James Merritt - Comfort Zone
Well, I wanna say good morning. I wanna welcome all of you who are watching online, who are watching in our building today, and wherever you are watching today, I wanna tell you a story that's close to my heart. One of the greatest regrets of my life, and it wasn't my fault, was never getting to meet my mother's mother. My grandmother Clara Hause, taught school right here in the county, where I'm preaching right now at Grayson High School. And I have met some people that were her students, and everybody from her family to those who knew her, said by all accounts, they had never known a godly woman in their life. She literally was the salt of the earth.
You may remember that I told you before, she was the person that actually prayed me into the ministry before I was even born, she died before I was born, but she actually prayed for me, that somebody would go, not just me specifically, but it turned out to be me, would go into the ministry. Everybody that knew her said that she had a love for Jesus, passionate, that was as hot as the sun and as deep in the ocean. Well, early in the 19th century, my godly grandmother went through something that nobody would ever wanna go through, much less a mother, two of her children and eight year old girl, and a six year old boy, had eaten some green apples, and they developed a disease called colitis, and back in the day, there was no cure for that colitis.
Well, the eight year old girl died, and the doctor told my grandmother, "you may as well leave the casket open, or get ready another casket ready because the boy's not going to make it either". When that little girl died, that eight year old girl, my great grandfather, my grandmother's father who lived right next door, that little girl was the apple of his eye, and back in the day, they didn't have funeral homes, so when the little eight year old girl died, they dressed her up just to wait for the other child to die, and my great-grandfather went over to the house, he picked up the body of his granddaughter, took it back to his house, laid her beside her, that dead body, laid beside her all night long, they said you could hear him waiting and crying from mile away.
And sure enough, the next day her little brother died. And my saintly godly grandmother, went through some of the most horrific misery anybody could go through, but she later said something that I want you to listen to. She said, "yes, it was terrible, it was horrible". But she said, "here's what God did, in her misery, God also gave her a ministry, the ministry of comfort". I've been a pastor for a long time, and it didn't take me long as a pastor to realize, you talk to anybody long enough, that's lived long enough, everybody's had heartache. You dig deep enough and you listen long enough, you'll find everybody, has gone through the valley of sorrow, no one is immune to heartache, it doesn't matter whether you love God or not, whether you go to church or you don't.
The reign of heartache falls on every roof, the wind of sorrow blows through every window, and the hand of grief knocks on every door. You may remember a lady years ago, a woman named Bonnie Tyler, she was a singer, she wrote a song and it was meant to be a love song, but it actually turned out to be a life song. You may remember the lyrics, it goes like this. "It's a heartache, nothing but a heartache, hits you when it's too late, it hits you when you're down".
For some of you watching right now, listening to me, that may be the song of your heart. You didn't know that she was singing about you, you didn't see it coming, you didn't hear it coming, but before you know it, things going great and all of a sudden, you got sucker punched to the gut, and something happened that sucked the very life out of you. So here's the question today, the question is not, are you going to experience hurt, heartache, pain, problems, sorrow, suffering, trials, and trouble? That is not the question. Here's the question. How you gonna deal with it? 'Cuz it is going to come.
You may have heard the old saying that, you know, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade". Let me tell you so something, life will give you lemons, in fact, sometimes life will pelt you with lemons, but here's what I've learned, God never waste lemons. What God wants to do is take the lemons of life, and turn them into a lemonade of comfort and strength, that can not only help us, but give us the ability to help others, who go through the same problems we do. You know, one of the things I've noticed, as I've learned about God and read about God, and studied God's word, God never waste anything. For example, when God created the universe, there were no leftovers. There are no excess stars or planets. There's no excess water in the oceans. There's no excess land on the earth. Everything fits perfectly.
And just as God does not waste anything, God does not want us to waste anything either, and especially any experience we have in life, whether it's a good experience or a bad experience, whatever experience you have, God says, I wanna use it for your good, but I want you to use it for the good of others, and for my glory. Well, the big question is, how do you do that? Well, there was a man by the name of Paul. You don't read about Paul's life very long that you realize he had a PhD in sorrow, and suffering, pain and problems, hurt and heartache, trials and troubles, and in a book that's a beautiful book, called Second Corinthians in the New Testament, he gives some timeless universal advice, on how to find that comfort zone, when you've been kicked out of it, and how to bring others into it as well.
And I wanna invite you if you have a Bible, or an iPad or a computer, to turn to a book called Second Corinthians, it's in your New Testament. Second Corinthians chapter one. Now here's what you're going to find when we read this passage, the word comfort is found a total of nine times. The word comfort occurs 130 times in the New Testament. And when you read the entire passage, one third of the time that word comfort is used, is found in this passage. Paul talks more about comfort than anyone else in the Bible, and he talks about comfort more here than anywhere else in the Bible, and here's why Paul talked about it. He was an expert on what it meant to be comforted because he had plenty of experience that needed to be comfort.
When you read the life of Paul, here's what you'll find. He went through everything from emotional suffering, to physical sickness, to spiritual sorrow, and yet out of all of these terrible things that Paul went through, God taught him one of the most valuable lessons we can ever learn, and I want you to listen to it carefully. God wants to use your misery for ministry. God wants to use your misery ministry. He doesn't want you to waste your heartache by living every day in a pity party, that no one's going to attend, but you, so if I'm talking to someone today, and you're in that valley of hurt and heartache, you're lying in a bed of pain and problems, you're in that tornado of trials and troubles.
Let me share with you three things that you need to do today. Number one, we need to go to the source of comfort. If you're in need of comfort today, if you're hurting today, if you think life is left you behind today, you need to go to the source of comfort. Now Paul begins his advice with praising God, which is really not on unusual, what is unusual is what he calls God, because in this passage, we're about to read, he calls God something that God is never called anywhere else in the Bible.
Listen to what Paul said. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort". The God that we're preaching about right now, the God that we talk to when we pray, the God that never leaves us or forsakes us, he is the God of all comfort. Only here, in all the Bible, is God called the God of all comfort. What does Paul mean by that? Here's what I think he meant. What he's saying was God has cornered the market on comfort. He is the only show in town when it comes to comfort. As a matter of fact, that word comfort is a very interesting word. It's the same word that is used in the Greek language to describe the Holy Spirit, in the Greek language it is the word, Perakaleo, which literally means called alongside to help.
So what is Paul saying? Here's what he's saying. No matter what you're going through right now, there's one thing that's true, you may not feel this is true, you may not think it's true, but no matter what you're going through right now, you are not going through it alone, God is right beside you to help you, he is right there to strengthen you, he is right there to comfort you, as a matter of fact, about about 700 years before Paul wrote these words, a prophet by the name of Isaiah said this, he said, "as a mother comforts her child", talking about God, "so will I comfort you". "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you".
You know, there is no comfort to a child like a mother's comfort. I can tell you that I had one. Dads are great, but when it comes to be comforted, loved, soothed, petted, helped, you want mom. He is the God of all comfort, and that word, all, literally means, every time. In other words, God is the source of all true comfort. And I'll tell you why that's so important. I've watched it in my ministry, it just breaks my heart, every time I see people who go through hurt, and they go through heartache, and they go everywhere, they go every place for comfort, except the one that can give comfort. They don't go to the one person, the one being, the one power, that can give them the comfort they need. I can't even tell you how many people become alcoholics because they tried to find comfort in a bottle. Matter of fact, has it ever occurred to you? It's interesting.
There's a brand of liquor called Southern Comfort. You ever thought about that? Like you're gonna find comfort in a bottle. Here's the problem with that kind of comfort. It's a counterfeit comfort, it's a temporary comfort. 'Cuz eventually you can drink yourself drunk, but you sober up. You can take the drugs, but they wear off. You can get the prescription filled, but the prescription will run out. But the comfort of God is permanent. In another letter, Paul wrote this about God's comfort. "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us", now watched this, "and gave us eternal comfort". God's comfort never wears off. God's comfort is not temporary, it is eternal. The comfort of God sticks with you. How do I know the comfort of God will stick with me? Because the God of comfort stays with me. How do I know the comfort of God is eternal? Because the God of comfort is eternal.
The first thing you've gotta do, if you are hurting and you need comfort, you've gotta go to the source of comfort. Now, once you do that, then you will take the second step. You will get the supply of comfort. When you go to the source of comfort, that's God, you will get the supply of comfort. Now here's what this God of all comfort will do for you. Paul says, "he is the God", now watch this, "who comforts us in all our troubles". Get that in your mind. "He comforts us in all our troubles".
Now I wanna stop right here. I wanna tell you what I wish this verse said, and if you're honest, I'm gonna tell you what you wish this verse said, we all wish this verse said something like this, "blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who keeps us from all troubles". Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be wonderful? You know, if that were true, people would be lined up to come to God, right? Because I say, man, I just come to God, and it's gonna be all roses and no thorns, it's gonna be all sunshine and no rain. This is the God that keeps us from all troubles, but God doesn't do that, not even for his own children, he doesn't do that.
See, we don't always expect trouble, and we can't always escape trouble, but we know the are times we have to endure trouble. Nobody gets a free pass, nobody is exempted, nobody is excused. I mean people who know God, I've known them, you know them, people who know God, love God, worship God, serve God, trust God, believe God and obey God, they don't get a free pass. Believers get cancer, believers have heart attacks, believers have miscarriages, believers lose children, believers lose jobs, believers struggles to make ends meet, just like unbelievers, here's the difference, we're all gonna go through trouble, we're all going to have heartache, the difference is we have available to us, the one thing we need, and that is the comfort of God.
Matter of fact, did you know this? Did you know that one of the ways that God uses to show us that he's real? One of the ways that God shows us he's with us, one of the ways that God shows us, we can turn to him, one of the ways God shows us he can meet our needs, one of the ways he shows us that we feel his presence, dearest and nearest and clearest to us, is when he allows us to go through what we call the dark times of the soul.
Let me give it an illustration. One of the most familiar Psalms, maybe the most familiar Psalm in the Bible, is the 23rd Psalm, you know, "the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want". You've probably know that Psalm by heart. Have you ever thought about the fact that when King David, who wrote that Psalm, describes how the shepherd leads the sheep to green pastures and still waters, have you ever noticed that the shepherd is out in front? You know, "the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, he leads me beside the still waters, he leads me to green pastures". When you're leading someone you're out in front, right? But then when he talks about the sheep going through the valley of the shadow of death, notice what he says. "I will fear no evil for you are with me".
You're not out in front leading me, you're with me walking beside me. You see when times are good and life is great, and you're enjoying that green grass, and you're drinking from those still waters, the shepherds out in front leading, but when the sun quits shining and life goes dark, and you're not on the mountaintop of joy, you're in the valley of discouragement and despair, and even death, you know what God does? He stops, he quits leading, he doesn't stay out in front, he comes back and he gets right beside you. When David said, "the Lord is my shepherd", he was talking about the Lord, but when he said, "you're rod and your staff, they comfort me", he was talking to the Lord.
One time, God's out in front, but the other time God is right beside us, and you know, that's the way it is most of the time, you know, in the good times, you know what we do? In the good times we talk about the Lord, boy, God's so good, God's so, you know, God's so good, God's blessed me so much, I just thank God for all of his goodness, and all his blessing. We talk about the Lord, but it's in the bad times that we're driven to the Lord, and we talk to the Lord and oh, by the way, why do you think Paul reminds us in verse three, that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Why did he do that?
I believe that Paul wanted to remind us that nobody could relate to us and our suffering like Jesus. 'Cause I wanna tell you something about Jesus. I want you to listen to what I'm about to tell you, this is so important. Jesus did not have to come to planet earth to suffer in order to know how we feel. How do you know that? Because he's God, he's Omniscient, he knows everything, he knew everything before he came to planet earth. So if Jesus did not have to come to suffer like us, so he knew how we would suffer. Why did Jesus come to earth to suffer just like we did? Here's why, listen to this. "He didn't come to know how we feel, he came because he wanted us to know that he knows how we feel".
He put skin on just like we have, he had blood flowing through his veins, just like we do, he got hungry, just like we do, tired, just like we do, discourage, just like we do, sleepy, just like we do, and oh yes, you could hurt him, just like people can hurt us, you cut him and he bled and he bled enough, he died. And see one of the reasons why God allows the lights to go out in your life, and let things go dark, is to force you to go to him, to force you to get the supply of comfort, he forces us to do that. I read something the other day that absolutely fascinated me. I'll never try it, but I believe it's true.
If you drop a bumblebee into an open jar, just open up a fruit jar, drop a bumblebee in it, that bumblebee will die in that jar, that bumblebee will die in that jar, unless you manually take that Bumblebee out, say, "well now wait a minute, the bumblebee can fly", yep and anytime that bumblebee wanted to, it can fly right outta that jar, you're absolutely right. Well then why is it if you put the bumblebee in the jar, the bumblebee will die?
Here's why, that bumblebee will never escape from the top of that jar, it will never get out of that jar, for one reason, it never looks up, it just keeps looking around, and it keeps flying into the glass of that jar, and it will either try to get out through the side of that jar, or it will try to get out of the bottom of that jar, but it never realizes, the only way out of that jar is not through the side, it's not through the bottom, the only way out of that jar is up, and one of the reasons why hurt and heartache, and pain and problems, and trial and tribulations come our way, you know what God is trying to do? He's trying to take that gentle finger, put it under our chin and force us to look up. He's wanting us to go to the source of comfort so that we can get the supply of comfort. God literally wants to drive you into his open arms, and his loving hands, so he can give you the comfort that you need.
Now you be maybe saying right now, "man, that's what I need, man I'm hurting, oh, I've just got so much pain, so much heartache, you don't even know what I'm going through, I've lost my spouse, I've lost my job, I've lost my health, I've lost a child, you know, this has happened, that has happened, I need God's comfort". Listen to me carefully. God never puts his comfort in you, just for you. Because once you go to the source of comfort, the God of all comfort, and then once you get the supply of comfort, and you look up and you realize there's a God up there, that's got everything under control, there's a God up there that can minister to me, there's a God that can help me to continue to put one foot in front of the other, continue to live life like I need to live life, and this is a God that can continue to heal the hurt in my heart, once you go to the source and once you get the supply, you are duty bound to give the strength of comfort.
You go to the source, you get the supply, then you give the strength of comfort. I want you to listen carefully. God never gives us anything just for our enjoyment. Anything that God gives you is for his employment, even your own salvation, you know why God saves you? Listen to me carefully. This is so huge for me, and this is why I have such a passion that we see people come to Christ. God did not save you just so you would go to heaven. God saved you so that you would take other people to heaven with you, so you can tell them how they can go too. He's given all of us spiritual gifts, but you know why he is giving us spiritual gifts? To open those gifts so we can bless other people. God, doesn't just comfort us to help us, he comforts us so we can help others. God doesn't just comfort you so you will be comforted, God comforts you so you can help others be comforted.
Listen to what he says, Paul says, "God comforts us in all our troubles", so that we can be comforted? Yes, but no, there's more than that, "so that we can comfort those in any trouble, with the comfort that we ourselves receive from God". God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, God comforts us to make us comforters. God wants to take the pain of hurt in your life, and he wants to transform it into a medicine of comfort in someone else's life. He wants to take the river of tears in your life, and turn it into a fountain comfort in someone else's life. Remember this, remember this, "the comfort of God is always the calling of God to share that comfort with someone else". "The comfort of God is always the calling of God to share that comfort with someone else".
Let me tell you why this is so important, and why this is true. The best people who can help hurting people, are the people who've been hurt, just like the hurt of the hurting people that need help. I'm gonna say that again. The best people who can help hurting people, are the people who've been hurt, just like the hurt of the hurting people that need help.
I read a story the other day about a mom, and she heard a little five year old boy crying up in the bedroom, and so she ran upstairs and she said, "what's the matter"? Well, the five year old boy pointed to his little two year old sister, and he said, "she pulled my hair and it hurt me". Well, the mother said, "listen, that's all right, she doesn't understand that when you pull hair, it hurts, she just doesn't under understand that". Well, she left the bedroom and went downstairs, and about two minutes later, she heard this blood curdling scream come from upstairs, she ran back upstairs, and this time it was a little two year old girl that was crying, and so she looked at her son and she said, "well, now what's the matter"? He said, "well, you said that when she pulls hair that she doesn't understand that it hurts". He said, "well, mom, she understands now".
Listen, the most qualified person, to minister to hurting people, who is that? It's not necessarily a pastor, it's not necessarily a counselor, it's not necessarily a therapist, the most qualified person, that can minister to a hurting person, is the person who can say just six words, I know exactly how you feel, when my mom died, when my dad died, for the first time, I knew how to minister to someone who had lost a mother or lost a father. I didn't know how before, I know now. And if you allow, listen, if you allow the river of hurt, to flow into the dam of self pity, it will turn you into a swamp of bitterness.
Did you hear what I just said? If you allow the river of hurt, to flow into a dam of self pity, it will turn you into a swamp of bitterness. Instead, instead, if you will allow God to use you as a reservoir, he can take the waters of your heartache, and he can turn it into a river of comfort, that will flow into other people. So please, please hear me. Don't waste your hurt. Don't waste your heartache. Don't waste your pain. Don't waste your problems. Don't waste your trials. Don't waste your tribulation. Don't waste your trouble. How often will people retreat into a shell, shut themselves off from other people, lock the door, close the curtains, crawl into bed, curl up into a fetal position, and all they do is focus on themselves, when all that they're really doing, is wasting their heartache, because when that happens, all that suffering, and all that heartache loses any meaning, and it loses any purpose.
You see, when you focus on yourself, listen to this, "when you focus on yourself, you're just gonna magnify your misery. But with God's help, when you focus on others, you can multiply your ministry". Did you hear me? "When you focus on yourself, you just magnify your misery. But with God's help, when you focus on others, you multiply your ministry". Clara Knowles was a young single mother from Oklahoma City and she describes what she called, "one of the worst days of her life". She said, listen to this, "the washing machine had broken down, the telephone kept ringing off the hook, my head was about to explode with a migraine headache, I just received a bill in the mail, with no money to pay for it". She said, "I was almost at the breaking point". She said, "I lifted my two year old son into his high chair, and then I just leaned my head against the wall, and I began to cry, without a word my little two year old son, took his pacifier out of his mouth and stuck it into mine".
Do you know what that little boy was saying to his mama? "Mama, I know how you feel. I've sat in that diaper full of poop, I've eaten that baby food that tastes like cardboard, sometimes I just cry and nobody pays attention, but I just want you to know mom, I know how you feel and we'll get through this together". Listen, that's why Jesus came, not to keep us from trouble, but to get into trouble with us, so he could hold our hand, guide our steps and prove something. Yes, weeping may come in the night, but joy comes in the morning. I just hope, listen, I hope this message has been a comfort to those of you who, for whatever the reason are hurting.
But here's what I pray. I pray that we will all be like a little girl, who had a best friend that lived next door to her, but this little girl, her best friend unexpectedly died, one day, not long after that, the little girl came walking into the house, and the mother said, "well, where have you been"? And she said, "well, I just went next door to visit Sally's mom". She said, "well, honey, how did it go"? She said, "mom, when I walked in, she was just sitting there crying". And the mother said, "well, what did you say"? She said, "mom, I didn't say anything, I just climbed up into her lap and cried with her".
Jesus suffered when he didn't have to, he died when he didn't deserve to, why? So he could show us how to turn misery into ministry. If you're weeping today, I pray that God will comfort you, I really do, but just as much as that, I pray that all of us will remember, we live in a world full of weepers, and let us always be on the lookout for people that we can weep with, as well.
Would you pray with me right now? With heads bowed, with eyes closed. The reason why Jesus Christ came was to comfort us, but listen, the greatest comfort of all, is when you realize you're a sinner, you're separated from God, you have a disease called sin and there is no cure for it, except the blood of Jesus, and the greatest comfort of all, is when you finally come to that realization, that Jesus died for you, Jesus died for you, so you could live in eternity with him, and you could be forgiven of all of your faults, all of your failures and all of your sin. I'd like to invite you right now, to just simply accept Christ into your heart. I would like to invite you right now, just to simply say:
Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner, I need a savior, you're that savior, I surrender my life to you, I repent of my sin, I trust you to come into my heart right now, become my Lord and my Savior. I thank you for hearing my prayer, I thank you for saving me today, and I promise with your power, to live for you the rest of my life. There may be some of you today, your bitterness and your pain and your heartache, was a tool of Satan to keep you from God, but you finally realize, I need this God, I don't need to be angry at God, I need this love of God.