The Comfort Zone is the Danger Zone (Part Two)
(Written with Brenda Brown)
In Part One of this devotional we recognized the danger of fitting in with our cultural norm of a comfortable lifestyle. By looking at the example of Jesus, Paul, and other biblical heroes we recognized that we need a new and compelling standard of living. We also recognized the call to live by faith in order to please God. Faith flourishes outside the comfort zone.
Seeing a World in Need
Wisdom tells us that inside the “comfort kettle” we may easily become oblivious to the broken and hurting people around us. It is hard to see the fields white for harvest over the lip of the lukewarm lifestyle of a culturally-adapted faith. Quoting Platt again, “When Jesus looked at the harassed and helpless multitudes; apparently his concern was not that the lost would not come to the Father. Instead his concern was that his followers would not go to the lost.”[i]
Even a brief settling-in to the comfort zone can callous the heart, blur the vision, and stifle the passion for the broken condition of the world. We must remain intent on considering the missionary call that flourishes outside the soft lifestyle of our current norms. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). The comfort zone can be an enemy of demonstrated love and mission accomplishment.
Beyond a Stunted Maturity
I attended a Christian university and seminary years ago. During those days, I was always curious about those students who claimed a call to pastoral ministry, but remained at the school, advanced their education, and never stepped beyond the comfort of the educational bubble. They eventually taught on leadership but never led anything in the real world. They trained other students for ministry but never had the courage to actually attempt ministry on the front lines of local church work. They may have found a secure and predictable career path but never discovered the maturity that only comes through the scars gained in the arena of difficult and painful ministry. The comfort zone is the easy path but seldom the best.
First Peter 1:6-7 elevates the value of faith-induced and faith-refining trials: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When we live the adventure of the Christian calling, risking much to follow Christ, we learn that the testing of our faith produces patience. This refining work makes us perfect and complete, lacking nothing. To know this, we must step beyond the comfort zone of the protected and predictable arenas of life.
Transcending a Shallow Worship
My friend, Pastor Jim Cymbala, often declares, “The highest expression of worship is sacrifice.” Not only do we see great and specific demonstrations of sacrifice in the Old Testament systems of worship, but all the great servants of biblical and church history expressed their estimation of Christ’s worth through costly sacrifice. Paul sums it up by declaring our worship as the evidence of a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). The comfort zone seldom draws us to a costly, compelling, Christ-honoring life of worship. To avoid this kind of worship is to abdicate our discipleship.
Finding a Place to Begin
To walk in the way of a true disciple is to follow the pathway of price for the purposes that transcend our comfort. I often say, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.” This requires new awareness of the warming waters of our own comfort and convenience that can eventually lull us into a slumber of selfishness. It demands the courage to jump out of the kettle. Having taken the initial leap, we can begin to walk by a fresh faith. Laying aside the weights which slowed us down we can run with endurance the race set before us. Surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses and eyes fixed on Jesus, we’ll wonder why we sat stewing in the kettle for so long.
Specific Steps Toward Simple Wisdom
- When was the last time you became uncomfortable enough to leap out of the kettle? What motivated this change? What reward did you experience?
- How can you make new choices that will evidence a sacrificial faith and draw you outside the comfort zone in your time allocations? In your financial patterns? In your relationships?
- Have you ever sacrificed a “vacation” to travel to a mission field and serve among the less fortunate or spiritually lost? When and how can you commit to do so in the next year?
- Compare Hebrews 11:6 with Paul’s stated ambition in 2 Corinthians 5:9 & 10. Pray today for a greater desire to please God and open your heart to His call to a life of uncommon, uncomfortable faith.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
[i] Platt, David (2010-04-17). Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (p. 187). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.