Christ, our only Comfort
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Jesus Christ, in Matthew 6:26-27, ESV) “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Jesus Christ, in Matthew 10:30, ESV)
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (Second Corinthians 1:5, ESV)
Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer # 1:
“Q. 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
“A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.”
If there is one thing we need in this present life, it is comfort. Life in our fallen, sin-cursed world can be harsh, and sorrow is the common lot of all mankind. Sickness, hunger, disease, war, scarcity, loneliness, famine, divorce, injustice, poverty, oppression, abuse, broken homes, broken hearts — these are just a few of the long list of miseries in this present life that threaten us. Add to these common miseries the ostracism, mockery and persecutions that believers in Christ have often had to endure from the godless throughout the history of the church, and often it is the Christian who finds himself or herself in need of even more comfort than the nonbeliever. The good news of the gospel is that God provides His people with comfort — genuine, eternal, reliable comfort (not mere wishful thinking or a “pipe dream”) — through His Son, Jesus Christ our risen Lord. But why is this gospel message so genuinely comforting to the soul? The Bible-based answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism helps us to understand the comfort the gospel provides to us in Christ.
First of all, in the gospel Christ provides us with an eternal comfort. It reminds us that “with body and soul, both in life and death” we belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. The gospel comforts us because it assures us that our sins (great and many though they may be) have been forgiven because Jesus, God’s Son, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and rose from the dead to secure for us the gift of eternal life. The gospel comforts us sinners because it assures us that whoever believes in Christ for salvation from sin (no matter how sinful they may be, no matter how far from God they may have strayed) will not perish under God’s judgment, but will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Our heavenly Father delights in welcoming home the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). What a comfort to those of us who know from hard experience that “We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep” (to borrow words from the general confession of sin found in The Book of Common Prayer). In the gospel our loving heavenly Father says to humble, contrite, believing sinners, “I love you; I forgive you; I gave my Son to pay for your sins; I welcome you, dear child, now and always. Nothing can snatch you from the Almighty grip of my love.” What a great comfort is the gospel (“good news”) of Jesus Christ!
The gospel of Christ is also comforting because it tells us that we belong. If we trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Scripture says that we belong to God and to God’s forever family, the church. And, to be more specific, to whom in particular do we belong? We belong to a “faithful Savior” (emphasis mine). Our Lord Jesus Christ is a faithful, covenant Savior, who has bound Himself to us (and us to Him) in the covenant of grace. As He was faithful to begin a work of grace in us, so He will be faithful to complete that work of grace. By His grace we belong to Him, in body and soul, in life and in death, and forevermore. Nothing ever can or will separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39), not even the sufferings and evils of this present age! In the gospel Word He says, in effect, “No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, I offer full and free forgiveness to you. I sent my Son to die for sinners just like you. Trust Him, embrace Him by faith, and you will belong to me forever!” Likewise, in the sacramental “word” of baptism it is as if He says, “Just as your body has been washed in water, so I have washed your soul clean from sin by the blood of Christ and renewed you by the Holy Spirit.” In the Lord’s Supper it is as if Jesus says to us believers, “My child, I loved you enough to let my Body be torn, crushed, lacerated and broken for you. I poured out my very life-blood, for your redemption. I have atoned for your sins. Believe me! Take me at my Word! You belong to me, now and forever.” What a comfort to know that “I belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ”!
The gospel of Christ also comforts us because it assures us believers that everything that God sovereignly permits to happen to us (whether good or ill) is ultimately designed not only for His glory, but for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). Not even a hair can fall from our heads apart from the sovereign will of our loving heavenly Father! Thus we can be assured that “all things must be subservient to my salvation”. What a comfort to know that even the bad things that God allows to happen to us will ultimately, in the end, turn out for our good.
Finally, the gospel comforts us because it motivates us to be “sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.” When we understand that we are saved as a pure, undeserved, freely bestowed gift of God’s sovereign grace alone through Jesus Christ, and not by our own works or deservings, our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude to a God who would love such undeserving rebels as us! No longer are we motivated to love, serve and obey God by a craven fear of His wrath and punishment, or by a legalistic drive to try to earn or merit His favor by our supposed works and merits; instead, we are motivated by love and gratitude toward our loving heavenly Father for His free gift of salvation in Jesus! When we see this motivation of gratitude at work in our souls, it comforts us because it confirms that the love of God in Christ Jesus has been poured out into our souls!
In this world of sin and darkness, the only true and lasting comfort is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the full and free salvation that He has accomplished for all who embrace Him for salvation. Our only comfort, in life and in death, is knowing that we belong to Him, both now and forever. Dear reader, is Jesus Christ your only Comfort in life and in death? Do you belong to Him? Do you have doubts about whether you belong to Him? Doubt no more! If you are weary and heavy laden with the burden of your sins, be assured that He welcomes you: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Jesus Christ, in Matthew 11:28, ESV) Come to Him, and you will find rest and deep comfort for your soul.