The Blessings of Comfort Criminals
The Blessings of Comfort Criminals
Wed-4-Revival Reed DePace August 12, 2020
A Weekly Prayer Devotional Seeking God
to Pour Out His Spirit in Revival on Us[*]
Getting ready for this week, I thought about all the new, strange, weird, odd, bizarre, freaky, kooky, and ghastly things I might encounter. But after a few moments I ceased my pointless reflections. The only thing I know I can count on is that I’ll be surprised, unsettling so, by what this new week brings. Here it is not even midweek, and already my breath is being taken away. No matter how outlandish our speculations, each new week in 2020 has had an unparalleled ability to knock us flat, evoking a grunt, “Ugh! Didn’t see that coming.”
The origins of the 20th Century cliché’ “may you live in interesting times,” suggests it is actually a sarcastic curse, not a blessing for escaping boredom. For us living in these times, this cliché’ seems to be validating its sarcastic nature. It is enough for someone to sit back at the end of the day, and surrender to the cliché’, “Ok, I give up; you win. No more interesting times for me please; I’d like to just go back to my ordinary boredom.”
I admit that I come pre-wired with expectations for daily comfort. In this nation even the poorest among us have vastly more daily comfort than the majority of people in the rest of the world. Thus, each week’s latest “interesting times” events come as so many unexpected comfort criminals, events that rob us of a measure of the peace we’re used to in our ordinary lives. Even the committed materialistic atheist wonders, “What in the world is going on!?”
The believer in Christ is not immune to this question’s force. Even though he is promised that God is sovereignly overseeing each day of life with Christ, in its details, the appearance of these daily comfort criminals leads him to ask, “Uh God, you’re paying attention, right?”
The answer God gives in the Bible may seem like there is a disconnect between reality and his understanding of what exactly comfort is. Nevertheless, the believer knows it will prove true that all the comfort criminals will have been God’s servants for the believer’s greater comfort. It is worth a few items of reflection on how this is so.
Claim Your Idol
So what’s your breaking point? Is it being required to social distance, or is it people who won’t social distance? Is it wearing the mask or not wearing the mask? Is it the Major League Baseball season falling apart, or the threat that the SEC might not have a football season? Just what comfort criminal is it that causes you to leap up and throw down, “That’s it! I’ve had it! I’m not going to put up with ANY more!!!”
That, my friend, is where your comfort idol sits in your life. And this is the beginning of the big blessings God uses comfort criminals to give you possession of. Without suffering the loss of some comforts you would not see that you love something of this world more than you love God who saves you:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Pt 1:6-7)
Isn’t this truly a great blessing of our current circumstances!? All these frustrating and annoying circumstances stir up the remaining selfishness in our flesh. Reacting to these things in the moment is not always fun. After all, who likes getting their spiritual ears scrubbed . Yet the Spirit whose cleanses us with Christ blesses with the rejoicing that always follows. So leap up if you must. But do so to grab that comfort idol and throw it down at Jesus’ feet.
A Better Comfort
These comfort criminals do even more for us. In showing us our remaining idolatry, and leading us to give them up in Spirit-graced repentance, these things also bless us with real increasing transformation into the new man we are in Christ:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)
The loss of some expected comfort here and now is painful. Yet the reward of greater faith, the overwhelming magnificence of the growth in the blessings of Christlikeness?! Surely these are not to be dismissed or even discounted! Imagine the wonders of coming to the end of your earthly comforts and finding out that this is what you have ahead of you:
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2Tm 4:8)
Surely, we have cause to praise the sovereign God who uses these comfort criminals to give us a better comfort!
A Squeezed Aroma
Let’s end this revival prayer letter considering the role of our current losses in comfort in our witnessing. What a tragedy it would be if in suffering these momentary light afflictions (2Co 4:7) that we might lose a full reward:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. … For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? (Jam 1:12; 1Th 2:19)
Like the flower’s release of perfume when crushed, so these comfort criminals squeeze the gospel out of believers:
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2Co 2:15-16)
Oh yes, we may need to whine to God about how “It’s not fair,” but he will graciously remind us of what’s fair in his gift of his Son to us. We will repent of our sinful childishness and look for the greater blessing in the things that rob us of our comforts. It is then that we will find the joy of telling others the wonders of the Messiah. Such are the blessings of the comfort criminals.
Dear Lord, forgive us for doubting that you are on top of things in these interesting times. And when we do remember there are no “oops” with you, forgive us for doubting the goodness you intend in removing comforts from our lives. Lord Jesus, you who became the beautiful aroma of life eternal, bless us to smell like you in these days. Grace us to tell others the wonderful good news that though this world stinks, Jesus has fulfilled the promise of a new and better world in which glory and immortality reside free for the taking for all who call you Savior!
Restore to us the years the locusts have eaten. Pour out Your Spirit in revival on us. To Your glory, together with Your Father and Your Spirit, we ask, Amen.
[*] This weekly prayer devotional focuses our attention on some aspect of our need for the Holy Spirit to bring revival to our church. Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you (Ps 85:6)? For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams (Isa 44:3-4). Pick a 15 to 30-minute time-block in your schedule over the next week and use this devotional to focus your prayers. As you can, consider fasting from a meal and using that time to pray for revival in our church.