1 Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore COMFORT yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
In this study, we will compare the modern definition of the word “comfort” to the older definition. There has been a change of emphasis. And I believe that the Devil has been behind the changes in this word.
Too often, we have the wrong definition in our minds about this word “comfort.” The “man-is-good-and-I-am-a-victim” mentality that psychological-philosophy has brought into the churches (i.e. the new Christianity of the “ME” generation), is the tool Satan has used to pervert this important Biblical word. The word is deeper than we realize, when it is applied in a spiritual manner. Too often, we have only the “air conditioner, remote-control, put your feet up in a recliner,” idea of “comfort.” Many Christians then study the Biblical passages concerning “comfort,” and they automatically superimpose this worldly, modern, psychobabble definition upon the word. The result is strife in the homes, and in the churches, as Christians begin to complain that they do not “feel comfortable.” The modern, “I have needs” fad has brought forth a generation of worldly Christians that say such things as:
“If I don’t feel comfortable in my marriage, I deserve a new one!”
“If I don’t feel comfortable during the preaching, I am being spiritually abused.”
“Christianity is supposed to make ME comfortable.”
Thus, people like Robert Schuller teach that we need a new Christianity for this new generation, and they are trying to launch a new reformation that replaces the classic view of humility with self-esteem, and the Bible with psychology. But they will never find true, Biblical comfort in this fashion. With this wrong idea of comfort, Christians soon begin to be attacked by the Devil, or they begin to suffer persecution, and they then either turn back, or they become discouraged. “Where is the comfort?,” they ask. “Where are the comforting sermons?,” they ask the preacher. “Why isn’t everyone comforting me?,” they ask. Well, maybe many of these people HAVE been greatly comforted. But they have had the wrong idea about Biblical comfort!:
Mark 10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, WITH PERSECUTIONS; and in the world to come eternal life.
The Lord never promised that our Christian walk would be free from trials or persecutions. And persecution is not necessarily a sign that you are on the wrong road. According to Paul’s inspired words, it is often an additional sign that you are on the right road (2 Timothy 3:12, Philippians 1:28).
Nevertheless, many ignore the Bible’s warnings against being spoiled and corrupted with worldly philosophies and evil communications (Colossians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 15:33). And therefore, they begin to conclude that any doctrine or lifestyle that brings conflict and persecution, cannot be the right path! They interpret truth based upon experience, and whether or not it brings IMMEDIATE feelings of “comfort.” When these feelings of “comfort” are no longer present, they then turn away or turn back:
Psalms 36:1 The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.
3 The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: HE HATH LEFT OFF to be wise, and to do good.
4 â€¦he abhorreth not evil.
Luke 9:62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and LOOKING BACK, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but IF ANY MAN DRAW BACK, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Matthew 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but DURETH FOR A WHILE: for when TRIBULATION OR PERSECUTION ariseth because of the word, by and by HE IS OFFENDED.
We must learn to love God’s truth, so that we will not be easily offended when we have trouble:
Psalms 119:165 Great PEACE have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
Notice, that God is not against us experience His peace. He promises that the righteous will have GREAT peace. But the condition is that they must love the Lord’s LAW. But this is the very age that HATES God’s commandments. It has turned God’s grace into lasciviousness (Jude 1). Is it then no wonder, that this is the age of MISERABLE people? Only in the last days, when so many despise God’s law, could there be so many people who have FEW PROBLEMS, setting out to INVENT and make problems for themselves! Discontentment is raging among Christians. Many do not have peace. This is because they are despising God’s commandments and ways as something grievous and hurtful. If God’s commandment hurts their flesh or pride, or if it inconveniences them in any way, they flee it. They are seeking “comfort.” But to run from God’s ways and laws, is to run away from true peace and happiness:
Genesis 4:6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?â€¦
John 13:17 If ye know these things, HAPPY are ye IF YE DO them.
John 14:27 PEACE I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: NOT AS THE WORLD GIVETH, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
The “peace” that Jesus gives is very different from the so-called “peace” that comes from following the ways of the world. The “peace” that the world gives is instantaneous. However, it only lasts a brief season. We see people going the way of the flesh, and they conclude, “I never felt so much peace.” Yes, snorting cocaine also brings good feelings. Marijuana and alcohol bring temporary elation and euphoria. But they also bite like serpents IN THE END, leaving a person with even greater emptiness and vexation of spirit. It is not wise to seek a temporary “high.” Moses understood this truth, and applied it to his own life:
Hebrews 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin FOR A SEASON;
I am sure the Prodigal Son could have written to his father during his merriment, and said, “Things have never been better. I am in great peace.” Jonah was sleeping so soundly, that they had to awake him in the storm. Ah, but the Devil’s peace burns away like expensive fireworks. Up, up, and away, andâ€¦poof! They are gone. Before long, the bliss has ended, and the reaping begins:
Ecclesiastes 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
It is FRUIT we are looking for, and good, lasting fruit does not often appear overnight:
Mark 4:5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and IMMEDIATELY IT SPRANG UP, because it had no depth of earth:
6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
Rebellion, like whiskey, will always bring an IMMEDIATE flush of elation. Yet, its end is regurgitations and sickly dizziness. “Liberty” from responsibility will always scratch our ears and pat our heads as we sit in its lap. But we will soon find that our leash is much shorter than it was when we were walking in the light of God’s commandments (2 Peter 2:19, 1 John 5:3)! The “peace” of the world soon becomes pricks in our side (Proverbs 13:15). But the fruit of obedience to God, though there may be some trials and “growing pains,” will always, in the end, bring us true peace and joy unspeakable:
Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the PRESENT seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless AFTERWARD it yieldeth the PEACEABLE fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Let us, therefore, resist this principle lie of the Devil, that if our path is true and right, we will have no trouble, and feel no pain. The Bible speaks of darts and wiles of the Devil, and it calls us to stand against a flurry of Satanic opposition! We must not be deceived by those who would lead us astray about the meaning of the word “comfort.” They say:
“Is not God the God of all COMFORT (2 Corinthians 1:3)? Why then this pain of CONVICTION in your flesh? Why then do you have these growing pains, as the Lord’s local body works upon you to bring forth maturity and righteousness in your weak areas? Why these battles? Why this warfare? You must be in the wrong place! You have chosen the wrong path! You have had some trials since you have walked this path. This must be proof that you are on the wrong path (Jeremiah 44:18). Where is the COMFORT? The Christian walk is not meant to be a battle. You are under too much pressure. Let go and give in and turn away. Seek COMFORT!”
The older saints, who did not live in our shallow, pampered, self-centered, effeminate age, understood that Biblical “comfort” did NOT mean, freedom from any danger, trial or warfare:
“Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas? Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God? Sure I must fight, if I would reign; increase my courage, Lord. I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by thy word.”
(Isaac Watts, “Am I A Soldier?”)
“There is some danger of falling into a soft and effeminate Christianity, under the plea of a lofty and ethereal [heavenly] theology. Christianity was born for endurance; not an exotic, but a hardy plant, braced by the keen wind; not languid [drooping; sickly], nor childish, nor cowardly. It walks with strong step and erect frame; it is kindly, but firm; it is gentle, but honest; it is calm, but not facile [easily performed]; obliging, but not imbecile [weak-minded]; decided, but not churlish [stubborn]. It does not fear to speak the stern word of condemnation against error, nor to raise its voice against surrounding evil, under the pretext it is not of this world, it does not shrink from giving honest reproof, lest it come under the charge of displaying an unchristian spirit. It calls sin sin, in whomsoever it is found, and would rather risk the accusation of being actuated by a bad spirit than not to discharge an explicit duty. Let us not misjudge strong words used in honest controversy. Out of the heat a viper may come forth; but we shake it off and feel no harm. The religion of both Old and New Testaments is marked by fervent testimonies against evil. To speak smooth things in such a case may be sentimentalism, but it is not Christianity.â€¦It is a betrayal of truth and righteousness. I know that charity covers a multitude of sins; but it does not call evil good, because a good man has done it; it does not excuse inconsistencies, because the inconsistent brother has a high name and a fervent spirit; crookedness and worldliness are still crookedness, though exhibited in one who seems to have reached no common height of attainment.”
(Horatius Bonar, 1818-1899)
Those who flee the light to escape any fight or pain, will NOT find peace in the end. They will find depression and vanity:
Isaiah 57:21 There is NO PEACE, saith my God, to the wicked.
Do not be deceived by the TEMPORARY, fleeting feelings of peace, that disobedience and falsehood bring to the heart. False teachers use this temporary tickling and scratching to lead people away from the place of true fruit-bearing:
Jeremiah 6:14 They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people SLIGHTLY, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the OLD PATHS, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall FIND REST for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
The supposed modern “truths” of pop-psychology only poison the precious water. We will seek for the old paths; the way that has been prepared for us by God. The way that has been “cast up,” or cleared by God from spiritual danger:
Jeremiah 18:15 Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;
It is crucial that we have the right idea about God’s COMFORT. It is not comfort because it is free from any growing pains. It is not comfort because it is free from any trials or battles. Christianity is not a comfort because it brings peace to all your relationships with people. There will be tribulations with men and persecutions (Matthew 10:34-36).
Let us notice the true definition of this word “COMFORT”:
“1. To STRENGTHEN; to invigorateâ€¦”
“1. To STRENGTHEN (morally or spiritually)â€¦”
“1. To give consolation, encouragement, or moral STRENGTH to; to cheer; encourageâ€¦to relieve the suffering or pain ofâ€¦.TO STRENGTHENâ€¦”
(Standard Dictionary, 1895)
“1. To console; to STRENGTHENâ€¦”
(American Diamond Pronouncing Dictionary, 1878)
“1. [From Latin] comfortare, to STRENGTHENâ€¦”
(Blackies Compact Etymological Dictionary)
The emphasis in these older definitions of “comfort” is correct, for we can see the very word “FORT” in the word “comfort”! What does “fort” mean? It means “STRONG.” The word “forte” refers to a person’s “strong” point. “Forte” in music, is the place where the music is played with force or strength.
In this true meaning of the word, we have found the difference between Christianity and the world, and between God’s way and the Devil’s way. To comfort someone in a Biblical sense is to help them STAND. It is not true, spiritual comfort to tell someone, “There is no battle. You do not have to fight. You are free to remain passive; you are free to compromise.” Joshua and Caleb did not lie to the people in such a way. But they DID seek to COMFORT them in the sense of strengthening their faith and resolve for the battle:
Numbers 13:30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for WE ARE WELL ABLE TO OVERCOME IT.
31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
The first thing to get straight is the two different approaches. God means we are to encourage people to fight sin by His promises and power. The world means we are to comfort people by REDEFINING SIN, or telling them that they are not responsible for it!
Notice the subtle change of emphasis concerning the definition of the word “comfort” in the new dictionaries:
“1. To SOOTHEâ€¦” (Modern Webster’s Ency. Dict., 1989)
“1. To SOOTHEâ€¦” (American Heritage, 1997)
This is radical change of emphasis! I believe this change of emphasis concerning the definition of the word “comfort” is an illustration of what has occurred on the large scale in theology itself. We have left the age of responsibility, and we have entered the final age of Laodicean self-pampering. No longer are Christians COMFORTED to stand strong in the will of God, by precious promises which inspire faith, hope, and love. Many are now “soothed” into a state of passivity and tranquility by smooth words:
Isaiah 30:9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us SMOOTH THINGS, prophesy deceits:
A preacher may be filled with the Holy Ghost, and through diligent study and prayer, he may be providing everything necessary for Christians to stand in their battles. They hear that God is alive and that He is for us, and that He is in us, and that He is calling us, and wants to empower us. They hear true words that will inspire hope and love. This man is truly a “comforting” preacher! But then the false teachers come and say,”All this talk about overcoming is spiritual abuse! Return to Egypt. Lay down your weapons. Let the giants alone.” These are indeed soothing words, but they are not strengthening words! Therefore, they are not truly comforting words. Biblically comforting words will strengthen our faith, hope and love for God and His will. The Thessalonians were “comforted” with the promise that physical death was no bar to reigning with Christ in His coming Kingdom. In other words, they were strengthened to place their faith in God, and to endure their afflictions in hope.
Now that we have seen that Biblical “comfort” includes the idea of “strengthening” us to stand in our battles (instead of “soothing” us to lay down our spiritual armour), it is important to see that we can only be truly strengthened in such a way BY GOD’S WORD:
1 Thessalonians 4:18 Wherefore COMFORT one another WITH THESE WORDS.
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were WRITTEN aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and COMFORT OF THE SCRIPTURES might have hope.
“â€¦it is simply and only a question of becoming acquainted with God, and getting to know what He is, and what He does, and what He feelsâ€¦.Divine comfort does not come to us in any mysterious or arbitrary way. It comes as the result of a divine method. The indwelling Comforter ‘brings to our remembrance’ comforting things concerning our Lord, and, if we believe them, we are comforted by themâ€¦.if we are to be comforted by the Scriptures, we must first believe them. Nothing that God has said can possibly comfort a person who does not believe it to be really trueâ€¦.In this manner of comfort it is exactly as it is in every other experience in the religious life. God says, ‘Believe, and then you can feel.’ We say, ‘Feel, and then we can believe.’”
(Hannah Whitall Smith, “The God of All Comfort”)
Worldly philosophy will not truly comfort us to endure our trials and face the enemy. It will make us weak and spiritually anemic:
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man SPOIL YOU through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Notice another Scripture:
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, COMFORT THE FEEBLEMINDED, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
It does not say, “Tell the feeble-minded that they have no responsibility to stand or exercise faith in God.” No! We are to help these Christians STAND by reminding them of God’s promises:
1 Thessalonians 3:1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to ESTABLISH YOU, and to COMFORT YOU concerning your faith:
3 THAT NO MAN SHOULD BE MOVED BY THESE AFFLICTIONSâ€¦
The above passage presents the true meaning and purpose of Biblical comfort with complete clarity. We are “comforted” (strengthened, encouraged, etc.) that we will be emboldened to STAND in the face of our trials and enemies.
Only the Holy Scriptures are capable of strengthening us to stand. Let the world rush by with its distractions and pleas for us to turn aside from the battle. We will take comfort in the Word of God; we will be strengthened to fight by His promises and warnings:
Psalms 119:50 THIS is MY COMFORT in my affliction: for THY WORD hath quickened me.
51 The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.
52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD
(Pastor Joey Faust, Kingdombaptist.org)