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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:In Need of Comfort
Text:LD 1 Matthew 7:19-21; 13:44-46 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

In Need of Comfort!

Matthew 7: 19-21; 13: 44-46

(Preached by Rev. Keith Davis on 5-18-08 p.m.)


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, on May 2, typhoon Nargis struck Yangoon, the capital city of Myanmar.  The powerful storm continued inland, cutting a wide swathe of destruction and devastation. 


As of Friday the dead numbered 78,000, with 56,000 still missing.  Hundreds of thousands were left homeless and helpless--without power, without food, without water, and sadly, because of the military government, without the benefit of free flowing foreign aid.


U.N. experts analyzing the situation said that the death toll will most certainly rise if disaster relief is not immediately allowed into the country.  Then, just last Monday, southwest China was struck by a powerful earthquake.  It literally flattened entire villages, killing an estimated 23,000 people, with at least twice that many people still missing and presumed dead.  


In reading an article about the earthquake, I learned something of the scale of devastation and loss.  The article told about two schools which were located near the epicenter of the earthquake. 

One school had over 900 students (the region’s top students ranging from the 7th to 9th grade.


The other was a high school that has about 1000 students.  Both schools met in buildings that were six and seven stories tall.  Both schools were in session when the earthquake hit; and both schools completely collapsed during the earthquake, the upper floors falling on the lower floors.   

So far, only one survivor was pulled from the rubble; an entire graduating class has been lost as well as half the student population in the entire region.  


As it often happens, these international tragedies have been so prevalent in the news that people have almost forgotten the pain and tragedies closer to home.  The same weekend that the cyclone hit Myanmar, tornadoes ravaged many southern states, destroying homes and killing 22 people.


Meanwhile the war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan; the bloodshed in Africa and a rise of hostilities in Lebanon have almost become an afterthought -- to say nothing of the everyday sorrows and tragedies that have touched our own lives in the past two weeks.  


All this serves to remind us that we live in a world filled with pain and misery; we live in a world ravaged by suffering and strife, by disasters and catastrophes.  And in the wake of all this devastation survivors, friends and relatives are left to cope with the overwhelming, inconsolable grief, sorrow and heartache.  Where do these people turn for help, for comfort, for hope? 


Tonight, God’s Word tells us that there is Good News in the face of all this bad news.  The Good News is that as man walks this vale of tears, as we live here on earth below, God has provided a comfort, a consolation, a beacon of hope in the hopelessness that many see all around them.


This comfort is not just a momentary respite from the world’s pain and sorrow and distress.  The comfort God provides is permanent. This comfort is that while we may live in world filled with pain, while we ourselves are made to endure sorrow, suffering and loss – and yes, even death itself -- we are assured that nothing in this world can harm us…because we belong to Jesus.  


We belong to a God and Savior who has delivered us, who has redeemed us from the source, from the root and cause of this world’s pain and misery, namely, sin.  So no matter what happens to us here below, we know that He is ours and we are His in body and soul, in life and in death. 


This is the comfort we confess as God’s people, and this is the comfort which we must hold forth to those in the world who are in need, who are drowning in a sea of sorrow and travail.  In Lord’s Day 1, we believers confess our comfort in a world of misery and pain.  Notice, this is…

1)      A Personal Comfort

2)      An Incomparable Comfort

3)      An Accessible Comfort  


1.  A Personal Comfort: The fact that this is a personal comfort is born out in the very words of this very famous question and answer: What is your only comfort in life and in death?  My only comfort is that I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.        


Now, it often happens, congregation, that personal opinion is swayed or influenced by what the majority thinks, or by how the majority “feels” about a certain topic or issue.  In fact, many news agencies today actually incorporate polls and surveys as part of the news. 


For example, Fox news has a “poll question of the day” and they will ask viewers if they agree that oil companies are to blame for rising gas prices; or do you agree with President Bush’s decision to issue a tax rebate to stimulate the economy; or do you agree with the California Supreme Court’s decision to remove the ban on same-sex marriage.


Then, at the end of the newscast, they will publish the results and say something like this: “This is what you think America”; or “This is how you feel about this issue or that issue”.  And quite naturally, people watching the news in their living room think, if that’s what the majority of Americans feel or believe about an issue or a decision then there must be something to it. 


Thus, a very common side effect of these polls is that they actually serve to form or sway public opinion; in other words people’s views and opinion and beliefs can actually be influenced by what other people say and believe about an issue. 


This is precisely why politicians invite famous movie stars and rock stars and athletes to appear with them on the campaign trail—because the very sight of their favorite actor or actress, the very site of their favorite rock star or athlete next to that politician can win votes—after all, if Oprah loves Obama then that’s good enough for me. 


So it’s incredibly ironic that in an age where people are polled about everything, when it seems like people are asked to give their views on just about every subject, the truth is, what a person really believes, what a person really feels about something is so often lost in the sea of public opinion or consensus.  If the majority of scientists agree that global warming is a fact, and that we are in danger if we don’t go green, then who am I to argue?  I better believe what they say.


But in Lord’s Day 1, the catechism isn’t interested in publishing what the majority of theologians think or feel that our only comfort should be.  The catechism isn’t announcing what most Christians believe about comfort.  No.  In a very direct and personal manner, the catechism puts this question to each of us, head for head, regardless of age, gender or spiritual aptitude.


It asks, what is your only comfort in life and in death?  What is it that you really believe, where do you search, what do you turn to for comfort in this world when no one else is watching?  It’s easy to give a ‘pat’ answer this question in catechism class, or when the elders ask us this in family visiting.


We give the answer we’re expected to give, right?  Some might even say, “We give the answer we’ve been programmed to give”.  That answer belongs to our religion, or to our religiosity.  But is it something that we ourselves really and truly believe, deep down inside? 


What really is your only comfort in life and death?  Even though we sometimes recite this answer corporately in church, as we do the Apostle’s Creed, the fact is, this is an answer that no one else can answer on our behalf. 


A father cannot answer this question for his son, nor can a wife for her husband.  This answer must be given, and this comfort must be possessed personally and individually.  Each of us must personally know and believe and trust in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to be saved.


We cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven on someone else’s coat-tails.  The comfort of belonging to Christ is not something that can be passed down to us, like a family heirloom or an inheritance.  We’re not saved on account of our good family name, where Jesus says, Ah, I see you’ve got a good Dutch name; Come, enter into my Father’s rest. 


We’re not saved on account of our family’s ancient/historic affiliation to our church or with the Reformed faith. No, in order for us to have this comfort, each of us, head for head, man, woman and child, must personally know Jesus Christ.  I must believe that Jesus is the Savior whom God sent to save me from my sins.


I must believe that He has paid for all my sins with His precious blood; I must believe that because of His sacrifice I am set free from the tyranny of the Devil, and now belong to Him, body and soul in life and in death.  I must believe that in all of life, there’s no greater comfort, there’s no greater treasure, there’s no greater pleasure than the knowledge of belonging to Him!


2)  An Incomparable Comfort:  Notice secondly, this is an incomparable comfort.  This means, very simply, that in all the earth there is no equal, there is no match, and certainly there is nothing more excellent, nothing that surpasses the great comfort that God provides.


The fact that we belong to Jesus is, and must be, and must always remain, our only comfort.  But this is not to suggest that in this life there are no rivals, or competitors, or imitators of this comfort.  Fact is, ever since man disobeyed God and forsook the ways of God, man has relentlessly pursued other means, other methods of comfort.


Satan himself stands behind all this, as everyday he convinces us, he deceives us into thinking that the joys and comforts we can find and possess and accumulate here in this world not only rival but are even greater than, more pleasurable than, more desirable than the comforts, riches and pleasures of God’s kingdom!


Just think of how people find comfort in human innovation and self-reliance.  Many people put their trust in the advances of science and technology and modernity, the belief that humanity is ever evolving, and soon enough, science will get rid of disease, and government will put an end to hunger and warfare, and will provide the necessities of life: food, shelter, and companionship.


Or man finds his comfort in the abundance of his own wealth and resources; man finds comfort by surrounding himself with opulence, with earthly delicacies and luxuries.  Thus with his riches and wealth, man tries to insulate himself from the adversity and sorrows of this world; in his wealth he ignores the cries of those who are hurting in the world, the sick, the starving, the dying.


Man also finds comfort in prestige, in power, in fame, or (as is the case with an increasing number of Americans), we find comfort by pursuing a life (or at least a past time) of sport and recreation.


Where would we be without year-round sporting events distracting us from our problems at home and at work?  How empty life would be without the thrill and joy of following our favorite sports teams?  After all, what is the NBA’s current advertising theme?  I live for this!


While we may certainly enjoy sports and like to see our favorite team(s) win, the fact is sport has become an American idol, a worldwide obsession; by sport’s fans’ own admission, sport has become the elixir of life, a religion, a god, something to which people turn in order to find hope and joy (and yes, even meaning) in a world that is cruel and joyless and hopeless 


But while some look to science, or money, or sport for comfort, many others look to short term solutions--like the high, the rush, the thrill or the escape they get from using drugs, or drinking alcohol, or engaging in sexual relationships or some sort of sexual perversion.


All these provide a temporary relief, a temporary comfort from the troubles and worries and strife of life.  And while we can readily identify these worldly comforts, and while we can openly condemn them and denounce them as sinful and wicked, the fact is, we know from our own experience, from our very own weaknesses and failings, that Satan’s deceptions (these worldly distractions and vices) are incredibly attractive and they seem to be (at least at the moment) to be incredibly effective!


The comforts which Satan offers us in this world appeal to our own sinful desires, to our craving for instant gratification; they appeal to our desire to seek comfort in that which is immediately tangible, in something (or in someone) that we can see and feel and taste and touch. 


And the truth is, when we sees others in this world who seem to be having all the fun and enjoying success and prosperity, who live in a luxurious home, who drive a luxury automobile, who vacation at exotic resorts and destinations, who wear designer clothes, who have a beautiful woman or man at their side, we’re tempted to think we’re missing out on that—we’re tempted to think—even for a moment—what must it be like to live life like that?


And if you deny that this evening, then you’re lying to yourself!  Maybe it’s true that those particular things don’t interest you, but you have to admit that Satan knows the things you crave; Satan knows the things you desire; Satan waits for the opportunity, he lives for the moment when you and I will look with envy on those earthly comforts and take our eyes off our only comfort! 


That is why God’s Word has to remind us again tonight that no earthly joy or pleasure can compare with, or can provide us with the true comfort, the lasting peace and security, the real joy and the assurance that comes with the knowledge that we are a child of God; that we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.  


The catechism states this reality so clearly, so beautifully.  I as a believer I have REAL comfort in this life because I know that Jesus has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood; He has set me free (rescued me) from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. 


Because I belong to Him, Christ by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly ready and willing from now on to live for Him.


This is an exclusive comfort in that it exposes the so-called comforts of this world for what they are: the Devil’s lies; imposters; frauds; empty and hopeless ends to which many people turn, but within which no one finds any real joy, or true hope; or any lasting comfort and relief.


For even if we had ready access to all the treasures and pleasures that this world can afford they would pale in comparison to the treasure, the pleasure, the joy and comfort of knowing Jesus Christ, of having Him as our Savior and Lord for time and eternity.  That is the key, that is the answer to the riddle of the parables which Jesus tells in Matthew 13.  We should be willing to give up all we have, all we own, all we value for the sake of Jesus Christ.


For you see, as a child of God, we realize that even if all these earthly joys and pleasures were taken from us; even if our very life was demanded of is, we know that we would still possess something that transcends this earthly existence.  We know that we still have Christ, and in Him we have found a treasure, a joy, a hope that outlasts and outshines and out-values all the gold and silver and riches of this earth. 


Just last weekend I was watching my daughter’s softball game and I had a conversation with someone who owns a beach front condo in Florida.  He was telling me that Dave Thomas, the founder of the Wendy’s fast food franchise, docked his giant yacht fairly close to his condo.  So each day as you drove by the oceanfront, you could see this gorgeous yacht. 


He pointed out that Dave Thomas died in 2002, but his yacht was still floating there in the harbor.  He couldn’t take it with him.  As one song writer put it, you don’t see a funeral hearse pulling a U-Haul.  Yachts and boats and condos and cottages, just like all the other riches and possessions we have, are temporary comforts at best, they can’t bring us real joy or real happiness.


That is why Jesus said in Matthew 6: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


And we know that in and through His Son Jesus Christ, God our Father has drawn near to us; He has loved us as His very own children—as His very own Son, and the Father promises to continue to love us, to continue to care for us, to continue to watch over us all our lives.


And the Apostle Paul assures us that the Father’s love is so strong, so sure, so dependable that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


And so the Bible teaches us that the comfort we have of belonging to Jesus is a comfort that is incomparable; it’s priceless.  There’s no other comfort like it in the world, because no other comfort is truly lasting, no other comfort really provides us with security and safety.


3)  An Accessible Comfort:  Thirdly and finally, this is an accessible comfort.  Here we see that this comfort which God provides, this priceless and lasting treasure, is readily accessible and easily attainable.


The Lord does not conceal this comfort; the Lord does not secret it away and try to withhold this good news from men.  Although it’s true, in Matthew 13 the Lord tells a parable about this treasure being hidden in a field, but the point of emphasis is not on the “hiddenness” of the treasure but on the priceless of the treasure—once the treasure is discovered it’s true worth and value are immediately known.


And by way of the Gospel being preached, the Lord intends that the whole world will know the value and the worth of this pearl of great price – the Lord Jesus Christ!  And so this comfort is accessible and available to any and all who would humble their hearts before God, confessing their sin, who would let nothing stand in their way of knowing Christ and following Christ!


That’s really what the question and answer 2 are getting at.  What must you know to live and to die in the joy of this comfort?  First, I must know how great my sin and misery are.  So in order for us to live and die in the joy and assurance of this comfort, we must first know and we must first believe the truth about ourselves, and that is this:


If we are left to ourselves, if we are left to run our own lives and do things our own way, to make decisions as we see fit, then we are bound for destruction because our hearts and minds and wills are bound to sin.  We can no more help ourselves than can a dead man can revive his own soul.


Second, we must know how I am set free from all my sins and misery; We must know the one and only Savior whom God has sent into this world to be a propitiating sacrifice for our sins.  We must know and believe that only through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, only through his perfect life of righteousness can we hope to be free of the tyranny of the devil and the misery of our sins.


And third, we must know how we are to thank God for such deliverance.  We have to not only know, but be willing to do all that God asks of us.  What does God ask?  He asks that we live everyday of our lives in a state of gratitude and thankful obedience for the salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus.


The Lord asks us to live a life made up of praise and worship and thanksgiving; the Lord asks us to give our heart, soul, mind and strength to the ways of the Lord, that we would no longer follow after the desires of our flesh, but that since we’ve been set free from the tyranny of the Devil we would now live our lives in obedience to our new Lord and master: Jesus Christ.


That is what a man must know.  We cannot know one out of three, or two of three, we must know them all.  And the beauty of it is, this knowledge isn’t hard to find; it’s not hard to come by.  It’s a knowledge that is accessible every Sunday as we hear God’s Word preached. 


It’s accessible whenever and wherever God’s Word is read, and whenever and wherever this Word is preached.  This knowledge is the way to salvation; this knowledge is the way we (and all men, women and children) can come to know our only comfort in life and in death.   


And as we said earlier, this is a knowledge and a comfort that we desperately need in our own lives; we need to look to Christ, and to believe in Christ and in Him alone.  And this is a comfort and a knowledge that needs to be proclaimed throughout all the earth; so that those who are living in pain, and misery, and loss, and hopelessness—so that those who, this very hour may face sickness, disease, and death—they may have hope beyond this life, beyond this vale of tears! 


So let us eagerly embrace and confess this comfort for ourselves, but let us also remember to boldly and widely broadcast this comfort to all the world, so that others may also know the joy, the hope, the lasting treasure, the pearl of great price that is ours in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2008, Pastor Keith Davis

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