The Preaching Ministry of Comfort and Encouragement

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a young man who shared that he has wrestled for some years with a call from God to move forward in the ministry of preaching. As he shared his story of struggle and apprehension because of his past mistakes, I listened and could immediately relate. It is a given fact that anyone called by God to minister the gospel goes through the process of doubt and reflection, the feelings of inadequacy and the luminous wall of hindrances that failures in life seemingly pose.

The fact of the matter is that powerful people used by God had to go through the process of salvation just like everyone else. Life’s challenges don’t just go away, we have to entrust them to God.

As I began to share my story, of first acknowledging my call to the ministry at a time when many in our community were not receptive to female clergy. Then, years later becoming the Senior Pastor as a result of the pain of widowhood, and still not being accepted as a female pastor to some, he began to understand that we all have a back-story. If it were not for the power, presence and promise of God in my life, and in anybody’s life, how can we indeed carry out the call of God to encourage others? Our ministry is to encourage and bring comfort to a dark world that does not offer the peace that only Jesus can bring.

Let me first give this disclaimer before moving any further. We preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to compel people to receive salvation. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 10:14-15 (NIV):

“ How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”’

Furthermore, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NIV);

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Just as Paul focused on making sure his audience understood the message of the cross, we as preachers today are to do the same.

However, as we preach to others, we must acknowledge the layers of life’s ups and downs, trials and triumphs, hurtful and happy moments. We often have to deal with layers of crisis before people come to believe, receive and know Christ as their personal savior. Preachers and ministers are by no means exempt from the crisis of failure, mistakes, sickness, persecution, marital and family problems, etc. Our personal experience with life’s challenges enables us to relate to others, and effectively be a conduit to the work of the Holy Spirit on those layers!

Paul understood the crisis of life all too well. That’s why I believe he was so effective in his ministry to the Gentiles. Just as Paul preached to people who didn’t have a history with a loving and a caring God, we face the same issues today. Therefore in the middle of teaching and preaching doctrine, Paul had to minister comfort and encouragement to people who had not previously received it through the person of Christ. The passion and compassion in his ministry was motivated from the realm of his own experience of crisis, overcome by the empowering presence of God. This element brought balance to his preaching. He expounds upon this in 2 Corinthians 1. Verses 3-5 reads:

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.

If you have ever studied the life of Paul, and paid attention to the Epistles he penned, we understand that he suffered much in his ministry. A snapshot of his sufferings is given in 2 Corinthians 2:8-11. In addition, Paul expounds upon the thought of trusting God for comfort. Because of his experience of receiving God’s comfort, he is now equipped to minister this same comfort to others. Another form for the Greek word for comforter is found in John 14: 26 (KJV), which reads:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, comfort originates from the Greek word paraklesis, which is translated as “a calling to one’s aid.” In addition to the word comfort, this word can also be translated as encouragement. That encouragement comes from God walking right beside you and living in you. He is the helper, the one who pours power into your soul. He soothes doubts and calms fears. The comforter God will walk with you every step of the way.

So the ministry of comfort in this case is not just a pat on the back and someone crying with you and giving you tissue to wipe your tears, but it refers to the impartation of strength, courage, wisdom and power. When we are weak, God is strong in us. Our weakness provides God’s opportunity to be strong in us. The motivation behind our preaching is to let people know that salvation encompasses all of this. We serve a God who is compassionate and loving. He cares about our present situations. Deliverance is not just reserved for the day we transition from this earthly body into glory. We are being saved every day from hopelessly being consumed from the challenges of life. Unfortunately, for most of us, we must experience what Paul experienced before we can truly preach with compassion and consideration for the layers of challenges of those we minister to are facing.

We can praise God today because we have comfort in knowing that we have a Savior, and that there is power in blood of Jesus. He still forgives us of sin. He still cleanses. He still covers. He still heals. He still delivers. He is still tearing down strongholds. He is still the Wonderful Counselor. He is still the Prince of peace, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father. Because of His comfort and His love, we are all empowered to minister this to others. My encouragement to you today is that your mess can become the foundation of a powerful message to those who need to experience the comfort and encouragement of God.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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