Peninsula Community Church
June 5, 2016
Comforted to Comfort
As I was preparing this message I was drawn to the doors that are represented through the Bible. In fact studying this I came across four doors that I believe are critical to our growth and our understanding of the love of God for us. These four doors also represent the ministry we have to those around us. I trust that you find them as interesting and powerful as I do.
The four doors that I am speaking of are represented by the door of hope, the door of faith, the door of opportunity, and the door of invitation. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at these doors and how they apply to our life. Before we do that, let me make a couple of brief observations about doors as a whole. First of all, doors are designed for privacy. For the most part doors keep some things in and other things out. In so doing doors provide an opportunity for protection and safety. Doors often define who we are and our status. In our home we all have those doors that no one outside the family will go through. And finally, doors represent a future for us because we never venture into our future unless we go through the doors presented to us.
With that said lets us look at the first door which is the door of hope. In Hosea 2:15 we find these words. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. On a first read of this passage this may not seem like much but we must understand that the term or word for Achor means trouble or sorrow. So what is Hosea communicating? He is saying that the Valley of Achor or the valley of trouble and sorrow will become a door of hope. In other words, our sorrows and the trouble we experience can be the very thing that God uses to bring hope and life to us and subsequently to others.
Perhaps the best way to understand this is to go back to the original story that Hosea is basing his comments on. After the Children of Israel had crossed over into the Promise Land they had to confront the city of Jericho. Before they battled Jericho they had been given specific instructions on how to do battle with the first city they encountered. This came by way of prayer and by seeking God’s will as to what they were to do. As we know, they obeyed God’s commands and the walls of Jericho came down just as God had promised. They were obedient and God was faithful to protect and to do battle on their behalf.
Now lets fast forward to a few weeks later where we find Israel facing yet another city (Joshua 7). They now had to encounter the city of Ai which was another stronghold they needed to defeat. But as we read the story we find there are a couple of issues. First, during the battle with Jericho we find them seeking God and seeking His will about the battle. But at Ai there is no record of them praying or seeking God before they went into battle. It appears they were relying on their past exploits to get them to where they wanted to be. Instead of seeking God they just moved a head into battle. They were in fact prideful and lived like they did not need God. And as a result they lost big time. They were routed out of the city and many of their soldiers were killed.
Secondly, we find that not only did they not pray and listen for God’s will but one of their members were defiant and disobedient to God’s plan. God had commanded that during the battle of Jericho they were not to take any spoils of war. They were to depend on God for His provision and His protection. But they disobeyed. One member of their community disobeyed God big time. The man was Achan and he took from Jericho a fine garment and some of the gold and silver. This may not seem like much today but it was a matter of specific disobedience to God’s command. And God could not allow disobedience to reign in them.
Rather than trust God they began to trust their own ingenuity and their own abilities. The result of Achan’s disobedience and him taking of the spoils of war was that he and his family were stoned to death. This was a difficult time for Israel. Because of the sorrow and difficulty faced by Israel they named the place where Achan was stoned the Valley of Achor. As we noted before the name Achor means sorrow, disappointment, and trouble. Achor was an appropriate name because of the sorrow, the disappointment, and the trouble they were experiencing. They lost the battle at Ai, they lost loved ones, and now one of their own had to be killed because of disobedience. They were in sorrow! They were in trouble! The Bible defines this emotional moments as their hearts being melted and becoming as water (Joshua 7:5). What a illustration? They were destroyed emotionally. It was from this place of pain and hurt that Hosea proclaimed though they are experiencing deep pain and hurt God would transform the valley of Achor into a door of hope. The very trial they experienced would be used to deliver them.
But how does this apply to us? First of all my guess is we have all had a Valley of Achor experience. We have all faced disappointment and discouragement. We have been filled with sorrow because of the events of our life. We have experienced lost hope. We have all experienced our hearts feeling like they have melted and we have beed weakened by the pressures of life. But there is a promise of hope and life. God has promised that He will make our Valley of Achor a door of hope.
Perhaps you are going through a deep valley at this moment in your life. As a Christian, you might question God’s concern for you while you are walking through your personal valley of sorrow. Adoniram Judson, a great missionary to Burma, was in prison because of his faith. In prison he was taunted by his Burmese captors. They continued to ask him again and again, “How does your future look to you now?” Their desire was to further his discouragement and to use his sorrow against him. That is exactly what the enemy does to us. The enemy attempts to take our sorrow and use it against us. But in Judson’s case he had a strong faith in God and the Word of God. His response was this.“My future is as bright as the promise of God.” Judson depended on God and He trusted God to keep His promises. That is what he focused his future on.
While we might take a journey through the valley of sorrow we do not have to fear nor do we have to take up residence in the Valley of Achor. Why is that? It is because God is with us. He, Jesus came to give us life and to heal our brokenness. He came to give us a door of hope. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-4. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. To fully understand this passage we must know that in Isaiah’s day everyone knew when you were in sorrow and in trouble. How? you would put on sack cloth or burlap. You would smear ashes around your face and you would mope around town as if you were on your death bed.
I do not know about you but I am blessed by these words. My brokenness, my sorrow can be healed by God. No matter what I go through God can heal the brokenness and the sorrow I experience. Instead of ashes, we are given a beautiful headdress. We have been given the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Instead of a faint spirit we have given a garment of praise. The result is that we are called oaks of righteousness. This means we are strong and we can endure the trials of life. Here’s the deal through Christ we overcome.
But there is another aspect that bears our discussion in terms of the door of hope. It is that our sorrow and the difficulties we face are never wasted. What we think is our worse moment, God turns it around for our good. Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
What is the plan of God? It is to encourage us and to deliver us so we can be a blessing to others. Carter Conlon the pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan stated that “One of the reasons we will have tribulation in this world is because it is often the only way people around us will ever know that God is real. You and I will have to walk through the same fire, the same flood, the same difficult days as everybody else. However, the difference is that we have an inner source of strength that will carry us through and give us a song of praise.” What he is saying here is that in our tribulation we become real before those we encounter. By being real and allowing God to be real through us we have an opportunity to speak into others lives.
Let me let you in on a secret. One of the greatest tools for evangelism you will ever have is your testimony. We have all experienced God’s grace and His work in our life. You may not be a theologian but you have a testimony. You may not know the Roman Road but you know what God has done in you. You may not know the Scripture, but you know the promises that God has fulfilled in you. People want to know that we are real and that we serve a real God. We help them see that by sharing the sorrow we have experienced. We do so by letting God shine through us so that others see God and know His grace to us. You see you suffer so that others will see that you are real and that God is real as well.
This is not some mixed up plan from a diabolical God but it is a tool that He uses to bring life and to open doors of faith, opportunity and invitation to others. It glorifies God. Notice in the passage in Isaiah that read earlier. The Bible says that He gives us the oil of gladness, the beautiful headdress, and the garment of praise so that He will be praised and honored. That is our goal. That is our purpose to honor God and to let Him be honored through us.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom