IS YOUR CHURCH COMFORTING OR IS IT ENCOURAGING?

 Comfort

Comfort – a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically unpleasant feelings caused by pain, heat, cold, etc. http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/comfort downloaded 12/22/14

Praying Hypocrites Matthew 6. The comfort the hypocrites received was being seen by others. In other words, if someone saw them, they were comforted.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full…” Matthew 6:5(NIV)

2.  Disciples on stormy lake, Luke 8. When the disciples were in the storm, Jesus rebuked the storm and the disciples were comforted.

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. Luke 8:22-24(NIV)

3. Children of Israel before reaching the Promised Land, Exodus 16 (looking back at tradition). The Children of Israel were upset by the food God was giving them and they wanted to go back to Egypt were they could be content. To comfort them, God gave them manna and quail from heaven.

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” Exodus 16:1-5(NIV)

Comfort is meant to relieve that pain or discomfort in a person’s present condition. When someone loses a loved one, we will frequently talk about things of the past in an effort to get the grieving person comfortable with the situation so they can keep going..

Comfort implies looking back or helping a person function at the level they are on.

Using the illustration of the glass half full (or half empty) we can see that comfort is looking at the water in the bottom of the glass so we can see from where we have come, we can see the success that have had to get ‘half full’.

Encourage

Encouragement on the other hand, is looking forward. It is: heartening, urging, stimulating, and fostering one to continue filling the glass.  It is the idea of moving from our current position in the glass to the filled position in the glass.

1a :  to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope :  hearten <she was encouraged to continue by her early success>

b :  to attempt to persuade :  urge <they encouraged him to go back to school>

2 :  to spur on :  stimulate <warm weather encourages plant growth>

3:  to give help or patronage to :  foster <government grants designed to encourage conservation>

http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/encourage downloaded 12/22/14

1.  Praying Christian, Matthew 6.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13(NIV)

Jesus was encouraging his disciples to focus forward to what God was going to do rather than backward to what they had already done. Their reward was in the future and not the present as in the case of the Hypocrite mentioned earlier.

2.  Disciples on stormy lake, Luke 8 When the disciples were in the storm, God comforted them by calming the storm, but he encouraged them to have faith in God for the future.

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”  Luke 8:24-25(NIV)

3.  Children of Israel before reaching the Promised Land, Exodus 16 After God comforted the Children of Israel in the wilderness by giving the manna and quail, He encouraged them to look forward and preserve the manna for generations to come. By doing this, God was causing the Children of Israel to look forward to generations to come. God wanted them to be ‘filled glasses’ not just ‘half-filled glasses’.

33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”

34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preservedExodus 16:33-34(NIV)

God wanted the Children of Israel to know that God was the one who was feeding them and they could trust God to provide for them in the future.

Why is it important to know the difference between comfort and encourage?

I believe the church should provide both comfort and encouragement for believers, but if the church concentrates on one and disregards the other, we have a lot of Christians that are only half full, they will never know the fullness of God’s gift to them.

In earlier translations of the Bible, like the Authorized King James Version the word comforted is sometimes used because at the time of the translation it was the best word to use. However, like many of the English words that have evolved or changed over time, comfort used in the earlier translations may now be better translated encourage.

For example, in many of Paul’s letters to the early churches, Paul was trying to encourage the churches to grow in Christ. He wanted them to mature.. He wanted them to effectively spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was not just comforting them so they would remain the same forever, as the earlier translation would tend to indicate. Paul was encouraging the believers and in fact he was teaching them to encourage one another.

In I Thessalonians 4:18 and  1 Thessalonians 5:11,  Paul makes the statement that the believers were to encourage one another because of what God was going to do. The modern translation of the Greek word used here means to encourage

You will notice In the first part of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, Paul was comforting them. He is attempting to get them to realize who they are and what they came from. Then in 1 Thessalonians chapters 4 and 5, Paul has moved past the comforting position and moved into the encouraging position.  There is a place for both positions in the lives of Christians. If Paul had stopped by just comforting them, their ‘glass would remain only be half full’. They would not mature as believers but would remain dormant.

Jesus frequently began with comfort and ended with encouragement.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. (Comfort)You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (Encouragement) John 14:1-3(NIV)

In our society today, we have churches that are great at comforting. They frequently talk about what happened years ago, but they have a tendency not to move forward because of traditions or fear of upsetting the church members who have already passed from this life. But they frequently fail to encourage spiritual growth for those who remain. They believe that anything new is ‘sin’. They tend to be controlled by tradition rather than the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, we have churches that provide great encouragement, but they tend to just ignore comfort of those who need comforting. They encourage people by talking about going to heaven or about God providing them good things. But they fail to comfort them by talking about sin, the cause of their discomfort. They throw out traditions altogether. They sing a lot of new songs but ignore the comfort that the traditional hymns provide. They disregard the theology taught by the traditional hymns and do what people want them to do. They become more like the local coffee shop than a church. They are controlled by the false idea that everything our parents did in church was wrong, and needs to be changed to something more acceptable to society.

The Bible teaches that Christians are to comfort those who need comforting and to encourage  those who need encouragement. The Bible teaches that we are to encourage one another to mature, and become more like Christ.

Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18(NIV)

 

NOTE: All scripture in this blog was downloaded from Biblegateway.com

What is the Best Way to Change Our Government?

The Bible tells us about an incident that happened hundreds of years ago. It is a situation much like what we in the United States are facing today. The incident is the time when Goliath, a Philistine  was insulting God’s people, the Israelites. He was making a mockery of God and His people.

The Israelites stood their ground each day as Goliath came out to challenge them to send someone to fight him. They would listen to the giant and cowered in their position, afraid the end was near. They were afraid to send someone to kill the giant, Goliath.

This went on for several days until David came to the scene to see how his brothers were doing. While David was there, Goliath came out to ridicule the Israelite army and God. But when David talked to his brothers about it, they got upset with him when he asking them why they didn’t kill the giant.

After David’s discussion with his brothers, King Saul called for David. Here is their conversation as recorded in 1 Samuel 17:32-37

 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 1 Samuel 17:32-37(NIV)

The king then tried to dress David in his own armor, but it was too heavy for David. David was not used to wearing armor, he was used to trusting in God for protection. So, David asked to go in the shepherd clothes because he was used to wearing them; that is what he wore as a shepherd.

Frequently when we come upon a difficult situation, we try to address the situation using the tools of the world, like the king wanted David to do. We think that the armor will protect us rather than trusting God to protect us. The problems we face in the United States today is that we are trusting in a political party to save our country. However, both political parties are wearing political clothing. They both use the same tactics to gain personal control of government, just like King Saul wanted David to do. The King wanted David to wear the same type of armor that both armies were wearing. But David wanted to wear the clothing that God had prepared for him. David knew that this battle was a spiritual battle, not a political battle.

The problems we have with government are not caused by political parties, they are cause by sin. You cannot use political jargon to counteract spiritual problems! If you want to change this country, first humble yourself before God then do what God wants you to do so that God can be victorious. Don’t be like the Israelite army and just stand there while the government continues its downward slide. Trust God and do something, just like David did when he trusted God.

If you are not willing to submit to God, then you might just as well get used to the country deteriorating as you prepare for  your final destination. However, if you are willing to submit to God, you will begin to experience peace, hope, and love as you prepare for your final destination. You will be able to see God making the changes, when you are willing to let Him make the changes.

NOTE: Scripture used in this article was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com