The last two weeks we’ve discussed the importance of prayer in marriage. We looked at the importance of committing our marriage entirely to Christ and praying for His help to do so. We also noted at the end of last week’s study that the purpose for our lives and our marriage must be to serve Christ by serving others.
This week, we want to look further at this vital aspect of serving the Lord together.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
It is a good thing to pray that God will use our marriage to serve Him by helping us to serve others. And we can be certain when we pray for that, God will hear and answer yes to our prayer (1 John 5:14-15).
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Paul gives us these words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
This passage teaches us several important things to know if we desire to serve God together.
God is Compassionate and Comforts Us
First, God is compassionate (2 Corinthians 1:3). The word compassionate here is “oiktermos,” which means “to have mercy on.”
Because of His compassion, God comforts us no matter what we face. Paul says that God “comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
The word that is translated “comfort” in these verses is the Greek “paraklesis,” which can also mean “encourage” and “strengthen.” Thus Paul is saying that God uses our troubles to help us, which includes transforming us into the Christ-followers that He wants us to be.
This is precisely what Paul says in Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
The word “paraklesis” also comes from the same root as “parakletos.” This is the term Jesus uses in John 14:16-17: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (The bolded word is the translation of “parakletos.”)
Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us as believers in Christ. He comforts, encourages, and strengthens us as we go through even the most difficult times in our marriage. And He uses those times to work for our good and to conform us into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).
This is an incredible truth that gives us great hope in our marriage no matter what we are facing. But we must not stop reading Paul’s words there. If we do, we will be self-focused and of no use to God in serving others.
God is compassionate because of His great love. Lamentations 3:22-23 says: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning….”
Paul tells us over and over how much God loves us. He writes for example in Romans 8:37-39: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (bold mine).
God’s love for us is seen most clearly in Jesus. This is confirmed in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And also in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (bold mine). (If you would like to learn more about God’s love and how you can experience it, please read our Meet Jesus page.)
God’s Love and Comfort Helps Us Love Others
This love and compassion that God has for us should impact our lives and marriage in profound ways. Indeed, His love and compassion are one of the reasons our lives and marriage exist.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
And later in this same letter Paul writes another way this love and comfort should impact our lives and marriage. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
As we experience God’s love and comfort for ourselves, it “compels us” to serve Him together. The word Paul uses in this passage for “compels” is the Greek word “sunecho.” It means to be so seized and affected by something you can’t do anything but respond to it. This is how our lives and marriage should be when it comes to serving God…and when it comes, therefore, to serving others.
When we are so impacted by God’s love in our marriage, we become His hands and feet every day as we meet needs and serve others together.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do exactly what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
God demonstrates His love for us and comforts us so that we can then share His love and comfort with others (2 Corinthians 1:4). We then become His agents of love and comfort. That is what our marriage is to be all about.
When I became sick several years ago, my illness took away one ministry from Sabra and me. But many times God has shown us that He has given us a new ministry together. A ministry of serving Him by being His instruments to provide love, comfort and encouragement to others going through difficult times.
Serving God together will bring joy into your marriage. So lift up a prayer that the Lord will help you share His love and compassion and serve others together…for He has promised to do so.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. What is God teaching you? How will you apply it this week?
♦ How has God comforted you in your life and marriage? How can this be used to minister to others?
♦ Does God’s love, comfort, mercy, and grace that He has shown you compel you to show those same things to others? Discuss together how you can do this.
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to reveal to you how He wants you to use the ways He has comforted you to serve Him by showing His comfort and love to others.
Next week we will study more deeply this love God has given us and how we can have genuine love for each other.
Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
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Photo by Jake Givens via unsplash.com (CC0), cropped/text added.