Fear often drives out my sense of comfort. One of my more prominent fears right now is the state of our roof. Since we are struggling financially, we have been unable to have the roof fixed for a while. I am afraid of the roof collapsing and sending us into even worse financial state while we are just getting back on our feet. I imagine life is going to throw us off shortly since we seem to be making progress again. That is just how life goes, right?
Then I was reminded by Paul in Ephesians of God’s plan for us. God allowed horrible things to happen in Paul’s life (far worse than my leaky roof) and he was pleased to be used by God. How did he hold on to such hope and peace? Where did he find comfort? Is it possible for me to find comfort in the same way? So I read more.
“From Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. To God’s people who live in Ephesus and are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!”
A People Who Need Purpose
There is deep hope and comfort in purpose. As Christians, we do not create our own purpose, but we claim the grace of God’s purpose to redeem us from our sins. We have all been given a unique purpose as a part of the body of Christ.
“Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him.”
When Paul was still a young Saul living as a developing Pharisee, we can imagine he had never set “leading thousands to Christ” as his life goal. Eventually, he would write letters to inspire millions of followers to seek Christ and fully accept His grace. His plan was to eradicate the false gods, including the Christian threat to God’s holiness. When God’s grace blasted into Saul’s life, Saul changed his entire identity (including changing his name to Paul) through the grace and Spirit of God. Paul then accepts and explores his new purpose as an Apostle for the rest of his life.
We often miss God’s purpose for our lives when we are stuck on our own hopes and goals. Paul was so given to his new purpose through Christ, he was able to persevere through every trial with hope. His comfort was held tightly in God’s plan. He knew God would fulfill His plan to spread the gospel, even if people attacked him and chained him. As a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29) Paul was repeatedly freed from life-threatening mobs and forced into a new area desperate for comfort.
A Bold Community
In Ephesians, we see Paul writing to a bold community of religious opinions who forced him out through a riot. After over three years of teaching and purifying Ephesus of sins and demons, Paul tells the church of his coming time in jail. As he sits in jail writing many letters to churches who were receptive to Christ, Ephesians is written to this bold group of new followers. Much of the beginning of Ephesians discusses community among many different people with different skills. Today, we would call this discussion diversity. The strength of diversity lies in purpose and unity. Often times, our comfort fades when we begin to fall in either category.
Unity is about relationships. While comfort can be found through God in unexpected ways (as we learned with Noah in this month’s first post), the ability to remain unified with Christ and the Church is a glimpse of the new world to come. The new world God has planned and Christ promised in which heaven and Earth are truly and completely unified.
Purpose is identified in a personal and corporate setting. We all have a common (unified) purpose to spread the Gospel of Christ, but each of us has a unique purpose in doing so. As each person has God-given gifts and talents, we find strength in working together. When one strength is missing, it hurts the body. Every church member has felt the hurt of a lost member. There is somebody who fills in your weak spots, or has talents you could never understand. If they are gone (in any form) from the body, we hurt. As we hurt, we lose a secure comfort in our purpose.
Lifelong Pursuit of Maturity
Finding our purpose comes step by step, through prayer and interaction with the body. If we are constantly seeking comfort for our weaknesses, then it is likely we need to re-evaluate how we are involved in our local church body. When people stop focusing on God’s will, they turn to their own goals and abilities. Church family can turn into a business model very quickly when a group is broken, hurting, and trying to make ministry work on their own.
What would it look like if we relied on God’s grace and purpose for our lives instead of forcing our gods of comfort into our life plans? I imagine it would read much like Paul’s life. If a bitter puritan like Paul could find a new identity and immeasurable comfort, why can’t we? While it certainly takes times to understand, God’s grace is complete comfort. As the Holy Spirit leads us and helps us, we can find true comfort in God’s purpose for our lives.
This is the third writing in the #Comfortober series. If you would like to read the first and second posts, please click on the images below.