March 2017

Be Christians who Comfort for Christ

I encourage you to be Christians who comfort for Christ

Comfort is such a wonderful capacity within the human heart. After all, we’ve been made in the image of God who is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). It’s a soothing experience which affirms of the right, good, and lasting things in a relationship even while disaster may be happening. Comfort layers the realisation of peace, love, and personal acceptance upon the distressed soul.

Most of us, at some point, have appreciated the comfort of others; likewise we’ve appreciated the comfort Jesus Christ gives during great anxiety. However, as ambassadors for Christ, we Christians are “able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

During Job’s terrible time of misery, his 3 friends made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). Their intentions and motives were great, even if their words later fell short. Never-the-less, these friends started out doing something beautiful for their friend Job, who had lost everything within 24 hours. First, they recognised Job’s severe suffering. Second, they felt compassion and sympathy. Third, they put their sympathy into action by going to do something about it. Fourth, they didn’t simply barge in, they made an appointment. There are no bullies in God’s work of comfort. Fifth, they endeavoured to impart to Job forms of compassions which would ease his discomfort.

Here’s the distinguishing nature of godly comfort; while recognising that we may not be able to remove pain, we are able to help the troubled person to focus on the certainties they have in Jesus Christ. To assist them to bring to the forefront of their thinking that eternal nature of God’s promises and the life He has gifted them within Christ. King David said it like this; This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Psalms 119:50).

David knew what it was to live in great happiness, and also to plunge into the depths of dark despair. Yet, even when he experienced the realities of isolation and loneliness, he still chose to fix his attention on the eternal and secure resources of God. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4).

The fact is; God does not always remove suffering. But He does remain actively present in our lives during those times, even if we can’t perceive His presence. Like David, we can assure ourselves that in spite of how we feel; we don’t have to be overwhelmed by the fear of evil being done to us.  Our knowledge of the loving, eternal, and sovereign character of Almighty God is the source of soothing security during the greatest of pains (Psalms 119:76).

In our human relationships, disturbance is inevitable at some point. Yet, for the child of God, the pain of a damaged friendship is not the end. Rather, the believer sees the opportunity for the Lord to work His grace, to express His mercy in such a way that would influence the aggrieved person by God towards reconciliation. Comfort is not an end in itself, but it does honour God, sooth the afflicted, and create opportunity for restoration of relationships. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).


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Be cheerful in the Lord

I encourage you to be cheerful in the Lord

King Solomon observed that “a glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed” (Proverbs 15:13). It’s a sad reality that so many people smile so little. However, what’s worse is that many people fail to see the many reasons we have to be cheerful, especially as the children of God!

Solomon realised life’s great variableness of circumstances, something we humans often struggle with. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” …”a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). We, like Solomon, are capable of experiencing the full array of life while responding appropriately, for the Lord’s glory, and our blessing.

The world typically pays more attention to a Christian’s extreme responses to life, like sadness and joy. While little or no attention is given to our mundane and flat-line responses. Therefore, as an effective evangelistic testimony, we should honour the Lord with our expressions of joy, gratitude, and cheerfulness. Even during times of great pain, the Holy Spirit enables us to distinguish our human struggle from our spiritual security and hope in the Lord, enabling a genuine degree of joy to be expressed in an authentic and appropriate manner.

The apostle James explains how we should respond to extremities; “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). Just as seeking God’s mercy during times of suffering is the best action, so praising Him is the highest expression of cheer because; Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

Realism is important

For the most part, cheer is a choice. One we believers are able to make because it is an intrinsic part of our faith character;the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!” (Psalms 68:3). Meanwhile, the apostle Paul explained to the Corinthian church the balancing factor of Christian reality. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

The fact is, a joyful heart is good medicine,” (Proverbs 17:22) not only for ourselves, but also for those around us, permitting others to participate in the benefit of our joy in the Lord.

I encourage you today, choose to be cheerful in the Lord, and watch others receive the blessing.



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Forgiving the Unforgivable for God’s Glory

I encourage you to forgive the unforgivable. 

Today I shall speak of those deepest pains which are often considered unforgivable.  When considering the severest hurts and the practical implementation of forgiveness, remember that forgiveness:

  • Does NOT mean legal action should never be pursued. 
  • Does NOT mean separation from a physically or emotionally abusive person should never happen. 
  • Does NOT mean that restoration is always possible. 
  • Does NOT mean that all moral and legal wrongs are completely overlooked and treated as if they never existed. This form of unbiblical passivity can lead to long term damage by a perpetrator who has no intention of stopping their abuse (Rom 13:3-4). 

Even when an abuser is forgiven, you may not necessarily allow that person back into your trust or even fully release that person from the legal consequences of their sin (Crime dependent) – Much wisdom from the Lord is needed in such cases. 
Unfortunately, some abusers are so twisted in their sin, that they view your forgiveness as an opportunity to abuse you all over again, or to gain access to other vulnerable people in your life. Forgiveness does NOT mean that you become a push over for anyone who wants to abuse you!

You see, forgiveness is not about getting personal justice, or vengeance, or even getting what you want.  It’s about personally expressing God’s character, while letting God be God when dealing with the offender. It’s about trusting God’s justice more than man’s justice – His mercy in place of man’s anger. 

Forgiveness is about setting the offender free from personal animosity and personally inflicted consequences. It’s about giving up your desire for your aggressor to hurt like you hurt. It’s about allowing God the freedom to save some offenders through salvation, should He choose – and NOT holding a grudge against God should He regenerate a sinner that has hurt you. 

First and foremost, a Christian is one who has already confessed (1Jn 1:9) and been forgiven of their sin (Col 2:13) before holy God, that humanly speaking was unforgivable! As a forgiven sinner yourself, you are now equipped to do the same (Rom 5:5; Col 3:13).

Below are 4 daily disciplines which will assist to empower forgiveness:
  • Design and verbalise forgiveness into your daily prayers (Mat 5:44).
  • Be willing and ready to forgive a repentant person, losing count of offenses (Luk 17:3-4). 
  • Don’t let anger determine forgiveness (Eph 4:26).
  • Resist gossip about and mentally replaying the offenses (Eph 4:31-32).
I conclude this mini-series with 6 practical characteristics of a forgiver from Romans 12:14-21
  • Bless – do not return abuse.   :14 ”Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
  • Empathise with others.   :15 ”Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” 
  • Live humility toward others.   :16 ”Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
  • Do not treat others as you are treated.   :17-18 ”Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” 
  • Trust God’s Justice.    :19 ”Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”  (Deu 32).  
  • Administer Mercy as God Does.   :20-21 “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Pro 25:21-22) 

Today, I encourage you to forgive the unforgivable, for God’s glory and everyone’s blessing. 

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Prioritise forgiveness for God’s sake

I encourage you to prioritise forgiveness.

Once we prioritise forgiveness, the goals become God’s glorification, then reconciliation – not the other way round. As God’s character and reputation is at the heart of this whole matter, we obviously do not want to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Instead, “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

Sadly, there will be those at odds with us who won’t be interested in confession of sin, forgiveness, or reconciliation. They simply don’t seem to care, choosing to prioritise self before all else. However, God’s grace still rests upon us to do the thing that exemplifies the Lord’s character best – forgive!

You see, even the world can forgive, but it’s motivation is self-desire in order to get relief from the emotional pain. Not so with Christian forgiveness.  Christ-like forgiveness is motivated by a desire to embody God’s character, enabling Him to get acknowledged as the source. Remember, forgiveness grows out of love! Love for the Lord first, then love for others second. Self has little to do with this.

Motivating Love

Jesus informed His disciples;  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Loving others is not new; however, loving others with Christ-like love is. At the most basic level, this speaks of selfless love, ‘agape’ love, which looks to receive no gratification, no vindication, and no personal justice, but is content simply to forgive.

Obviously, the expression of love is essential for the believer, meaning, it needs to be expressed regardless of the outcome. Therefore, the recipient’s acceptance or rejection of our forgiveness is not factored into the equation for forgiveness.

With love as the motivating priority; Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15). Listed here are the accumulative relational implications; peace, holiness, grace, bitterness, trouble, and defilement. These are all issues to be considered when selfless forgiveness is NOT practiced. You see, forgiveness is NOT about us, it’s about the Lord’s renown, and about setting the other person free from your resentment.

A Dose of Reality

The application of Christ-like and loving forgiveness doesn’t always look pretty or feel exciting; particularly when the other party doesn’t admit to fault, and prevents reconciliation. Never-the-less, the child of God forgives! Why, because forgiveness is primarily for God’s glory, His pleasure, His exultation before the angels (Eph 3:10), and the good testimony of His Gospel and His church. Whereas, unforgiveness is all about us; our rights and entitlement, our dignity, our sense of justice, our vindication, and our satisfaction – and do we ever pay a high price for hanging onto unforgiven offenses.

Only prioritised forgiveness will enable you to genuinely “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a). “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The fact is, following Christ demands self-denial and cross carrying. Both are extremely painful and necessary for forgiveness to be a reality. Only then is Christ honouring reconciliation possible, in His timing and in the circumstances that He orchestrates.

Today, I encourage you to prioritise forgiveness for the sake of God’s glory!

Continuing next week with more application…


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