Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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 Cor 1:3-4 (ESV)
Last night’s Wesley Biblical Seminary class on 2 Corinthians was rich. We were studying 2 Cor 2:3-11 using both the English and Greek text. This class is a wonderful mix of people, men and women of various ages involved in various ministry contexts—all motivated to understand and obey God’s word. There were five of us in the room and three more who joined us by Skype—one in Portland, Oregon, one near Mobile, Alabama, and one in Mexico City. Their three faces on the large TV screen at the end of the room reminded us of news correspondents—we had our correspondent on the west coast, our correspondent on the gulf coast, and our correspondent in Mexico City. We, however, were not interested in the evening news, but in the unchanging but every relevant truth of the Gospel found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.
Together we traced the logical structure of this passage. The God of all comfort who comforted Paul was also the God who would comfort and sustain the Corinthian Christians in the middle of their sufferings for Christ (2 Cor 1:3-7). Paul adds his own testimony to the faithfulness of God in verses 8-11. He begins by praising the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” and ends by urging the Corinthians to join in prayer for his deliverance so that, when God delivers, they, along with many others, will give God thanks.
Our study reminded me of that summer day in 1978 when this Scripture became so precious. I said “summer” day, but I should have said “rainy season” day, for we were in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The person who had been mission coordinator had been forced to return to the US because of a heart problem. There was no one else to do the job but me. The responsibilities were intimidating. My wife Rosa, who knows me well, was afraid that the responsibilities would tear me apart. I had taken the former mission coordinator and his wife to the airport—a round trip that took about six hours. The next day I returned to the airport to meet a visiting General Superintendent. His plane was delayed—when it finally came, he wasn’t on it. I arrived back where we were staying about two o’clock in the morning. The next morning I arose late, preparing for another airport run, but began the day by filling the tub with hot water—this was the only place in our mission where we had hot running water. I was going to have a soaker. It seemed a good idea to have my devotions while sitting in the tub. There I was, reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 – “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. . .” (ESV). “The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” spoke to me and said, “That’s who I am, and, if you will let me, I will give you the “comfort” you need to “comfort” your colleagues and to do this job I have given you for the next year.” I looked up and said, “Lord, that’s a no brainer. If you will give that comfort, I’ll take it!” God did! The year that followed was one of the best in my life. He gave me strength and joy, he enabled me to support my colleagues, and he blessed our ministry. At the end of our previous term of missionary service I had gone home sick. After that year of God’s comfort we returned to the states with both health and joy. I bear witness—the God of our Lord Jesus Christ is, indeed, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”