Comfort & Counsel

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by Jacob Ninan

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said (Matt.11:28). This is His promise for all who are tired and getting worn out by the struggles of life. All of us do not face the same difficulties, and God’s comfort also does not follow the same formula for every problem. Our struggles are of various kinds and the comfort He gives us is also appropriate for the challenges we face.

Perhaps the hardest struggle is for people who are trying to somehow please God and find acceptance with Him. This is really the essence of ‘living under the law’—whatever law under whichever religion one is trying to follow. Trying one’s best to live a good life is generally a good thing, but it can never meet the requirements of the standard of God who is altogether holy and without blemish. All of us will always come short. Going for pilgrimages (including to the ‘Holy Land’), doing good deeds of different types, punishing oneself or making sacrifices can never compensate for all the evil we have already done.

Many people falsely assume that they are already acceptable to God because they are better than many others, or have done more good things than evil in their own lives. But no one can meet the standards of the holy God. Many others are struggling to compensate for their past or to live a perfect present. But ultimately every one of them will grow weary. They are always under the uncertainty of not knowing whether they are or will be accepted by God.

Jesus comes with the offer of rest for such people. This is the most important thing He has come to give us. Without this rest, all other forms of comfort will have no meaning from the point of view of eternity. He offers us the rest that comes from knowing that we are accepted by God, when we go to Him acknowledging our failure and helplessness in all honesty and humility. He assures us that Jesus has taken our punishment in our place and therefore we can have this acceptance for free. For those who accept this offer, the relief from the struggle and the filling of joy are indescribable. God gives us an assurance about this in our heart which puts an end to the uncertainty about His acceptance and the struggle that followed (1Jn.5:13).

Another struggle which we face in life comes after we have been accepted freely by God. This struggle is not for finding acceptance with Him, even though it may look like that to those who watch us. This struggle is to live right and to do the will of God in every area of life in order to be pleasing to Him and to be a witness for Him. This struggle comes because of the conflict that is going on inside us between the Holy Spirit who dwells there and the sinful flesh we carry (Gal.5:17). The apostle Paul wrote about himself that sometimes he was not able to do what he really wanted to do because of the pressure from his flesh (Rom.7:19-20).

There seems to be some misunderstanding about this among Christians. Some say that this type of struggle is what a man has who is living under the law (trying to find acceptance with God through being good enough). They say a man who has been set free from the law through faith in Jesus does not face any such struggle, pointing out that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set him free from the law of sin and death (Rom.8:2). While people argue about this, godly men who have lived through the centuries of Christianity have testified to this inner struggle which they have faced. This struggle is not about trying to please God in order to find acceptance by God, but one that wants to be pleasing to Him because He has accepted us! This tussle is all about making a choice every time between the prompting of the Spirit and the pull of the flesh. God has set us free from living under the law to living according to the Spirit. But then is it automatic that we always choose to follow the Spirit?

God comforts us in this struggle not by taking away the struggle but giving us extra help to make the right choice. He works in us giving us a greater desire to do His will and the strength to do it (Php.2:12,13). This comfort is not a once for all endowment upon us, but one that we can seek for and enjoy moment by moment. The onus is on us to make the choice, and He does not do that for us in our place.

God desires that we would always make the right choice—to do His will. But He is also aware that we might slip up sometimes due to different weaknesses (1Jn.2:1,2). The comfort that He has provided for us for such times is that we can confess our sins, receive forgiveness from Him and get back on track with Him (1Jn.1:9).

Then we face the challenges of living in this sin corrupted world. We face unrighteous and evil people, injustice, sicknesses, natural calamities and all the uncertainties of daily life here on earth. Our struggles can be at the physical level when we try to cope with living on earth, or at the spiritual level where we seek to make sense of things in our mind about what we are going through and also to stand faithful to God. Godly as well as ungodly people face go through such difficulties, and sometimes those who want to stand faithful to God face greater challenges (2Tim.3:12). The comfort which God gives here to enable us to meet with such situations differs from case to case. Sometimes He protects us from things that are too much for us and sometimes He helps us to endure them (1Cor.10:13). Sometimes He heals us miraculously, and at other times He gives us grace to go through sickness without giving up. We get supernatural answers to our prayers sometimes, but some other times we are tested severely in our faith as we hold on to Him.

In spite of the different situations we face and the different forms of comfort God gives us at different times, there is a common goal that God has for us through all such circumstances. That is that through such testings of life our mind might become renewed to understand His purposes better and that we might become transformed to His nature more (Rom.12:1,2) (Rom.8:28,29). This is a goal that we stand in danger of missing if we are focussing only on the earthly comfort that we need for the different situations.

God’s desire for us is not only that we should receive comfort from Him, but also that we should become able to pass on that comfort to the others around us (2Cor.1:3,4). In that way we not only become lights in the world but also the salt that others need (Matt.5:13,14). It all depends on how we receive this comfort ourselves and also on how we recognise our responsibility towards the others.

-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, April 2016

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