 while he was in Tegel prison camp in Germany. I will usually be doing a weekly blog post, sharing some truths and quotes that were especially helpful to me. This is a second post on the materials covered in Week 1.
On Week 1, Day 4, Bonhoeffer shifts his focus from Jesus’ first coming to pay the penalty for our sin, to His still future second coming. He begins with what he calls “The Un-Christmas-Like Idea,”
“When the old Christendom spoke of the coming again of the Lord Jesus, it always thought first of all of a great day of judgment.”
There will be two judgments, one for believers and another for unbelievers. Revelation 20:11-15 describes what is called the Great White Throne Judgment. “Books” are mentioned in this passage, the book of life and other unnamed books where the dead whose names were not written in the book of life are judged “according to what they had done.“
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)
Those whose names are written in the book of life will not be judged for their sins. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes this clear. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) But this doesn’t mean our works as believers in Christ are not important. The next two Scriptures make it clear that when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ we will give an account for our works IN CHRIST, after we surrender our lives to the Lord. This judgment has to do with rewards versus loss. As Christians, we will all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, where our works at believers will be judged.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 ESV
2 Corinthians 5:11 begins with these words: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” Most of the people who read my blog posts have committed their lives to Christ Jesus as the Savior and Lord. For you, take advantage of this Christmas season by sharing your personal testimony with some who still need to be persuaded of this life-changing decision.
For those reading these words who have not yet made this decision, there is no better time to do so that during this season when we focus on Jesus’ coming as a baby in a manger. For this wasn’t a normal baby. He was God in human flesh, and for thirty-three years He lived a sinless life. Then, Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross, paying the penalty for the sin of all who put their faith in Him. But that isn’t the end of the story. Three days later, He conquered death. As it says in Acts 2:24 (NIV), “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
If you haven’t made the decision to make Jesus Christ your Savior and Lord, I invite you to pray the following prayer.
Lord Jesus, I believe You died on the Cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I recognize I need Your forgiveness for my sins. I want to turn away from living life my own way, but to do that I need Your help. Please come to live in my heart, through Your Holy Spirit. I surrender my life to You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You for forgiving my sin and accepting me as Your child. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
The Christmas season after I graduated from college was when I personally made this life-changing decision. My life – and my Christmas celebrations – have never been the same since then. If you prayed the above prayer, I believe this will also be a part of your testimony. Jesus will no longer just be a baby in a manger to you. He will be Your Savior, Lord, and coming King.
During this Advent Season, I’m reading “God In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas,” a book of daily devotionals by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943 while he was in Tegel prison camp in Germany. I will be sharing some of the most important points from this book, points that really stood out to me. This week, I’ll be dividing the material into two posts, since it would be difficult to share all of the important points in one post.
GOD IN THE MANGER: REFLECTIONS ON ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS, WEEK 1, PART 1
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor, theologian, and peace activist. He wrote without compromise about the Christian faith, as he stood against atrocities of the Nazi Regime. He was imprisoned shortly after Hitler’s cruel reign began in 1943, and was executed just weeks before the end of the war. God In the Manger was originally in German, and the version I’ve reading was translated by O. C. Dean Jr. and compiled and edited by Jana Riess.
Week 1 in this devotional focuses on the truth that Advent is A SEASON OF WAITING. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word, “adventus”, that means “arrival or appearance.” For Christians, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and is a period of preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ first coming as an infant, God in human flesh, also known as the Incarnation. It is also a reminder that He has promised to come again, this time as Conquering King.
In a letter to his best friend Eberhard Bethge, as the holiday season was approaching in 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote:
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other—things that are really of no consequence—the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
Since I have personally been in a season of waiting on God for several months for an answer to prayer, this week of devotions was encouraging to me. One quote from Day 2 especially stood out to me.
“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait… Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting – that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.”
Waiting on the Lord to answer our prayers is in essence “hopefully doing without.” This was one of the most helpful quotes I’ve even read about waiting on God. God seldom moves in our timing, so waiting with hope and expectation is the key to not giving up.
In Week One, Day Three, Bonhoeffer explains that not everyone can successfully wait on the Lord. It takes a special kind of people, those who understand that they are poor and incomplete in themselves, waiting on the Holy One, the only Complete One, “God in the Child in the manger.” He is our source of strength and power to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
When Jesus came in Bethlehem, He came as the LAMB OF GOD who would take away the sins of all who placed their faith in Him. John 3:16, the best known Bible verse by most people, makes it clear that God gave His Son because of His love for those He created. All men and women, boys and girls, are offered this gift, but to receive it we must believe in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
Jesus, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, will soon be coming a second time, as the LION OF JUDAH. Lions symbolize power, fierceness, and majesty. Lions have been called the king of the beasts. When Jesus returns, He will come as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5) Hebrews 9:28 says this time He will be coming for “those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Does that include you?
As we prepare for Thanksgiving Day, I was reminded this morning of the Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving festival, as they gathered with their Indian neighbors who had helped them learn how to have a bountiful harvest their first summer in The New Land. They gathered for a three-day celebration to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. During this first year, nearly half of those who had arrived at Plymouth Rock had died of illness and starvation, yet they gathered to thank God for His faithfulness and goodness to them during this first year in The New Land.
Our family is also nearing the end of our first year in our new home in rural East Texas. Our first harvest wasn’t as bountiful as the Pilgrims experienced – we had no Indians (or local farmers) to help us – and we knew very little about gardening. Then in July, our whole family caught the dreaded COVID-19. Since all three of us have chronic illnesses, each of us could have ended up in the hospital. But by God’s grace we all made it through the illness with no complications. Thank You, Lord!
For me, this was the beginning of five months of dealing with one health problem after another. I come to this Thanksgiving feeling weary and yet thankful for God’s faithfulness and goodness to us during this first year in our new home. He has given us a home that is fully paid for and abundantly meets our needs. Thank You, Lord Jesus.
And I especially thank the Lord that my wrist tendonitis is now healed. It began before COVID, in late June, and on Monday my hand orthopedic doctor said it is now healed. The treatment with a wrist brace with thumb splint was successful, so I don’t need the injection my PCP thought might be needed or any surgery. No more wearing the brace needed either. That’s definitely worth a big THANK YOU to the Lord Jesus Christ for healing me.
I hope all of you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. Be sure to remember God’s faithfulness and goodness to you and your family during this year, that will soon be coming to an end.
Hebrews 4 was my scheduled New Testament reading for today, a chapter that focuses on entering God’s rest. Rest is a treasured truth for me right now, as I deal with a painful mouth ulcer that is not healing as I’ve hoped it will. I need to experience God’s rest, so that I don’t end up trying to handle this problem in my own strength.
Remember, biblical chapter numbers were not in the original text. So when a chapter begins with the word “Therefore” you need to look back to the previous chapter to see what it was “there-for.”
Context is another important key to understanding the meaning of a passage. The following verses will make more sense if before reading them you read Hebrews 3:7-19 and Hebrews 4.
These verses help us understand God’s Rest:
“And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”
“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 3:18-19; 4:1-2; 9-11 ESV
“Therefore” in Hebrews 4:1 refers back to the text on entering rest in Hebrews 3:7-19. I thought verses 18-19 summed up the message of the entire section. To enter God’s rest, faith is the key. But unbelief and disobedience are closely connected. Disobedience is the Greek word apeitheia, which literally means “the condition of being unpersuadable.”
To be unpersuadable is to obstinately reject the will of God. This is caused by unbelief, and the effect of unbelief is disobedience. Therefore, because of this cause and effect relationship, stubbornly being unpersuadable is the root of both of these decisions. I hope you will read the following affirmation aloud, as an expression of your submission to the will of God for your life.
When God speaks, I will not stubbornly refuse to be persuaded of His message. I will respond with both faith and obedience. When I do this, God has promised I will by faith enter His Sabbath rest, resting from my own works and resting in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, I will be led and empowered to accomplish God’s will for my life.
My New Testament Bible reading this morning was Philippians 2. This is a chapter I’ve studied many times, but as I was reading it this morning, verses 12-13 stood out to me. What exactly does it mean to “work out your own salvation?” So I did some studying to make sure I understood the true meaning of these verses.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 ESV
First, I looked up the Greek word for “work out” using the Blue Letter Bible, and I learned it means “to do that from which something results.” Further research gave me this meaning: “to carry out to its full perfection.” This obviously does not refer to earning our salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we were saved by grace through faith, no works on our part are involved.
So what exactly does it mean work out your own salvation? To answer this question, we need to look at the tenses of salvation. Salvation has three tenses: past, present, and future.
PAST SALVATION is also known as JUSTIFICATION. If you are a Christians, this means that all of your sins have been forgiven by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This past tense of salvation applies to everyone who has come to Jesus for forgiveness of sins and is “by grace through faith“. No matter how many good works we do, we cannot earn this stage of salvation. It is a free gift of grace. We have been delivered from both slavery to sin and its PENALTY.
PRESENT SALVATION is the tense of salvation described in Philippians 2:12-13. Basically, it is DELIVERANCE from the POWER of sin, in which we have a part. This stage is also known as SANCTIFICATION. I’ll go into more detail about this in a minute.
FUTURE SALVATION is also known as GLORIFICATION. It happens when we see Jesus face-to-face, and we receive our new bodies that will be FREE FROM ALL OF SIN’S CORRUPTION. In Romans 8:23 Paul calls this the “redemption of the body.”
Philippians 2:12-13 is about the stage of salvation in which you are currently living, if you are a genuine Christian. And these verses give us an essential key to how we are changed into the image of Christ. PRESENT SALVATION or SANCTIFICATION includes more than a mere moral change of character, brought about by learning the truth of God’s Word. The words “work out” are important. We can only “workout” what Christ has already put within. We have a part in this second stage of salvation, but Scripture says it is primarily a work of the Holy Spirit.
“And such were some of you (referring to the unrighteous, see verses 10-11). But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV
SANCTIFICATION is the stage of salvation in which we have HUMANRESPONSIBILITY, combined with DIVINE RESOURCES. The Holy Spirit Who lives within us works in our will, to bring each of us to a place of surrender to the will of God. Then He gives us the capability to do what He has called us to do; i.e., to “work out” what He has “workedin.”
There was two main areas included in this stage of salvation: (1) Being conformed to the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29), and (2) Completing the good work that God planned for us even before we were born (see Ephesians 2:10).
I want to close with a unique illustration on which makes it clear that this process of sanctification is Spirit-empowered and also requires our obedience to the teaching and leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is from one of my favorite resources for quotes or in-depth study of Scripture verses or passages, https://www.preceptaustin.org/observation
“There are some Christians whose lives are like a parked (or stalled) car – if God wants them to move down the road of life, He will have to push them Himself.
“Others live the Christian life by keeping their car washed and polished—looking good on the outside—but they fail to give proper attention to the engine that supplies the power.
“Still others live the Christian life by holding the steering wheel and patiently waiting for instructions on where and when to go. Their car has been gassed up by the presence of the Holy Spirit (Php 2:13) Who freely gives His power and counsel for the journey ahead: a lifetime of adventure in the Spirit!
“Are you like that parked car? Are you stalled on the highway to holiness? Are you waiting for a push (a “Let go and let God” mindset)? Even worse, are you trying to push your car down the road of life in your own natural energy?
“Or is your life one that looks good on the outside but lacks the Spirit’s power on the inside? Your most successful life journey will be to begin to sit prayerfully in the presence of His Word and to daily learn to use His Spirit’s energizing supernatural power and counsel to work out your salvation.
“The only thing the Lord will not provide is the decision to sit behind the wheel, turn on the ignition and drive. This is a choice of the will that each one of us must make, but God even gives us that desire. But we still have the choice to act on His desire or to act on our won desire. The choice is yours.”
My last blog post was in June, so I decided it was time to write a new post. Typing is a challenge right now, using mostly one hand because my right hand is in a wrist brace with thumb splint, but here this goes. This is a short post I wrote this morning on one of the most familiar passages in the Old Testament.
This familiar psalm teaches us so much about our Good Shepherd. I used Psalm 23 in the New English Version this morning to gain a fuller understanding of what it means when we use the name of Yahweh Rohi, meaning the Lord my shepherd. (Numbers correspond to verse numbers)
As my Shepherd, He provides for ALL my needs
He meets my PHYSICAL needs.
He meets my SPIRITUAL needs.
He is WITH ME in the darkest valley.
He has a SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP with me, even in plain sight of my enemies. My cup is completely full.
His “hesed” – His GOODNESS and FAITHFULNESS – will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live with Him forever.
“Hesed” describes the covenant relationship Yahweh has with His children. This Hebrew word has no one English word that even comes close to it’s full meaning. Other Bible versions translate it LOVINGKINDNESS, UNFAILING LOVE, and STEADFAST LOVE. It also conveys the meaning of DEVOTION and LOYALTY.
Take some time today to thank Yahweh Rohi for all He is and does for us. Another good Scripture to study is John 10: 1-18, which gives us an extended picture of Yahweh Rohi through the life of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
I grew up going to church every week, often more than once. I even taught a Sunday School class in my local church. But throughout those years, I didn’t know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.
That changed the year after I graduated from college. I was beginning a career as a kindergarten teacher. Soon after moving to the town where I had a teaching position, I did what was a lifestyle for me – I looked for a church to join. While this church was of the same denomination of the churches I had been a part of, it was very different.
For the first time, I heard the gospel clearly explained. I learned than Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, and I was encouraged to surrender my life to Him and accept Him as my personal Savior and Lord. I was told when I did this, that Jesus came to live in my heart through the Holy Spirit. He was now my teacher and guide for how to live as a believer in Jesus Christ. And this began a lifelong adventure was walking the genuine Christian life.
This happened in 1972; it’s now 2022, fifty years later. While I’ve matured in the faith from those early days as a Christ, I’m still learning how to walk in the truth of God’s Word. In fact, I’m currently taking a nine week, in-depth course on renewing my mind in a specific area where I’m not yet walking in victory, which I chose as my “mountain” that I need to overcome.
We choose what we will believe! A belief is something that we either consciously or unconsciously accept as truth. But there is only one source of truth: THE WORD OF GOD!
Most of us, no matter how long we have been Christians, still have a few areas of our lives where we are not walking in victory. These are the areas where we need to renew our minds by recognizing the lies we are still believing and replacing them with related truths from the Word of God.
Renewing the mind is basically rewiring your brain to think like Christ Jesus – to have the mind of Christ. Dr. Caroline Leaf speaks of this in her book Switch On Your Brian: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.
“God designed humans to observe our own thoughts, catch those that are bad, and get rid of them... You cannot sit back and wait to be happy and healthy and have a great thought life; you have to make the choice to make this happen. You have to choose to get rid of the toxic and get back in alignment with God. You can be overwhelmed by every small setback in life, or you can be energized by the possibilities they bring.
“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking.”
In physical terms, this is what happens when we choose to renew our minds. The actual structure of our mind changes as we learn to think differently about a specific area of our lives. We learn to recognize our wrong thoughts and replace them with truths from God’s Word… and continue doing this until we have learned a new way of thinking.
An essential step in renewing our minds is understanding our identity in Christ, who we are in Christ. Our minds have been influenced since early childhood by things our family, friends, teachers and other acquaintances have said about us, things which have physically changed the structure of our brains. Renewing the mind includes building new pathways for our thoughts about ourselves.
I’ve learned that renewing the mind takes time and effort. It requires honestly facing the lies we are believing, lies that are keeping us from walking in victory in a specific area of our life. It’s important that we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in this step, because the very nature of lies is that we often don’t recognize them.
The class I’m currently taking has use begin with a “mind dump,” with listing at least ten thoughts that are currently on our minds. As I did this, I was surprised at the toxic thoughts that showed up. Then, we allow the Holy Spirit to reduce the list, one step at a time, until we recognize the “mountain” God currently wants us to focus on. A question made it easy for me to narrow my list down to one: What does the Lord see as the weighty issues in my life? Suddenly, I knew the area the Lord wanted me to focus my mind renewal on, something I had not even considered before that.
This is just an introduction to renewing our minds. If any of you are interested in a time of intense mind renewal, just leave a message in the comments after this post. I will be glad to give you the name of the study I’ve been doing – for the third time. This is just a taste of what I’m learning about renewing my mind. Each time I’ve done the study, I’ve seen major change in a problem area of my life, an area where victory had always seemed just beyond my reach. IT IS POSSIBLE TO WALK IN VICTORY IN AREAS OF PERSISTENT SIN – AND MIND RENEWAL IS THE KEY!
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.
Genesis 17:1 NASB
We have now been in our new home for three weeks … three very busy weeks. One of our first goals in our new town was to find a new church. Yesterday was our second Sunday at the first church we had picked to try out, and the pastor is doing a series entitled Did God Really Say That? In it, he is examining some of the common misconceptions we might be believing about the Bible.
Since Eve’s encounter with the serpent in Genesis 3:1-3, the enemy of our souls has worked to convince people to believe lies about God. The lie covered in yesterday’s sermon was the often heard phrase, God will never give you more than you can handle. Pastor Gary Marshall made it clear that God allows us to face more than we can handle in our own strength, but that’s because we were created to need Him. The only all-sufficient One is El Shaddai, God Almighty.
This was a lesson even the apostle Paul had to learn. God gave many revelations to Paul, but to keep him humble and dependent upon the Lord he also faced severe persecutions and other circumstances that caused him to be weak. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he shares an insight that confirms the truth that God never said He wouldn’t give us anything we couldn’t handle. Indeed, He wants us to know His supernatural power is available to us when we’re weak.
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NASB
I don’t know what you may be facing today, but I do know from personal experience that God allows us to feel weak so we will learn to depend upon His wisdom and strength. God created us to need Him, not to lean on our own understanding or strength. He is the only One Who is self-sufficient and all-powerful. There is nothing God cannot do. If God calls us to do something for Him, we need to remember that He never intended for us to do it by our own abilities. He has sent the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom and strength to complete the task. No matter what God may be asking of you today, remember He is the All-Sufficient One. He will be enough if you depend upon Him!
On November 5, 2018, our son David was taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s Hospital. I accompanied him, thinking this was simply one of many hospitalizations for our profoundly retarded, medically fragile son. But when we arrived at the hospital, I quickly learned this wasn’t just another ER visit or admission to the hospital. David was taken to a room, and his home care nurse, aide and I were taken to a different room to wait while he was examined. As I was waiting for a report from the ER doctor, I had one of the most distinct visitations from the Lord I’ve ever experienced. The Lord spoke clearly to my heart that it was time, He was taking our son to be with Him.
As we waited beside David’s ICU bed, our family and some of David’s private duty nurses stood at his bedside. We knew David would not be going back home with us this time, so there was a deep grieving in our hearts. Yet from the moment God spoke to my heart, a sustaining peace remained with me. As my husband and David’s other home care nurses joined us, that peace was obvious to all.
My husband Mitch left David’s bedside at one point and went out to talk with the ICU nurse. She told him she had seen family members at the bedside of a loved one who was dying many times. But, she said, the atmosphere in David’s hospital room was different than anything she had ever experienced. I don’t know if this nurse was a Christian or not, but I do know all in that room felt the presence of the God of all Comfort.
The name God of all Comfort is not a direct quote from the Old Testament. But 2 Corinthians 1:3 clearly gives this as one of the names of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.
Comfort is the Greek word paraklēsis. It means a calling to one’s side, and it combines encouragement with alleviation of grief.
Father of mercies means our heavenly Father has a heart of compassion toward those who are suffering. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines compassion as “suffering with another.” In love and sorrow, God comes by our side to share in our suffering. His comfort strengthens us, as we walk through loss or other painful circumstances. Romans 15:4 tells us that one of the ways God comforts us is through His Word.
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
Romans 15:4 NKJV
One of the most familiar uses of the word comfort in the Old Testament is in Psalm 23. The Lord is our Shepherd, and His rod and staff are reminders that He is with us. The Greek word for comfort used in verse 4 is nāḥam. It comes from a root word meaning to sigh. It means to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4 NKJV
2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us the response God asks from us when we have experienced God’s comfort. Experiencing the comfort of the Lord enables us to comfort others who are suffering. The God of all comfort enables us to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I want to close this post by sharing a song that God used to comfort me as I grieved the loss of our son David. Losing a child causes a deep grief, one that doesn’t go away quickly, but I found that the comfort and peace of God sustained me through those difficult months.