8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11, NKJV)
Paul returns to soberness as he exhorts Christians (sons of light, sons of the day) to live so as to seize and preserve the salvation to which we have been appointed. It is necessary to protect ourselves from sin with faith, love and hope as we live for Him who died for us. Wrath is appointed for those who indulge themselves in the darkness of sin, choosing to reject the richness of God’s salvation for the futility of the flesh. Christians prepare for Christ’s return by living soberly. We are strengthened and comforted by the assurance of the eternal salvation to be obtained when Christ returns (2 Thess. 2:14; Heb. 10:39; 1 Pet. 1:6-9). You will never find comfort in the darkness of sin. Come out of your sin and live for Jesus. When He returns, Christians will live together with Him forevermore. If you are a faithful Christian, whether you are alive or dead on that day will make no difference. The difference will be whether you lived soberly in the light of truth and obtain salvation, or in the darkness of sin and obtain wrath.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17–18, NKJV)
Paul continues to describe the return of Jesus Christ from the Christians’ point of view. What will happen to Christians when Jesus Himself descends from heaven “with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16)? The dead Christians will rise, and then the living Christians will be caught up from the earth. Together, they will meet the Lord in the air. This is not an invisible rapture that so many believe will happen. No, the Lord is visible here (not invisible), the voice of the archangel is heard, and the Christians visibly join each other to meet the Lord. (This is the “change” from mortal to immortality of 1 Cor. 15:52-53.) The rapture is a false doctrine. “Thus” in verse 17 gives further proof of its error. “Thus” is an adverb of manner that means “in this way,” or after this fashion. So, in this resurrected and immortal state “we shall always be with the Lord.” There is no coming back to earth (it is no more, 2 Pet. 3:10-12). Death is abolished and the kingdom is delivered up to God the Father, not delivered back to earth seven years later (1 Cor. 15:24-26). We are comforted by the expectation of glorious reunion with the Lord Jesus and the saints who sleep in Him. This truth consoles us when death comes. The world can never offer such comfort (1 Thess. 4:13).
And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. (Hebrews 13:22, NKJV)
This inspired writer was concerned about how his readers would receive his words. Although brief, his letter had been written as a message of exhortation to give comfort, to console and to entreat his fellow Christians to be vigilant in their faith. The writer wanted them to agree with his word of exhortation and be compelled by it (not merely tolerate it). When we exhort others, we must do so from the word of God, with a clear goal in mind. Our aim ought to be instruction and persuasion intended to bring about righteous, holy conduct. Perhaps the exhortation we wish to give another is a warning against some spiritual danger. In that case, our goal is to rescue and save the lost (Jas. 5:19-20). When we find ourselves on the receiving end of exhortations, let us receive them and conform ourselves to the truth they contain. Exhortation s given in truth and love encourage us to do better, to be better. We all need that. So, be an exhorter. And, be ready and eager to accept the word of exhortation when it is given to you.
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. (John 11:33–35, NKJV)
The tender affection of Jesus is seen as He shares in the grief of Mary, Martha, and others who attended these sorrowful sisters. Jesus loved this family with warm affection (phileo, John 11:3, 36) and with active goodwill (agapao, John 11:5). By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had died four days earlier. Jesus predicted his death would be a great occasion for God’s glory to be seen and for the Son of God to be honored (John 11:4, 14). Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead in a powerful display that He is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26, 38-44). So, why did Jesus weep? Because He cares when we hurt. He comforts us in ways only the Son of God can (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16). By doing so, He shows us how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Jesus also weeps over our sins and its effects (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23). Our sin grieves Jesus (Genesis 6:5-6; Mark 3:5). Jesus weeps when people refuse His word and bring upon themselves divine judgment (Luke 19:41-44). Far from taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, the Son of God seeks to save the lost (Ezekiel 18:31-32; Matthew 18:11-14). Instead of bringing tears to the eyes of the Savior, may we repent and do God’s will, bringing joy to heaven (Luke 15:7).
9 The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:9–10, NKJV)
Shelter from the storm. A haven of rest for the weary. The Lord gives sanctuary to those who put their trust in Him, for they rely upon His great power to preserve and to protect them. His trustworthiness is unwavering; His relief is complete. Whatever storm of life you are facing today, make the Lord your refuge. Seek the Lord when the storm of sin roars against you; He will save you (Matthew 8:23-27; Luke 19:10). Seek His protection when you are oppressed by unrighteous people; He will help you endure (Hebrews 13:5-6). Seek His comfort when enemies of the faith harass you for the sake of righteousness; He will give you reason to rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). The Lord does not abandon His people. He rewards those who “diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? 17 Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence. 18 If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. 19 In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:16–19, NKJV)
The Lord has not promised to remove Christians from the hour of trial and trouble. Indeed, He did not remove His own Son from trouble. Jesus said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). God’s purposes are served, even when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. God did not abandon His Son, and He will not abandon you. He is our refuge and strength when evildoers press upon us. He delivers us from the depths of despair. His presence, power and mercy delights the soul, especially in the face of unsettling troubles. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” … Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:35, 37).
5 For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. 6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, (2 Corinthians 7:5–6, NKJV)
Paul had traveled from Ephesus to Troas, where he hoped to reunite with Titus, and receive word from him concerning how the Corinthian church had received the epistle of reprimand he had written them from Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8-9). There were opportunities to preach the gospel in Troas, and evidently persecutors were also hot on Paul’s trail (“outside were conflicts”). Plus, he had “no rest in his spirit” when he did not find Titus there (2 Cor. 2:12-13). So, Paul traveled on to Macedonia, where Titus met him with the comforting news that the church had received and obeyed his teaching. Here is our lesson: Opportunities to do good are sure to bring external pressures from those who resist what is good. With doing good comes internal longings for the spiritual welfare of others. Whether in conflicts and fears, God comforts us, just as He comforted Paul upon Titus’ arrival. Knowing that others are being faithful to God renews our strength and assures us in the comfort of our God (2 Cor. 1:3-7).
1 Then Job answered and said: 2 “I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! 3 Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? 4 I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul’s place. I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you; 5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.” (Job 16:1–5, NKJV)
Job’s friends not only gave him terrible counsel about the cause of his suffering, they spoke without comfort or compassion. Most of us long for the reassurance of comforting words when faced with the loss of a loved one, the pain of a disease or the uncertainties of life. Let us develop an ability to be sympathetic toward others, or even empathetic, when we have faced trials we see in others. Like us, others need a word of comfort and encouragement to strengthen them in moments of weakness (Matt. 7:12). We can increase our compassion toward others by living outside of ourselves, by actually pausing from our own hectic lives to see and respond to the needs of others. We will all face trials in life. Too bad all will not respond to those trials with words of consolation and actions that soothe the aching soul.
1 Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. 4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah (Psalm 61:1–4, NKJV)
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, raised his voice in a cry of lamentation to God. This causes us to reflect on the abiding truth that God attends to the prayers of His people. When your heart is overwhelmed, weakened and strained by the burdens of life – illness, grief over the death of loved ones, uncertainties and doubts – it is God who hears and gives you shelter from all these storms. Like David, trust God to lead you to safety and salvation. He is your defense against every enemy, a comforting presence when life overwhelms. Trust in the protection of His wings and His dwelling place. Say with David that God is “my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psa. 62:2). Truly, God is “the rock that is higher” than any of us. He hears and heeds prayers that trust in Him. Pause today to meditate on God’s comforting presence and His promise to be “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1).
Yea, 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. (Psalm 23:4, NKJV)
Fear is a real emotion that can overwhelm us. When David faced the dangers of death, he took courage in the presence of the Lord. You may face harm or potential harm in many different ways, yet with the Lord in your life, every distress can be faced with calm assurance. The shepherd’s rod and staff, tools for guiding, protecting and rescuing a distressed sheep, remind David of the Lord’s constant vigilance over him. Like David, we gain strength in the face of every trial, especially death, because we know the Lord is present – guiding, protecting and rescuing us from every danger – preserving us unto eternal life in His Son.