2020: What On Earth Is Happening?

Post Author: Tim Chilvers

Tim Chilvers is the Senior Pastor at Riverside Church.
October 28, 2020
What On Earth Is Happening? Session 1: How do we cope in a world that is outside of our control?

Teaching Series Introduction:

This short two-part mini-series is a chance to reflect on some of the big questions we may have at the moment. What is God up to? What will the future look like? Will the church ever be the same? The world is hugely changing, and many are arguing that this moment is as big a transition as other major global shifts through history. By looking at the global trends & transition we are going through, and reminding ourselves of some key biblical truths, we will be able to survive and thrive and continue to build a new kind of world.

Session 1

Title: How do we cope in a world that is outside of our control?
By: Tim Chilvers
Date: 1 November 2020
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2020 has been quite a year, hasn’t it? So much change already. So much uncertainty for many of us, grief. Certainly for many of us a lot of sadness and a lot of heartache. And now, of course, some more change, some more restrictions and the coming weeks, and this winter period looks to be full of challenge as well. What on earth is happening? Well this morning, I want to encourage us with some beautiful words written a long, long time ago by Paul to a group of Christians.

And he gives them such comfort that if we hear these words for ourselves will give us such comfort too. Whether we’d call ourselves a follower of Jesus or not, whatever we’re going through right now, wherever we are, these words are stunning. Let me read to you, 2 Corinthians 1:3, “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.”

The first thing I think that Paul reminds us all, whoever we are is this, go to the God of all comfort. There’s somewhere we can go for lasting hope and comfort. Now I wonder, where have you gone for comfort during 2020? According to reports, many of us have not actually been sticking to the diets and maybe many of us have gone for comfort eating and perhaps eating in the wrong things. But some of those of us if we’re honest have in the middle of such trial and so many difficulties have gone to quite unhealthy places to try and seek some escape or some sort of comfort. Others of us have sought it in other places.

I know for me, I’ve started running during lockdown. Now I wouldn’t call myself a runner yet, but I have started doing running. But what’s so easy with running is that you notice the benefits, but then it’s also quiet hard. And so it’s quickly easy to forget the benefits and to not want to go back out again because it’s quite hard. Well, there’s a reminder here of a place where we can go for lasting comfort. Listen to how God is described, He’s described as the father of compassion, the God of all comfort. As if to kind of overemphasize it, Paul reminds these followers of Jesus that God is the one who gives true lasting comfort and hope. He’s the father of all compassion, the God of all comfort.

And so wherever we go for comfort, whether it’s healthy things or not, Paul is reminding us, don’t forget the one who gives true lasting comfort. And I guess today, as we begin a new season of restriction is just an encouragement to all of us where we can find true comfort is in the God of all comfort. If you’re somebody who is a follower of Jesus, it’s just a reminder to prioritize that space with Him. And if we’re not somebody who call ourselves a follower of Jesus, we’re not quite sure whether we call ourselves a Christian. It’s a reminder about an offer to you. The father of all comfort, the God of the universe is there with wide open arms, offering you compassion and comfort today.

But there’s something else that Paul says, which I think is really noticeable. Do you notice how he describes God? He describes Him as the one who comforts us in all our troubles. Now we’re all different. And the reality is during lockdown, we’ve all faced different circumstances. And your circumstances are different from mine and they’re different from the next person. And it can be easy, can’t it? To compare ourselves and to say, “Well, if only my life was like them, or if only they knew what I was going through.”

And this here reminds us that God gives comfort in all our troubles, whoever we are God knows, God sees, and God cares. All your troubles. No one may understand exactly what you’re going through. And people may pretend, but actually no one does, but you. Well, there is one who does, the father of all compassion, God cares. So go to the God of all compassion. That’s the first reminder to use this next season of restriction to yes, with all the challenges to keep going. But ultimately, may it be a place where we can go deeper into God because He’s the one who gives comfort and compassion.

That’s the first thing, go to Him. But the second thing is not only go to the God of all comfort, the second thing is this, a reminder to be a community of comfort. Listen to what Paul says, Paul talks in verse 4 of, “The God who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Do you see that? If we get to go, we get comfort from Him, which enables us in turn to give comfort to other people. We are a community of broken people and the world is a world of broken people. And so we’ve received comfort from God. And then we’re able to share that comfort with Him.

 I remember for us as a family, there was a particular moment where we had some really devastating news. And I remember being in church that morning and the morning after the news. And this woman had heard the news and she had had such a challenging life that when I saw her face, she just wept. And that moment of compassion from her was informed by her wounds, and yet her tears was such a comfort to me. And it may be that for some of us, the challenge we faced during this year and in life in general may actually be a beautiful comfort to other people.

 Your wounds may bring healing to others. And it’s a reminder, isn’t it? That sometimes if you’re anything like me, I can be so overwhelmed by my stuff. But actually there’s an opportunity that God has for you, with your story to bring hope and comfort to other people. You can play a key role in somebody else’s story. So that as Paul says, “We can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received.” And of course that helps take my eyes away from little old me all the time. Somebody said to me recently, “Tim, never trust a leader without a limp.” And they said it as an encouragement that actually, it’s often when we’ve got stuff ourselves, our own baggage, our own brokenness that actually we’re able to help others.

Maybe your greatest gift to others during this new season of restriction is the wounds that you’ve already carried. And so therefore we’re able to share the comfort we’ve had from God to those in our neighbourhood. Those in our street, those we know right now who are entering this new season with such uncertainty. And I wanted to particularly speak to those this morning, who you knew and know that this new season of uncertainty ahead has particularly hit you in a really heavy way. And I wanted to just remind you, God sees, God knows, and may we be a community for you to bring you hope and comfort.

And it’s a reminder to all of us to be thinking in this next chapter, who is it even now that comes to your mind that you might be able to extend comfort too? And how do we do that? How do we extend the comfort? What is it? Well, Paul goes on, doesn’t he? Verse 5, “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” It’s when realize all that Jesus has done for us, suffered for us, died for us, but then shattered death, coming back to life. It’s then that lasting hope that means we’re able to share that hope with those around us, those who don’t yet know Jesus.

And maybe even you this morning, that you’re not sure whether you’d call yourself a Christian, but you know there’s got to be more, there’s got to be hope. And you’ve begun to catch a glimpse that there is one who has wide open arms, who gave it all for you. So friends, let’s use this next season to go to the God of all comfort and to be a community of comfort. My prayer for all of us, including myself, is that over these coming weeks, we will know God’s great compassion and then extend god’s great compassion to others.

In your own, I’m going to pray. And then after that we’re going to have a song sung to us. This is a beautiful song that Ben our worship director has written. It’s a stunning song. And it’s just a beautiful reminder that in huge uncertainty there is one who really is with us. He’s for you. He’s got you. He’s with you. Let me pray and then Ben will sing to us. Father, we thank you that you are the God of all comfort. May we embrace that comfort and may we extend that comfort. We pray in Jesus name, amen.

Study Questions

1. Where do you see signs of hope at the moment?

2. Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. What is the relationship between comfort and compassion do you think?

3. The word ‘compassion’ means to ‘suffer with’ someone. It is different from empathy, sympathy or care. In what ways does God show compassion, do you think? What does it mean that God ‘comforts us in all our troubles’?

4. How does that change how we show compassion to others, and give them comfort?

5. It is noticeable that Paul, the author, says that we are able to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (verse 4). ‬‬How does that change the way we see our role in comforting others, regardless of what they are going through?

6. In what ways do we share in the ‘sufferings of Christ’ and also in the ‘comfort’ of Christ? (v5) What difference does Jesus’ life, death and resurrection make to the way we view our troubles?

7. Take some time to think about someone who you know you could bring comfort to at the moment. Pray for them now and also God to give you courage and compassion to do so.

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