Consolation Abounds

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4, ESV).

Consolation is a gift from God — but it's not a birthday-gift type of gift. In fact... it is (of necessity) a little negative. If you are receiving consolation, it means that you have undergone some trials—and trials are rarely happy times. The Apostle Paul certainly knew that. Just look at his descriptions of God from the key verse: Father of mercies and God of all comfort. But mercy is for the guilty, and comfort is for the oppressed... so, is God's consolation a consolation prize?

All of our miseries pass under God's watchful eyes — even the self-inflicted ones. God would prefer that we do not sell our futures so cheaply, of course, yet he allows us to do just that. This speaks to our volition. We are morally free agents — capable of performing much good... or much mayhem — to ourselves and to others. But some of our trials, like those of Job, fall upon us unbidden. And even the most mature of us can't help but wonder (for a moment at least) if God really knows what he's doing all the time.

He does, of course. These trials make us stronger — but there's more than that going on. He wants to apply mercy. He wants to apply comfort. We should learn to receive these consolations — we should feel them warmly like the sun on our skin — so that we may be better able to identify with those who are in similar trials, and minister to them of like suffering.

“who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4, ESV).

This might seem like a small potatoes ministry — especially as compared to the Gospel Ministries and to the Great Commission.

 “...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:18–19, ESV).

Not all of God's commissions are the Great Commission — but all of God's commissions are great. He wants his children to perform many ministries that, although supportive of the Great Commission, are not riding the Gospel's edge. These have the same worker's requirements, that Christians may minister to people based on their commonalities. Of the Great Commission: You have been taught, discipled and saved — go and do ye likewise. Of the Ministry of Consolation: You have been comforted of God — go and do ye likewise.

Even the brave need consolation. The most intrepid Christian soldier seeks home and kindred when wounded. These are the times when the ministry of consolation shows its power — when that special camaraderie builds between co-sufferers. Present-day support groups (which are of great number and variety) capitalize on the identification that one sufferer might have with another. (The world often finds and applies God’s principles.) Our key verse reveals a call to do just this. Take the lessons of trials and comfort, and then minister to the kindred afflicted. There are many commissions in Scripture.

God calls great numbers of his children into missions, both foreign and domestic. But what of the rest of us? The prayers, the payers, the Sunday School teachers and the man who shovels the snow off the church sidewalk? We also serve but in two ways. We support the missionaries who are out there at the Gospel’s edge, and we minister back home in the local assembly. These ministries should be just as vigorous as those front-line ministries, since, although not overtly evangelistic, they still fulfill other of God’s commissions. A Christian desires to use these local ministries as an opportunity to witness and win some to Christ along the way — also fulfilling that Great Commission.

God develops His workers through a system of trials. We advance in his kingdom on earth as we overcome obstacles, become strong — tough even — and continue to follow the Holy Spirit's call. No trial escapes God’s notice. No trial slides around his sovereign will. No trial is wasted… by him. We may waste them, however, and those missed opportunities will be discussed at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Your trials are gifts from above. They are opportunities for service. They initiate you into a group of kindred sufferers among whom you have been placed to specially minister. Share with others the consolation of Jesus Christ—the same consolation which has ministered to you.

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