Adapted from a Sermon by George Everard, 1882
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, (17) comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Eternal comfort! What a resting-place is here for the anxious, troubled heart! What a sweet thought for the children of God! Seasons of sorrow, and loss, and hardship come from time to time and try our faith. The stormy deep engulfs vessels small and great. With our advanced technology this is less so today, but, not so long ago, the wreck chart for each year told it’s sad tale of life sacrificed and cargoes lost. Many a home loses its stability. Hard times, broken relationships, bankruptcies, failing health, and what not, bring many a one to the brink of poverty and need.
Coming years will have their troubles also. In many areas, the horizon looks dark and threatening. Perhaps to some here present the heaviest burden you have yet known may not be far off. But if God is your refuge and strength, and the Lord Jesus Christ is your anchor, you need not fear. The God of all power and might, the faithful God, the God of Providence, and the God of peace — He is on your side; and if God is for you, who can be against you? You have "eternal comfort."
"Eternal comfort!" From where does it come?
In a world so full of trouble, from where can come comfort and hope and peace that can never end? It is the fruit of God's everlasting love. It flows down to us from the heart of God. It is the gift of Him who is "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort," (2 Cor 1:3) who "comforts the downcast," (2 Cor 7:6) who has promised that "as one whom his mother comforts," (Is 66:13) so will He comfort His people. God loves to comfort those who trust in Him. He instructs His ministers to "speak tenderly to Jerusalem." (Is 40:2) He has given His Word, that "through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Rom 15:4)
So He gives "eternal comfort."
In His tender mercy, He marks every sorrow that weighs on the heart of His redeemed child. He can see the conscience wearied with the burden of guilt, and the mind oppressed by life's cares, and the spirit broken and dejected by bereavement, or poverty, or disappointment. He sees it all. He does not despise the sighing of a contrite heart, nor the desire of such as are sorrowful; and so He provides Heavenly consolation to cheer, and refresh, and uphold us. It all springs from His fatherly love. In His everlasting love, He gave His Well-Beloved Son for us. In love He has drawn us to Himself. In love He numbers us with His own children. In love He opens wide His hand, and gives us eternal comfort.
"Eternal comfort!" In what does it consist?
Who will lay it out? Who will tell out the countless streams of joy which our Father has provided to gladden the hearts of His children? Eternity alone can reveal — yet will never exhaust the glorious theme. Ages and ages will roll by, yet there will be more to follow — more manifestations of God's love; more cause for rejoicing in all that He provides for us.
But though as yet we know but little, let us endeavour to look into on six unspeakable benefits bestowed upon us in the Gospel, each one of which will give us matter for praise and thanksgiving throughout our earthly pilgrimage, and for evermore in the kingdom of our Father.
1. We have in Christ, an unalterable, abiding justification.
Sin, unworthiness, failure of every kind, neglect, shortcoming, backsliding — we have continually to confess with shame and sorrow before God. But in Christ we stand justified and accepted evermore. He has made a blessed exchange with us. He has taken our sin — and given us His righteousness! Our guilt and iniquity was laid at His door and borne by Him on the cross — and His merit and worth was reckoned to us as if it were our own.
Therefore, before God a believer stands as if he had never sinned. Even more, he is as righteous and well-pleasing to the Father as His only-begotten Son. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8.1). "By him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." (Acts 13.39). What a source of joy is here! What an antidote to a troubled conscience! What a blessed help in trusting God and in serving Him gladly!
To be freely, perfectly justified, to be clear from every charge of transgression, to have nothing but love between God and the soul is the beginning of Heaven on earth!
The second benefit is
2. An unrestricted access to the mercy-seat.
When we are justified, there is no barrier in our approach to the throne of grace. The veil is torn, and the way into the holiest lies open to the least of God’s children. By the blood of Christ, we have boldness to draw near. By Him as our Advocate and High Priest, we may come and pour out our hearts before God.
It is counted a privilege to have constant access to an earthly ruler, to have the run of a palace, to be able to go and ask a favour at any time of a King, Queen, or great ruler. But the Christian has a right of access to the Great King who rules both Heaven and earth! He can go to Him as a little child. He can go with the fullest assurance that every request will be answered "in kind, or in kindness." The least sigh of a broken heart, the least breathing of a troubled spirit — reaches the Father's ear. He is ever more ready to hear than we are to pray, and is accustomed to give more than we desire or deserve.
As we have sung in our hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear! What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer!
We have in the third benefit
3. The unfailing promises of a God of power and truth.
Look at the wonders of the night sky. Look at those glorious stars shining out so brightly in the heavens. But what are these compared to the numberless promises shining out so clearly in the sky of revealed truth? We have "his precious and very great promises." (2 Pet 1:4) They are all sure, "all the promises of God find their Yes in him." (2 Cor 1:20) They are signed by Him who cannot lie, and "with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17) They concern the past, the present, and the future. They remind us that all that is past is freely forgiven, that for the present every need will be met, and that in the future nothing will separate us from God's love.
There is not a fear we can arbour, no doubt that may trouble or perplex, no temptation that may harass us — but in the Scriptures there is an answer of peace. Listen to but a few of them.
"I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”" (Is 41:10)
"those who seek the LORD lack no good thing." (Ps 34:10)
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:32)
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9)
We must study these promises. It is said that there are no less than thirty thousand of them scattered through the pages of Holy Scripture. By the aid of God's Spirit, ponder them, live by them, delight yourself in them, and you will never lack the comfort you need.
The fourth benefit is
4. The unshakable security of God's protecting care.
In a conflict with Napoleon when the English army was in the Iberian Peninsula, (the current territory of Spain and Portugal and a small part of France) the Duke of Wellington, after which our very own Wellington Street is named, was most anxious to provide for them a sure retreat in case of danger, so he provided for them three secure lines of defence. Altogether there were fifty-nine miles of fortified heights, mounted by about six hundred guns, and here the British army was safely shielded, so that their adversaries could not reach them. Closer to home, as another example of his prudent concern, he also wrote a memorandum on March 1, 1819 which, in part, advocated that ,as part of the defence system for Canada, the Rideau Canal should be built.
But, what lines of defence has the Almighty Jehovah provided as a shelter and fortress for His people!
His counsel and purpose, which never can be overthrown;
His presence and the omnipotence of His arm;
His solemn oath, confirming every promise which He has made.
What a defence is here! The child of God need never be afraid.
"If God is for us, who can be against us" (Rom 8:31) Is it true that we have many against us? Is it true that foes and enemies and slanderers would hurt us if they could? Is it true that human tempters, flatterers, and enticers would turn us into forbidden paths? Is it the great adversary who fiercely attacks our souls? Is it that armies of troubles, cares, difficulties, trials at home, troubles at work, in business — it may be twenty or thirty things on which you could put your finger — are ever against you? Is it your own sinful self, your own sinful heart, that is always making you go wrong, and bringing you into distress?
Look at and survey them all — look at them in all their craft, violence, power; and then over against them set one name — God, our God — His arm, His strength, His wisdom, His unfailing resources; myriads of angels at His service to uphold; ways of deliverance that He can provide when to your eye there is no possible means of escape; rest here, and glory in sure and blessed confidence of God's protection.
The next benefit, the fifth is,
5. The unchanging friendship of the Lord Jesus.
"There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Prov 18:24) This friend is Jesus, and He never fails those who lean on Him. He is ever with them.
He is always close at hand, always within call, so that no look of distress or cry for help is unnoticed. He is always kind — kinder than the kindest; forbearing and forgiving.
Even our closest relations may grow cold towards us. But there is One whose heart never grows cold; who, loving once, will love forever. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Heb 13:8) He never fails to help. In the darkest hours, He comes to encourage the fainting heart.
To be able to say, "When I go to rest at night, the Savior comes so near to me that it seems as if He were walking by my side." Here is the sweetest consolation it is possible to enjoy this side the grave. When the cold winds of adversity blow, when the bitter east wind of desolation or disappointment chills the heart — then lean on the Best Friend, the Brother, the Bridegroom of the soul. Trust His kindness and His help, and think of Him as always by your side.
And here the very Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, will assist you. He will manifest Christ to you, and make His presence a felt reality; so that He will indeed be to you a shelter from every stormy blast, and an unfailing refuge in a changing, dying world.
The sixth benefit is
6. The unclouded glory of the Celestial City.
Now we have Christ with us — then we will go and dwell with Him, to behold His glory, and never more to go out from His presence.
All tears wiped away, all cares and fears hushed to rest in his care, all life's sorrows and sufferings left behind, disease and death no more known — what this will be after our life of trial here, who can tell?
All joys meet here. There will be the joy of perfect deliverance from former ills. If Israel rejoiced standing on the borders of the Red Sea, and seeing the enemy dead on the shore — then what will be the joy of the Christian in giving an everlasting farewell to every sin, sorrow, and temptation?
There will be the joy of reunion. There is often great joy in the welcoming home of a long-absent husband, a brother, or friend — but what will that future joy be of meeting again those who have fallen asleep in Christ, once dearly loved, but long parted from us? There will be the joy of the Master's approval. To serve Him has been the desire of the heart now; what will it be to hear from His lips the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matt 25:23)
There will be the joy of harvest. The sheaves will be gathered in. All faithful toil, all believing intercessions, all cheerful gifts and hearty efforts in the Lord's service, will have their reward in souls saved, in manifest fruit to the praise and glory of God.
We may catch some glimpses of the joy of that day, but it lies far beyond our thoughts. It is true of a believer's joy now, but much more in the future, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Cor 2:9)
"Eternal comfort!" What many blessings meet together to an overflowing of God’s pleasures — for a short time here, and then in heaven at the Father's right hand!
Will it be yours?
Is it yours today?
Is the record of your sins forever blotted out through the blood of the Lamb?
Is the image and the mind of Christ the object you truly seek?
Is there in your heart a true love to the Saviour's name?
Are you confessing Him before men by a holy life, and by your zeal in advancing His kingdom?
Remember, it is written, "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." (Roms 8:9) "Whoever is not with me is against me." (Matt 12:30) "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed." (1 Cor 16:22) — that is, accursed at the Lord's coming.
"Eternal comfort!" Is it yours? Do you have a good hope through grace? Do you have eternal life through faith in Christ? If not, what is the alternative?
If you are yet without Christ, unpardoned, living in the world, and for the world, and like the world — to what must it lead? Is it not this: — everlasting condemnation? One or other must be yours:
Eternal comfort in Christ — or out of Christ, everlasting condemnation.
Which will it be? I urge you to judge your own self. Let there be no uncertainty. If you have never before come to the Savior, come to Him now, and give yourself up to his care and keeping. Cast yourself on His free mercy, and give your heart and life to Him for evermore.
In the words of an old hymn,
Return, and come to God,
cast all your sins away;
O seek the Saviour's cleansing blood,
Repent! believe! obey!