God Uses Other Christians to Comfort and Encourage Us
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Paul speaking, in his letter to the Churches in Rome) Romans 1:11-12
It is the simple, obvious things that we sometimes take for granted and don’t recognize the full importance of them.
I mentioned in my last blog how God will comfort us in our afflictions and then leads us to comfort others, having gone through afflictions similar to what they are experiencing. I also mentioned how this interaction between Christians, encouraging and comforting one another, was important to the building up of the body. I want to look more closely at this and emphasize the value of this mutual encouragement.
In Paul’s second letter to the churches in Corinth he explicitly mentions how God used the coming of Titus to comfort him during his struggles in Macedonia.
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” 2 Cor. 7: 5-7
Notice that Paul points out that he was comforted directly by Titus and indirectly by the Corinthians, and, of course, that it was orchestrated by God. So we see that as we communicate and interact with others resulting in their encouragement and comfort, they then, at a later time, can communicate and interact with others, relating their interactions with us, to encourage and comfort them. It’s like a network of comforting and encouragement that the Holy Spirit can use.
The point is that our words of encouragement to others can be used multiple times to comfort many people! Only God knows the full extent of the usage. This emphasizes the importance of being open and willing to be used by the Holy Spirit to comfort others. This should be our focus and desire, just like Paul said to the churches in Rome, “I long to see you…”, or in other words, I desire to have this interaction of encouragement, to be encouraged and built up by you, and to build you up, and then you can share what I pass on to you to encourage others, as I will pass on your encouragement to my Christian friends.
I would imagine that Satan would want to stop this networking. He would want us to be oblivious to the value of these interactions. He would want us to be focused on other things and distracted from this important task of mutual encouragement.
Sadly, many churches, at least in my experience, seem to communicate that the comfort and encouragement comes from the pastor or church leadership. It seems like everyone runs to the pastor for counseling, seeking comfort. Weekly services also have changed from a high amount of interactivity between the congregation, to individuals watching the “show”. It’s more like going to the movies, sitting in the seat and watching for an hour or so, then leaving with little interaction. In fact, in some churches I’ve heard that they even watch a video piped in of the preacher. How different this is to a gathering of believers who share encouraging accounts of God’s recent dealings or revelations to them, intermingled with praying for one another. I know that this happens in some churches, some having smaller groups that meet, but I think that there is a need to emphasize and promote this interaction even more. I believe that it should be the main focus of the church gatherings.
So God will use other Christians to encourage and comfort us, and this comfort can be spread to many, encouraging many, building up the body of Christ, and creating bonds between Christians as they interact, resulting in love.
I need to mention, though, that we should not expect to find this comfort from unbelievers. How can they encourage us in the spirit? They can’t. They won’t see God’s purpose in our situation, nor will they have the understanding of the ultimate goal and hope we have in heaven. Our attempting to comfort unbelievers, or especially to receiver comfort from unbelievers, will only cause frustration and/or confusion.
It is interesting that Paul brings up this point of not interacting with unbelievers immediately before his discussion of being comforted by the encouraging news from Titus from Corinth. He says this:
“Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.”
Remember that the encouragement and comfort that we are talking about is rooted in true faith and a focus on our true hope. It is a spiritual comfort that reminds us of the promise we have of eternal life in heaven that far outweighs anything that this world has to offer us. It is encouragement that urges us to continue on our journey as aliens, or temporary residents on earth, dying to this world and living for the treasures that we store up for the next world. This comfort and encouragement is aligned with the truth of the Gospel and it goes hand in hand with this truth. This comfort and encouragement should also result in our cleansing and spiritual maturity. It should result in our “making holiness perfect in the fear of God” as the above quoted Scripture suggests.
In the context of Paul’s letter, he is attempting to build up his inter-relationship with the churches in Corinth, letting them know that their success and growth encourages and comforts him, and requesting that they continue to be open to his encouragement and comfort that comes from relating his successes to them, and all of this in the light of them mutually encouraging each other in their spiritual walk of faith towards their goal of eternal life in heaven, having been successfully transformed into mature Christians and confident to stand before the Lord in the day of judgment.
Let us continue to focus on encouraging and comforting one another in the spirit, under the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Let’s not look to the world for comfort and encouragement, and recognize that the enemy would want us to be distracted by the false comfort that is offered by the world. Let’s take Paul’s advice on how to conduct ourselves in this world:
“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 2 Cor. 10: 3-6
And remember also that the bonding together that occurs as we encourage one another is a part of our love for one another. The goal is love. Jesus also commanded us to love one another.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35