A Video Update from Larry
Devotional on Our Only Comfort
Over the last two weeks, Larry has encouraged us by looking at two passages together, Psalm 77 and Job 38. Through both of these chapters we have been brought to reflect on the character of God, to ask and answer the question, “What god is great like our God?” There is no one like our God who works all things together for his own glory.
This morning, we’re going to take a little bit of a different approach. Rather than walking through a text, we’re going to take some time to reflect on the answer to a single question. The question and answer are one many of you are already familiar with, but because of its clear expression of biblical truth and the hope it provides, it is worthy of our time and attention.
The question and answer come from a group of German Christians who lived in the mid sixteenth century. As they sought to faithfully express what the Bible teaches, they developed a series of questions and answers called a catechism to help anchor the thoughts and lives of believers in God’s unchanging Word and unfailing promises.
At the outset of their catechism they begin with one important question: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” Over the last few weeks, my mind has been brought again and again to this question. In the midst of a pandemic and stay-at-home orders what comforts me?
We turn to all kinds of things when we want to be comforted. For me, I’m drawn to conversations with Kristine and our children, eating good food, staying healthy, connecting with other people, reading, getting outside, the bowl of M&Ms, getting things done. During this strange season, I’m also regularly thinking about things that I want to turn to for comfort but am unable to: gathering together for corporate worship, inviting people into our home, going out to eat at my favorite restaurants, and not having to think or worry about “social distancing.”
Take a moment to think or talk about where you have gone for comfort over these last few weeks and what things you miss in this season.
While many of the things we turn to for comfort are good gifts from a gracious Father, they are not the ultimate comfort for those who are in Christ. The question asks, “What is your only comfort?” Asking about our “only comfort” takes us far beyond thinking about what comforts us. This question is asking about our security; about where we can find peace.
It’s likely that most, or even all, of the things that we’ve been turning to for comfort or that we miss cannot deliver in giving us true peace and security during this time. These comforts are not certain because many of these things can be lost in this life, and will ultimately be gone in death. We often turn to temporary and fleeting comforts, but the one who places their faith in Jesus has a confidence, a comfort and certainty, in both life and death.
So, what is your only comfort in life and in death? The answer begins, “That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” If you belonged to yourself, then all would be up to you. Who would you depend on for good health? Only you. Who would make sure you have what you need? You. Who would figure out a way to pay for your sins, to be right with God? You.
The tragedy is you can’t keep yourself healthy. You can’t keep yourself young. You can’t pay for all your sins. You can’t stop death from coming after you. What a terrible thing it is to belong to yourself. But what a comfort the Christian carries with them. If you are in Christ, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You belong to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. A faithful Savior, who will not leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6); a faithful Savior, who goes with you because you belong to him.
Be encouraged by this faithfulness by reading Isaiah 43:1-3a.
How has Christ redeemed us? How do we belong to him? The answer in the catechism continues: “He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood . . .” The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). He has indeed paid it all! But not only that, he has also “set me free from the power of the devil . . .” He came as man and died our death so that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).
Be reminded of this gracious deliverance by reading Colossians 2:13-15.
Christ has triumphed over the misery of sin and death. Thanks be to God. But God’s love and care for us goes beyond reconciliation and victory, it keeps us. The catechism continues, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” In God’s kind providence, those who belong to Christ cannot be lost (John 6:39). God preserves his children according to his gracious will.
Be comforted by this love by reading John 10:27-30.
The man primarily responsible for the catechism, Zacharias Ursinus, writes, “We are his property; therefore, he watches over us as his own, so that not so much as a hair can fall from our heads without the will of our heavenly Father. Our safety does not lie in our own hands, or strength; for if it did, we should lose it a thousand times over.” While we will face evil and brokenness in this life, God defends and preserves those who belong to Christ and makes all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
How can we know that we belong to Christ; that we have received Christ and his benefits? The catechism’s answer directs us to the work of the Spirit: “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” Paul presents this truth to us in Ephesians by writing that believers are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit acts as a testimony amidst the storms of life that we belong to Christ.
Our response to these precious truths must be to live for him. Read the words of the Reformer, John Calvin, who writes, “We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.”
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know when the virus will be under control, or better yet, will be brought to an end. We don’t know when life will get back to normal. I can’t say that you or someone you love won’t get sick with COVID-19 or some other disease. I can’t tell you that no one you know will die during this pandemic.
But I can tell you that if you have repented of your sins and placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins then you can have a sure comfort in this life and a certain hope in death. You can be set free from fear and misery and walk in the joy of life in Christ. This is a comfort that never fails, a comfort that cannot be shaken or taken away. It is a comfort that strengthens us in the face of temptation, that sustains us in suffering. When you are perplexed and confused, discouraged and grieving, fearful and anxious, this comfort remains for the children of God: Christ and all his benefits are yours. In this season of waiting let us cling to him together.
Listen or Sing to These Songs
A Prayer Guide
Thank God for his unchanging character and faithfulness and that he is the one whose sovereign hand is in control of every circumstance we face.
Pray through the list of prayer requests that Nora sent out this morning
Ask God to bring this time to an end so that we can enjoy the benefits and blessing of gathering as the people of God in the presence of God.
Thank God that soon all the pain, sickness, loneliness, and tears will all be over when Jesus Christ returns for his bride. Ask the Lord to come quickly.
A Sermon to Listen To
Take some time today or this coming week to listen to the below sermon from Romans 1:16-17 from Devon.
A Question and Answer to Memorize
Take some time this week to work on memorizing the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.