The Comforter:  Part 2

John Plunkett

July 29, 2017

The Comforter is certainly not me; but still, we are going to talk some more about the Comforter today.

Let’s quickly review what we covered in Part 1. 

First of all, we pointed out that there are many trials in God’s church right now – both here on Vancouver Island and all around the world.  It seems that God’s people are really "going through the wringer" right now.

We asked a lot of questions in Part 1 and perhaps the most important question we asked is “Does God always heal in response to our prayers and anointings?”

We looked at some of God’s answers to these questions – obviously His answers that come through His holy – and one hundred percent reliable – written Word in the Bible.

We concentrated on the words of James, Moses, Daniel and Job.  We looked at the scriptural authority for anointing and anointed cloths.  We tried to take a logical look at the subject of healing and the concept that trials are largely time dependent.  We will talk some more about that today.

We finished up Part 1 with a brief mention of the requirement for waiting, for patience, for longsuffering, and of course, faith.

As we continue today, I would like us to look at what faith is, and what faith is not.  I also want to look at the great value of encouragement – to all of us, especially when we are going through trials; also, what to do when we feel so alone in our trials – which is a natural feeling for the person who is going through it.  We will look at the words ‘comfort’ and ‘Comforter.’  I want to finish off today by encouraging you to know that God is firmly in charge.

What is Faith?

As i Mentioned last time, I have sometimes heard brethren lamenting that they feel guilty when they have been anointed, sometimes repeatedly; but have not been healed.  Perhaps often, when a person is lamenting in such a way, he/she supposes that God has refused to heal him/her because of a lack of faith. 

I don’t want to get into a too detailed study on the subject of faith, because it is a huge subject all on its own.  But let me just remind you briefly what true faith is not.  True faith is not an unrealistic expectation that everything that we might want will surely come to pass – whether miraculously, or otherwise. 

We are talking specifically about healing here; but also about the relief from other kinds of trial as well. 

True faith is not looking at our trials and our problems unrealistically – not looking at them through the spiritual equivalent of rose-colored glasses. In other words thinking or saying, "Because I am one of God’s people, this problem that I think I have doesn’t really exist."

But true faith is not naturally inherent within a human being.  We cannot "work up" more faith of ourselves.  It must come to us from outside of ourselves.  We must ask for it.  It must be given to us.  It has to be granted to us by our Lord – as one of the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

The disciples knew that, if they wanted more of God’s faith, they had to ask the Lord Jesus for it:

Luke 17:5:
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

Paul had this same knowledge:

Ephesians 2:8:
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Let’s continue with this, and review just a little bit more about what faith is, according to God’s Holy written Word.  The obvious place to go to is Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This is very true.  God-given faith is the substance of things that we might appropriately hope for, and it is the evidence of things that, as limited human beings, we are unable to see.

On a normal day-to-day basis, we cannot see the sprit world.  But just because we can’t see it, that does not mean that it is merely a figment of someone’s imagination.  No.  It is a very real "alternate reality."  It is an alternate spiritual reality – alternate to our physical universe, much of which we can see.  According to God's Word, this fact – what we can see – should give us a better understanding and vision of the spiritual universe that we can’t see:

Romans 1:20:
For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead
{Greek: theiotes: divine nature}; so that they are without excuse:

If you ever feel – whether in trials or not – that you are losing your grip on who or what God is, or whether He is with you, whether or not He is looking after you, or what He is doing in your life, get out there, look at and meditate on the night sky.  Look at the beautiful mountains that we have here on and around Vancouver Island.  And the lovely ocean, and some of the things that we can see out there in the ocean – Orcas, sea lions and seals.  We can drive up into Cathedral Grove and see those huge, ancient trees.  Even right here in Qualicum Beach, we have a little park with trees that are over eight hundred years old.  Not forgetting all the other fauna and flora that God has blessed us with here on Vancouver Island, and in other countries,  too.  God has really blessed our modern Israelitish nations with lovely places to live.  

Some of these marvellous things can take our breath away when we see them.  Trish and I were looking at clouds this morning.  Initially, they look so random; and yet it looks as though there is a pattern there too.  God tells us to get out and look at His creation, and to really think about – to meditate upon – what we see.

But again, on a normal day-by-day basis, we cannot actually, physically see God the Father, Jesus and their holy angels.  Neither can we see Satan or his demons.  And, of course, we absolutely don’t want to!  But God does occasionally give some brethren brief glimpses into the spirit world:

Hebrew 13:2:
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

This really does happen!  There are many other scriptures, as well, that tell us that God sometimes deems it helpful to His people for Him to bring the physical and the spiritual realms temporarily together, and to overlap them for a very short time. 

Miraculous helps and healings might be included in such glimpses into the spirit world.  Trish and I, members of our family and other brethren that we know, have experienced some of these healings and other types of miracles, as well. 

God is real.  The spirit world is real.  And sometimes He brings a glimpse of to us.  When it does happen, it is truly amazing. 

Those experiences of ours were very comforting and encouraging for us – both at the time, and at other times when we were in need of comfort and encouragement and were able to think back on them. 

Let me stress, though, that those experiences never were as a result of us "seeking after miraculous signs" – as Jesus said "evil and adulterous generations" do.  Rather, these miraculous experiences were – and certainly need to be – under the very firm control of God the Father and Jesus, and always according to their perfect will – not necessarily according to ours.  Like it or not, Jesus and the Father know better than we do.  They know what is best for us.

I would like to go back again to where we were in Part 1.  Still in relation to the subject of physical healing, I want us to be thinking a little more about the mentions by Job and by Moses’ – about God’s displeasure with our sins.  Let’s go back to James 5 and re-read verses 15 and 16:

James 5:
15:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16:  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

The Greek word for 'faults' here is ‘paraptoma’ (Strong's 3900) – which can also mean trespasses, offenses, sins and falls.

Interesting!  The implication here is that, in some cases, our sins and our faults might be the cause – whether whole or partial – of some of our illnesses.  

What kinds of sins could cause illness and premature death?  Let’s take a minute to reacquaint ourselves with what sin is.  I know that you are all very much aware of this key scripture:

I John 3:4:
Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

The scriptures, in various places, certainly do speak of "one law."  But, I believe that this one law of God may have two parts to it – the spiritual law of God and the physical law of God.  Atheists and evolutionists would probably refer to God’s physical laws as "the laws of nature." 

Over the years, some brethren have tended to disagree with this point of view; but I personally believe that it is true.  Maybe God’s physical laws are a kind of a sub-set of His spiritual laws.  I don’t know.  But, I do believe that there is a physical law as well as a spiritual law.

In the same way, I believe that God’s law may be divided into spiritual and physical components, and that the scriptures in James 5, that we just read, confirm that there is such a thing as physical sin as well as spiritual sin.  The breaking of God’s physical laws constitute physical sin and the transgression of His spiritual laws constitute spiritual sin.  The point at which the two cross over or come together is beyond me.  Only God knows those details.

But, as has often been said, whether spiritual or physical, if we break God’s laws, they will break us!  So, we all need to be doing our very best to uphold God’s physical laws; for example, doing our level best to take in food, drink and air of the purest possible quality, as well as getting a reasonable, balanced amount of sleep and exercise – without going overboard, of course.  We do not want to make false gods out of any of these things.

It needs to be said, though, that when illness or injury falls upon a person, it may or may not always be the afflicted person who committed the physical sins – who broke the physical laws – that may have led to the cause of his/her illness or injury.  A few examples of this are:

1. When employees are encouraged – even rewarded – by their employers to go into work when they are sick with the flu, colds or other infectious illnesses – so increasing the possibility of passing it on to their fellow employees and customers.

2. Germ-laden counters, forms, receipts and employees in banks and stores.

3. Germ-laden tables, receipts and employees in cafes and restaurants; and menus that may have been passed around hundreds of times on the same day as your visit.

4. Air, water, and soil pollution that has been allowed – or even caused – by various levels of government.

5. Second-hand, unfiltered tobacco smoke, which is more dangerous than the first-hand, filtered smoke that the smoker inhales.

6. Innocent parties who are injured or killed in a road accident or a fire (e.g. an apartment or factory fire) caused by someone else’s carelessness.

7. Innocent civilians who are injured or killed in war. 

These are just a few examples.  I’m sure that you could think of others.  But my main aim in this sermon is not to concentrate on any kind of misplaced judgment for any physical sins that you – or others – might have committed – sins that might have contributed to your trials, whether past or present.  Rather, my main aim is to lead you – and myself – to words of comfort and encouragement in God’s Word – words that, hopefully, will help you and me to get through our trials, whatever they may be.

The Bible does use the English word “encourage.”  All nine appearances of the English word are in the Old Testament and are translated from the Hebrew verb 'chazaq' (Strong’s 2388) which is also translated elsewhere as courage, strong, stronger, repair, hold, strengthen, strengthened, harden and prevail… all of which may be helpful and very appropriate when we are facing of severe trials.

The nine verses that translate chazaq as encourage prove that encouragement can – and should be provided by others – usually family members and, in our case, church brethren; also, that a person can encourage himself/herself; but again, normally with help from others!

We won’t read all nine of these verses; just three of them, just to get the idea:

Deuteronomy 1:38:
But Joshua the son of Nun, which stands before you, he shall go in there: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

In the context here, we see the LORD God appointing Joshua to lead the second generation of post-Exodus Israelites into the Promised Land.  A huge task, of course, especially after Moses’ repeatedly trying experiences with the murmurings and rebellions of the first generation! 

The LORD commanded all of the Israelite people to encourage Joshua, and to refrain from giving him the same kind of grief that they had given Moses.  

This same command is repeated in chapter 3:

Deuteronomy 3:28:
But charge
{appoint, command} Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you {Moses} shall {merely} see.

Remember that Moses “lost out big-time” as a result of his (Moses’) response to the Israelites' constant murmuring (Numbers 20:7-12).  So again, the LORD commanded His people to encourage this new leader that He had chosen for them.  From what we read, the second generation did a much better job than the first generation.  Under Joshua, the Israelites' murmuring was reduced to almost nothing and as a result, the Israelites of that era were greatly blessed.

Feel Alone in Trials?

But what happens when a person feels pretty much alone in his or her trials?  Where does that person find the necessary encouragement in order to prevent him or her from “thowing in the towel” – giving up?

In answer, we'll read an account in which David
– one of the great friends of the LORD God (Acts 13:22) – found himself virtually alone in one of his major trials, when even his usual supporters turned against him and rejected him:

I Samuel 30:
1:  And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag
{a town in southern Judah} on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire;
2:  And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way.
3:  So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives…

How similar to the wretched, cowardly tactics that we see from ISIS in the Middle East and the Boko Haram in Africa – the kidnapping of women and young girls.  In your mind, try to apply what is happening in the Middle East and Africa to what was happening back then to David’s people.  How would they feel? 

This is how they did feel.  Yes, even the ultra-courageous and ultra-faithful David himself:

4:  Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.
5:  And David’s two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife
{widow} of Nabal the Carmelite.
6a:  And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved
{Hebrew “marar”: embittered}, every man for his sons and for his daughters…

Although their grief was very understandable, David’s own people, illogically and unreasonably, put the blame for this terrible kidnapping on David.  Yes, his own people turned against him.  And he was virtually alone.  Humanly, that is.  There is an old saying that :It's lonely at the top."

In that “leadership-loneliness,” David was forced to “self-encourage.”  To encourage himself.  
But did he have anyone else to turn to for help in his self-encouragement? 

Yes. Of course he did:

6b: … but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

The word ‘in’ is very appropriate, important and significant as used here.  But we'll come back to it later. 

By encouraging himself… "in the LORD his God,” David was able to suppress his own personal grief, which had evidently partially and temporarily stunned and incapacitated him. 

We won’t read all the follow-up detail now; but David turned to the LORD for His advice on how to proceed.  The LORD quickly responded and, based on the LORD’s advice, David worked out a plan through which this tragedy was turned to a great success and a great victory over evil.

This is a fantastic lesson for us all.  There are times when we are alone; and there are times when we feel alone in a trial, even though we have our family, brothers and sisters around us.  At such times, we could not do better than to follow David’s example and to encourage ourselves; but to do so “in the LORD our God.”

If we follow David’s example in this way, the LORD God will help us to get out of our doldrums and to work out a practical plan of attack against the enemies that beset us – whether they be health, financial, personal – or whatever kind of trials they might be. 

Make no mistake – the LORD our God loves us dearly; and He is infinitely powerful and mighty.  David knew this. We can know it too. We can rely on this knowledge!  We can “take it to the bank”!


God’s holy written Word also uses another excellent term for encouragement… and that word is “comfort.”

Whether we care to admit it or not, at some times (plural!) in our lives, we all need some comfort.  More than just a few Old Testament scriptures refer to what happens if and when we lack comfort or a comforter.

Both of these words – comfort and comforter – are translated in the Old Testament from the Hebrew verb “nacham” (Strong’s 5162). 

Many of these Old Testament “comfort” scriptures refer to the lack of a comforter or the requirement for a comforter – specifically, one who can help God’s people in their dealings with oppressors or enemies.  Here’s one of those scriptures from Solomon:

Ecclesiastes 4:1:
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they
{the oppressed} had no comforter.

Here are some more mentions of the words “comfort” and “comforter” from Jeremiah, referring to a female personification of Judah, Jerusalem and Zion whose great, comfort-less sufferings were (and will be again in the future) a result of their own repeated, unrepented-of sins – including her national and spiritual adultery:

Lamentations 1:
1: How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people!  How is she become as a widow!  She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!

How did she become a slave?

2:  She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she has none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies…
Verse 9:  Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembers not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully
{extraordinarily}: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy has magnified himself…

As also mentioned by Solomon in the scripture that we just read in Ecclesiastes 4, the LORD God tells us here, through Jeremiah, that the lack of an effective comforter increases the power of our oppressors and enemies and, therefore, also increases the suffering of the oppressed and the afflicted ones.

But please notice also how much Jeremiah himself is afflicted by the magnification of Judah’s enemies and by the resultant lack of an effective comforter.  Poor Jeremiah!  Even though the context shows that he was repentant of his own personal sins and likely, therefore, did not share in all of the causative national and spiritually adulterous sins of his countrymen (his fellow Levites and Jews), he did not separate his own grief and pain from theirs.

Jeremiah knew that a comforter – the Comforter – was available to his nation and to himself; but he felt – quite rightly so, I believe – that their supreme Comforter had distanced Himself from the spiritually adulterous people of Judah:

Verse 16:  For these things I weep; my eye, my eye runs down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed {Hebrew “gabar”: is strengthened, becomes great, mighty, stronger and more valiant}.

The Jews' Comforter was far from them.

When any of God’s New Covenant people are seriously ill or troubled, we don't want our Comforter to be “far from” us.  On the contrary, we want Him to be as close as possible to us.  We want Him to be near to us – as mentioned in the second verse of the lovely version of Psalm 23 written by James Montgomery and Thomas Koschat (Number 19 in the Bible Hymnal):

Through the valley and shadow of death though I stray,
Since Thou art my Guardian, no evil I fear;
Thy rod shall defend me, Thy staff be my stay;
No harm can befall with my Comforter near.
No harm can befall with my Comforter near.

Let's quickly read the very well-known verse in the King James Version from which this line of the hymn was taken:

Psalms 23:4:
Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

Back to Lamentations 1 where we read, once again, of God’s people greatly lacking the nearness of their Comforter.  His place near them has been usurped by their adversaries:

Lamentations 1:17: 
Zion spreads forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD has commanded concerning Jacob
{N.B. all the tribes of Israel – not just Judah} that his adversaries should be round about him…

Again, we see here the increase in the power of our adversaries when God’s people lack an effective comforter.  Our enemies today might be our trials, which really can seem all-encompassing.  They can seem to surround us – seemingly making our escape from them more difficult – even impossible.

The greatest enemy of God’s peoples – both Old Covenant and New – is, of course, Satan the devil.  His very name – Satan – means “adversary.” 

Although Satan is the ultimate adversary – of all of mankind; but most specifically, of God’s people – other “enemies” can also include the threats of disease and untimely death (I Corinthians 15:26) and other serious trials.

As Jeremiah continues in Lamentations 1, there is more bad news for Judah, but thankfully followed by some refreshingly good news for their future:

Verse 21:  They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all my enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that you {LORD} have done it: you will bring the day that you have called, and they shall be like unto me.

In other words, God will one day turn things around so that our enemies – those He used as pawns to afflict His sinning peoples – will become the afflicted ones.  In the case of our ultimate adversary – Satan the Devil – we know this to be true, because it is firmly prophesied that this will come to pass in God’s good time:

Revelation 20:
1:  And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2:  And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3:  And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season…
Verse 7:  And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison…
Verse 10:  And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Yes, in His own good time, God will turn things around, and Satan (and his demons too) will become the afflicted ones.  Not only that; but our own personal afflictions and enemies will also come to an end.  Our loving God has decreed that even death itself – which seems at this time to be all-encompassing, inescapable and to have the ability destroy us – will one day itself be destroyed:

I Corinthians 15:26:
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

So, if death will be done away, so will the illness and pain that so often precedes it and the mourning that follows it:

Revelation 21:4:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 

So, on the contrary, all this weeping and crying will be replaced by rejoicing and joy:

Isaiah 65:19:
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem
{which can symbolize all of God’s people, both Old Covenant and New}, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.

But let’s go back to Lamentations 1, and let’s re-read verse 21; just to pick up another very important, comforting and encouraging point:

Lamentations 1:21: 
They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all my enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that you
{LORD} have done it: you will bring the day that you have called, and they shall be like unto me.

Here we see a truth that can be applied to our own personal troubles as well as to those of Israel and Judah – both physical and spiritual!  Yes, this truth can – and should – also be applied to God’s church today!  And that truth is that the LORD God is in charge!  The LORD our God has ultimate control. 

Although one's enemies can be strengthened by the lack of a comforter, it is the LORD God who, for His own good reasons and purposes, allows – and in some cases, even causes – the strengthening of those enemies. 

The severe trials of poor Job, one of the most afflicted human beings ever, are examples of this fact.  Here's what Job said as he was suffering through some of his greatest trials:

Job 1:
21:  And said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22:  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. 

Job 2:
9:  Then said his wife unto him, “Do you still retain your integrity?  Curse God, and die.”
10:  But he said unto her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.  What?  Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”  In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

The word ‘evil’ there is a bad translation.  The Hebrew word is "ra" which can mean trouble, soreness, illness, grief or sadness

It is important for us to remember that the LORD’s allowance and/or causing of the temporary trials of His beloved brothers and sisters and the temporary strengthening of our enemies (including disease and untimely death) are always for a good, ultimate cause or reason:

II Corinthians 4:17:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 

Our afflictions work for us, not against us.

In our personal experience, Trish and I have seen that, sometimes, God lets us know what the reason or the purpose of a trial is; but sometimes He doesn’t.  And when He doesn't, maybe He doesn't because the reason or purpose is too big for us to grasp.  He is the boss!

From all that we have covered today, there are three main things to remember:

  1. Jesus Christ and His Father love all of us very much – more than we can love ourselves – they love us so much. 
  2. They are in 100% control
  3. They are in charge.