“Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!” wrote the prophet Jeremiah (9:1). “Let my eyes overflow with tears day and night” (14:!7). Strange prayers! But Jeremiah loved hsi people and faithfully ministered to them and wept over them forty years, but they would not return to the Lord. We usually ask God to dry our tears, but Jeremiah asked for the ability to shed even more tears!
This may seem to contradict what I’ve said about overflowing praise, but there is no conflict. Jeremiah knew days of ecstatic praise and joy, but he also knew nights of pain and sorrow as he saw the nation sinning its way toward Babylon. He prayed earnestly for the people until the Lord told him to stop (7:16; 11:14), and he warned the people, but they would not listen.
Jesus wept and Paul wasn’t ashamed to let people know that he wept. The spiritual condition of Israel broke his heart (Rom. 9:1-2), as did the conduct of carnal church members (Phil. 3:17-19). The problems in the church of Corinth caused him grief (2 Cor. 2:1-4) and so did the demands of the ministry in Ephesus (Acts 20:19, 31). The servant who weeps is becoming more like his Master and is experiencing “the fellowship of sharing in his suffering” (Phil. 3:10).
Heaven is a place of joy without tears, and hell a place of tears without joy. But while we are on this earth, tears and joy will be mingled in our lives; and one day the Lord will bring joy out of those tears. The only alternative is that we harden our hearts and minister like robots, but the Lord cannot bless that kind of ministry. Yes, the fruit of the Spirit is joy, but it is also love; and where there is love, there is bound to be weeping. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). The overflowing life is balanced. “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). There is overflowing joy in the life of the Spirit-filled believer (Phil. 1:26) and even tears in the midst of joy.
Paul prayed for the suffering believers in Thessalonica, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Thes. 3:12). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22) “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5). Dr. Howard Hendricks has called love “the circulatory system of the Body,” and he is right. The Eleventh Commandment is, “Love one another” (John 13:34), and it’s because of God’s love in our hearts that we want to obey God’s Word (Rom. 13:8-10). “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” (1 John 5:3).
We need divine love in our hearts if we hope to overcome the opposition of the enemy and of believers who act like enemies. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” (Matt. 5:11-12). If we want to obey this command, we need God’s love in our hearts; and the only way to have overflowing love is through the fullness of the Holy Spirit. “For Christ’s love compels us,” wrote Paul (2 Cor. 5:14), and Christ’s love can also compel us and keep us going when we feel like giving up.
Paul’s prayer for the believers at Rome says it all: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
The God of hope does not discourage His people. He may put us through trials to help build our faith, but His promises and His power combine to increase our hope, if only we trust Him. Dr. Luke devoted an entire chapter–Acts 27; fourty-four verses–to describe Paul’s voyage to Rome and the shipwreck that he experienced. Why? Certainly one reason was to show us how Paul dealt with dangerous and hopeless situations and trusted the Lord to save him. Verse 20 of the account says, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days adn the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” Did you ever give up all hope?
But Paul had received a word from the Lord (vv. 23-26) that assured him that everybody in the ship would be saved–and they were! God had also promised Paul that he would bear witness of Christ in Rom (Acts 23:11), and Paul rested on that promise and safely arrived in Rome. The experienced sailors on the ship hardly knew what to do, but before long everybody was looking to Paul for leadership, and he didn’t fail them! Paul lived by faith, and that means trusting and obeying God no matter how difficult the circumstances might be. To rest on the Word of God is to stand on the strongest foundation ever offered to us.
“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows’ (2. Cor 1:5). Those words open Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. Paul explaiend the trials he had experienced in the province of Asia, how he had almost despaired of his own life and had felt “the sentence of death” (1:9). He accepted all these trials as “the sufferings of Christ” and trusted Christ to give him deliverance.
In 2 Corinthians the Greek word parakaleo (“comfort,” “called alongside to help, encourage”) is used eighteen times as a verb and eleven times as a noun, so it’s one of the basic words of the letter. In this first chapter, Paul explains that God gives us His comfort when we need it. He also points out that God encourages us so that we might be able to encourage others (v. 4). Divine help isn’t something we store up for ourselves. It’s a blessing we experience when we’re in difficulty so that we can learn how to encourage others. The overflow of Christ’s sufferings prepares us to receive the overflow of Christ’s comfort and help.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus told His disciples. “Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). Why would their hearts be troubled? For one thing, Jesus had told them He was leaving them, a statement they didn’t fully understand. He had also revealed that one of them was a traitor and that Peter would deny Him before the night was over. Everything seemed to be falling apart! But the solution was and still is, “Trust me.” “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
When life becomes difficult, we are prone to ask, “How can I get out of this?” instead of “What can I get out of this?” What a tragedy when we waste our trials! What opportunities for growth and ministry we lose because we ignore the overflow of God’s comfort. God comforts us that we may be able to comfort others, so let’s not be selfish.
(copyright 2008 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved. Not to be reprinted without permission.)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).