From Comfort to Courage
Evangel Tabernacle | On 14, Feb 2017
By: Sis. Michelle Lao
Preached at E-tab 1st Service
Feb. 12, 2017
Key Text: 1 Peter 2:11
11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and FOREIGNERS” to keep away from WORLDLY DESIRES that wage war against your very souls.- NLT
Suppose I will turn off all our aircon what do you think will happen? It will get so hot in here that we will all be perspiring and t-h-a-t can be very UNCOMFORTABLE right? The HEAT and the GENERAL DISCOMFORT will drive us all to GO OUT – to look for a better ventilation. My FIRST POINT is: A STATE OF DISCOMFORT will drive us to MOVE OUT.
On the other hand, how about if I lower down the thermostat? It will get even cooler in here right? Then I will convert your plastic chairs into soft beds and lavish you with the best spa experience you could ever imagine. Will you be happy? Will you be comfortable? It is a known fact that WE LIKE OUR FLESH TO BE PAMPERED and this brings me to my SECOND POINT: If we are in a STATE OF COMFORT our tendency is to STAY or REMAIN exactly WHERE WE ARE.
Our Key Text in 1 PETER 2:11 warns us that as temporary residents or foreign travelers on earth we should NOT BE SELF -INDULGENT but we should KEEP AWAY FROM OUR WORLDLY DESIRES in order for us not to be distracted in walking towards our final home.
Before we start let me ask you – what are your WORLDLY DESIRES THAT WAGE WAR AGAINST YOUR VERY SOULS this morning? Is it selfishness, comfort, money? Do we KEEP AWAY from them or are we HELPLESSLY DRAWN to them?
WORDLY DESIRES here are our SELF-CENTERED INTERESTS that we put AHEAD of God. It is an ACT OF IDOLATRY for one has put SELF in the place of God.
Our WORDLY DESIRES are in DIRECT VIOLATION of GOD’S PERFECT WILL because they lead us AWAY from God, to our OWN SELFISH DESIRES.
This morning I would like to share a message entitled, ‘FROM COMFORT TO COURAGE.’ My aim is for us to have a CROSS -OVER from a STATE OF COMFORT to a LIFE OF COURAGE.
As shown in the picture will you jump FROM WHERE YOU ARE to a LIFE OF COURAGE? Today’s message requires a RESPONSE. It will direct us as to where we should be heading next.
Under this topic, I will bring out 3 MAIN POINTS:
(1) WHY IS IT CRUCIAL NOT TO REMAIN IN OUR COMFORT ZONE?
(2) WHY is it necessary to MOVE TO OUR COURAGE ZONE?
(3) How to CROSS-OVER to a LIFE OF COURAGE as FOREIGNERS IN THIS WORLD? Under this topic, I identified 4 ways of how to live as foreigners in this world as:
1. We should be SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD
2. We should NOT BE COMFORTABLE IN THIS WORLD since this world is not our home
3. We should NOT be OVERLY CONCERNED ABOUT MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
4. We should give AGONIZING EFFORTS to go to the heavenly city.
I identify COMFORT ZONE as a CENTRAL COMPONENT of our WORLDLY DESIRES.
Our COMFORT ZONE is made up of PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS, and HABITS that are FAMILIAR AND SAFE to us. Some of the most powerful components of our comfort zone are fear, wealth, power, career, business, family and laziness among others. Our comfort zone is relative to our personal circumstance and might mean a variety of things from person to person.
Many of us get scared when we even think about MOVING OUTSIDE OF OUR COMFORT ZONE. Are you? We cling to the KNOWN and CHOOSE FAMILIARITY OVER RISK.
The problem with CHOOSING TO STAY IN OUR COMFORT ZONES is that it can come with a terrible price—one with ETERNAL consequences.
Illustration: My comfort zone before is to sit down there and just to SOAK UP THE BLESSINGS. I want to listen to people more than talk. My goal every Sunday is to SIMPLY RECEIVE, TO GIVE BACK THE BLESSING by SPEAKING in the pulpit is the last thing that I had in mind.
However, I realized that my LARGEST FEAR AND DISCOMFORT carried my GREATEST GROWTH as I depend on God to sustain me in preparing and delivering my message since last month to now.
I stepped out of my comfort zone when I allowed God to STRETCH me beyond my perceived human capacity.
So that is my story. How about you? What is your story?
I encourage you NOT JUST TO SING but SING JOYFULLY, with hands lifted up and dance to God. I encourage you NOT TO SLEEP but to LISTEN ACTIVELY WITH EYES, EARS AND HEART OPEN to receive the Word of God and to respond with courage. I encourage you NOT JUST TO KNOW GOD’S WORDS but to EXPERIENCE HIS GLORY thru submission and obedience. I encourage you NOT TO RESIST but to LIVE YOUR CALLING. I encourage you to do all these things to God NOT OUT OF DUTY BUT WITH AN ATTITUDE OF DEVOTION.
Where would you rather be– REMAIN IN YOUR COMFORT ZONE or will you STEP OUT TOWARDS GROWTH IN YOUR COURAGE ZONE?
STORY OF NEHEMIAH
The story of Nehemiah is a good example of HOW IT IS TO FOLLOW GOD OUTSIDE OUR COMFORT ZONE.
Nehemiah took A STEP OUT OF HIS COMFORT ZONE and made an eternal difference for God.
Nehemiah was a displaced Jew living a thousand miles from Jerusalem in what’s known today as Persia, or Iran. He had risen to prominence as the cupbearer to the king of Persia, and he lived ‘the good life’ in the king’s palace.
Yet, one fateful day, some Jewish friends of Nehemiah returned from a trip to Jerusalem. And he asked them: “How is it with the people of Jerusalem?” And they said, “NEHEMIAH, IT’S NOT GOOD. The WALLS ARE DOWN, the GATES ARE BURNED WITH FIRE, and the PEOPLE ARE LIVING IN SHAME AND DISGRACE.”
When Nehemiah heard this he went DOWN ON HIS KNEES! And he began to cry out to God… but not for just a moment. For FOUR MONTHS HE PRAYED until GOD SHOWED HIM WHAT TO DO!
Nehemiah REFUSED TO IGNORE what God was doing in his heart…which was TO GO BACK TO JERUSALEM to REBUILD THE WALL. He could have continued to live in luxury in Persia, but Nehemiah OPTED TO RESPOND to God.
God is calling us to step out of our comfort zone… like Nehemiah! Remember that WHEN GOD SHOWED HIM WHAT TO DO HE REFUSED TO IGNORE WHAT GOD WAS DOING IN HIS HEART BUT OPTED TO RESPOND.
From COMFORT ZONE to COURAGE ZONE
Does our comfort zone get in the way of us SEEING WHO WE HAVE BEEN CREATED TO BE?
The most common gauge that people are wrestling not to get out of their comfort zone is RESISTANCE on what they believe God is calling them to do.
RESISTING CHANGE can keep us trapped in a life that is far less than the one God intends for us. And each time we HIDE behind the walls of our comfort zone, it becomes MORE DIFFICULT to hear God’s call in our lives
DISCOVERING and LIVING OUR CALLING requires COURAGE and WILLINGNESS to confront NEW and UNFAMILIAR challenges. RESPONDING TO GOD’S CALL will undoubtedly REQUIRE US TO JOURNEY BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES OF OUR COMFORT ZONE like foreign travelers.
Let me share with you 2 short stories for today’s message.
COMFORT and FOREIGNER
Story 1 on Comfort
Around September of last year I was examining my heart because I truly wanted to know if what rules me and God opened my eyes to see my idol in life.
I must confess that my idol was my personal comfort. Most often than not, I CHOOSE TO REMAIN in my comfort zone because of HEAT, DUST AND DIRT. I have a penchant for a clean and orderly surroundings and I don’t enjoy being under the heat of the sun.
I take no delight at all in admitting this but I know that it is only when I honestly face my imperfections that I can begin to resolve them. I can’t hide in my seat anymore but I have a Maker whose shadow I choose to hide under.
Moving on to Story 2 on Foreigner
In one of our casual DJCG gatherings in the house of Pastors Tohnee and Lily I was so encouraged by how Pastor Billy Tan (a Malaysian) and Pastor Tohnee (a Singaporean) went house to house in Capiz under UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITIONS to share the Word of God -them NOT SPEAKING OUR LANGUAGE, them not having the same SKIN COLOR as ours. And of course there’s Pastor Lily (again a foreigner) whose food we all love and whose language of love is cooking (under kitchen heat) for the multitude.
What does the 3 personalities have in common? They are all FOREIGNERS doing hard work for the salvation of souls in our country not minding the heat, dust and dirt.
It made me think of myself. That as a local resident of this place I am just SO CONTENTED IN STAYING EXACTLY WHERE I AM.
Their story is not actually a new thing to me since this is the church’s DNA –a practice that our Senior Pastors themselves had ‘talked and walked’ for a LONG time in their LONG years of ministry here -but for reasons that escaped me, God stirred my heart and guided me to see that I won’t be able to MOVE or GO where He is leading me if I WILL NOT LET GO OF THIS HIGH PLACE IN MY HEART.
Upon reflection, I saw that my COMFORT had confined me. For a long time, I was contented being “comfortable” that I RESISTED going DEEPER in my walk with God.
I was more concerned of my SELF PRESERVATION than my SERVICE to Him.
It is at this point that God showed me 2 key words COMFORT and FOREIGNER. He led me to connect the relationship of the two in terms of my SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
I was able to see that as Christians we should not give ourselves up to the INDULGENCE OF THE FLESH for this would HINDER OUR PROGRESS.
Meaning, that we should LEAVE OUR COMFORT ZONES AND LIVE LIKE FOREIGNERS in this world.
What sets apart those who are successful in LIVING THEIR CALLING from those who are NOT is their ABILITY TO OVERCOME their comfort zone.
One way is thru what Paul said in Romans 12:10-11 :
Not slothful in business; FERVENT in spirit; serving the Lord;-KJV
When we say that we are ‘ON FIRE’ what do we mean? The word “FERVENT” literally means BOILING. In serving the Lord, we are told NOT TO BE LAZY and that we should be FERVENT IN SPIRIT. The FERVENCY OF SPIRIT or “BEING ON FIRE” referred here should be supplied by the SPIRIT OF GOD and not which comes from a MERE HUMAN EMOTION only. The FIRE from the word ‘ON FIRE’ is G O D. Paul here bids us to see that our hearts are moved because there is a FIRE BELOW which makes the soul boil.
God has assigned us to accomplish MANY and IMPORTANT things and He will hold us answerable for the faithful performance of such. Throughout the Scripture, we are challenged TO WORK DILIGENTLY. Our life should not be spent in EASE and in DOING NOTHING for God’s kingdom.
LIVING AS FOREIGN TRAVELERS ON EARTH
In my little story earlier, I talked about FOREIGNERS. As foreign travelers to another country do we bring our ‘WHOLE HOUSE’ with us – WITH ALL OUR ‘COMFORT THINGS” despite knowing the SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME we are spending in that country? Or do we TRAVEL LIGHT bringing JUST THE ESSENTIALS for our journey?
Do we pack our things according to WHERE WE ARE GOING, HOW LONG WE ARE GOING TO STAY and the PURPOSE OF OUR TRIP?
Let’s have a quick look at how REAL TRAVELERS are like which will serve as our reference point for succeeding discussion:
Real Travelers are foreigners to the country they visit. They wear suitable footwear and clothes for travel so that they could easily move around. They don’t spend their time sleeping in an air-conditioned hotel room. They are not concerned about staying comfortable in a static place. They are on their toes everyday, walking and exploring. Real Travelers travel light, they don’t haul their baggage with them. They take a strange comfort in knowing that everything they need fits in just one bag. Real Travelers have a travel plan and no. 1 on their list is their destination. They leave their comfort zone and that’s what makes them special.
Let me read our key text again in 1 Peter 2:11.
11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.- NLT-
As FOREIGNERS, we KEEP AWAY FROM WORLDLY DESIRES by NOT INDULGING THE FLESH.
The FLESH refers to that part of us that is alienated from God. It is rebellious, hostile to God and operative ALL THE TIME.
Within the human person is this DEEP CONFLICT. The FLESH that is in us is strong and is actively aggressive and they move against our highest nature -the soul.
While we are in the flesh, our corrupt nature will be in them but then these are NOT TO BE INDULGED but to be DENIED.
And one way of DENYING OUR FLESH is to BRING DOWN OUR COMFORT ZONE.
If we want to WIN THE WAR, we should WALK BY THE SPIRIT and NOT GRATIFY THE DESIRES OF THE FLESH -Gal 5:16.
How to LIVE as FOREIGN TRAVELERS ON EARTH on earth:
1. LET US BE SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD
Since this world is not our home, let us be SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD. Peter is saying, “There’s been a CHANGE in your life.” You’ve transferred your allegiance from the WORLD to JESUS. You did not move PHYSICALLY but you MOVE SPIRITUALLY. Everything has changed because you ARE NOT THE PERSON YOU USED TO BE.
Romans 12:2 (RSV) has this to say: 2 Do not be conformed to this world[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[b]
Do not be Conformed … means that as Christians we should NOT PUT ON the form, fashion, appearance, lifestyle and values of the world.
But be Transformed…means that we should put on ANOTHER form – change the form of the world for that of Christianity.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a NEW PERSON. How?
By the Renewing of the Mind … Meaning, we should not cherish a spirit devoted to the WORLD, following its vain pleasures and fashions, but cultivate a SPIRIT attached to God, His kingdom and cause.
Now let us pause and ask ourselves . . . As Christians, do we REMAIN SEPARATE from the world?
We may be THE SAME ON THE OUTSIDE as everyone else but ON THE INSIDE WE ARE DIFFERENT.
a. WE DON’T THINK LIKE THEM.
Ex. They glorify themselves. We glorify God.
b. WE DON’T ACT LIKE THEM.
Ex. When they want to go partying and getting drunk, we drown ourselves with the Holy Spirit. Amen.
c. WE DON’T HAVE THE SAME VALUES AS THEM.
Ex. One popular advice that I hear over and over again in TV is, “Kung saan ka masaya doon ka.” If you can’t find fault with this then think again. For this is a SNAPSHOT of how it is to live for SELF and PLEASURE.
As you obey God don’t be surprised if others regard you as ‘DIFFERENT’ OR STRANGE. Let us praise God if we are COMPLETE OUTSIDERS to the world’s values, if we feel so OUT OF PLACE in social gatherings that exalts the flesh, if we are so UNPOPULAR because we are thought of as WEIRD OR DIFFERENT because of our Christian convictions.
2. LET US NOT BE COMFORTABLE SINCE THIS WORLD IS NOT OUR HOME
“There is no place like home,” is a popular saying. Meaning, that our home is considered as a place of comfort. However, God does not want us to become “AT HOME” in this world. We should not be feeling at home on earth since OUR SENSE OF GOD IS OFTEN LOST IN A STATE OF EASE OR COMFORT.
I am not saying that every action we take as Christians should always make us UNCOMFORTABLE.
On the other hand, what it does mean is that WE ARE CALLED TO SERVE GOD REGARDLESS OF OUR COMFORT LEVEL, and we should never shrink from a chance to serve God merely because it is “OUTSIDE” OUR COMFORT ZONE.
Ex. Ministering to people we see as UNCOMFORTABLY DIFFERENT –like the reformed DRUG USERS of Operation Tokhang wherein God opened the door to Pastor Carlyn to minister to them. They were UNCOMFORTABLY DIFFERENT –they have tough exteriors and bodies covered with tattoos but when God showed Pastor Carlyn what to do she opted to respond though it was very uncomfortable at the start.
God says in Matthew 10:38-39 that,” If you don’t go all the way with me through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me you will find both yourself and me.”
Jesus went ‘ALL THE WAY’ by laying down His life for us thru crucifixion. Are we willing to go ALL THE WAY’ for Him too by crucifying our laziness, apathy, pride, comfort, selfish desires – all residents of our comfort zone in order to follow Him?
3. LET US NOT BE OVERLY CONCERNED ABOUT MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
Mark 10:28-30 New Living Translation (NLT)
28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.
29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.
Jesus assured the disciples that ANYONE WHO GIVES UP SOMETHING VALUABLE FOR HIS SAKE will be REPAID A HUNDRED TIMES over in this life, although not necessarily in the same form. For example, someone may be rejected by his family for accepting Christ, but he will gain the larger family of believers. Along with these rewards, however, we experience persecution because THE WORLD HATES GOD. Jesus emphasized persecution to make sure that people do not selfishly follow Him only for the rewards.
Solomon had everything going for him, but when he became rich, built up a large army, and married many wives, his heart turned from God (1 Kings 11).
Prosperity can dim our spiritual vision because it tends to make us self-sufficient and eager to acquire still MORE OF EVERYTHING – EXCEPT GOD.
Are we easily deceived by the temporary benefits of wealth that we forget our spiritual commitments the instant that we got promoted, given an increase in salary, and prospered in career and business?
4. WE SHOULD GIVE AGONIZING EFFORTS TO GO TO THE HEAVENLY CITY
To AGONIZE is to PUT FORTH GREAT EFFORT in moving forward – to a LIFE OF COURAGE.
So what’s our plan for success? What DIRECTS OUR WALK? As foreigners on earth we should have a CLEAR VISION OF OUR DESIRED DESTINATION so that the steps we take are always in the RIGHT direction.
It’s WHAT WE TRUST IN but don’t yet see that keeps us going. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 2 Cor. 5:7
10 Abraham in Hebrews 11:10 was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.
LET US EARNESTLY DESIRE THAT HEAVENLY CITY and we must not be overly attached to any PLACE, PURPOSE, POSSESSION OR PERSON that would distract us from our goal.
As I was listening to the song, “Be with You” by City Harvest there is a line that says “Take me higher, Draw me deeper I give ALL to be with You.” Do we give OUR ALL to God – or is it just OUR TEARS AND SORROWS – NOT OUR STRENGTHS NOR TALENTS?
Remember the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume? This is an example of a broken person who completely clung on Jesus feet alone as her source of redemption. She gave not just her TEARS but EVERYTHING SHE GOT FOR JESUS.
Essential Cell is a good place where we can DOUBLE OUR EFFORT IN SERVING CHRIST AND OTHERS. In the absence of Pastors Tohnee and Lily – Sister Corazon opened up her house to our weekly CG. She went BEYOND providing SAVORY AND VISUALLY ATTRACTIVE DISHES week after week to TEACHING us how to make the best mashed potato in town. Sister Corazon is such a gracious host and together with Sister Farida they always make us feel welcome and special in their home. By generously giving their time, resources and creative talent they translated a simple fellowship into an avenue for them to better serve the Lord and others.
What have we learned so far? Let us REVIEW our 3 MAIN POINTS again thru a quick Q&A.
Question #1: WHY IS IT CRUCIAL NOT TO REMAIN IN OUR COMFORT ZONE?
The enemy is putting us to sleep in a soft bed and we are loving it. Being stuck in our comfort zone will make us FORGET GOD.
Jesus had been telling people to LEAVE THEIR FAMILIAR LIVES FOR THE UNFAMILIAR PATH of following him. We are not alone in the journey of discovering and living our calling, 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13).
Christ is asking His followers to DIE TO THEMSELVES, TO TAKE UP THEIR CROSSES AND FOLLOW AFTER HIM. Taking up a cross and dying to self are not “COMFORTABLE” actions. “DYING TO SELF” means to PUT TO DEATH our OWN IDEAS, PLANS, AND DESIRES, AND EXCHANGE THEM FOR HIS. It’s a CALL TO ABSOLUTE SURRENDER.
Question #2: WHY MOVE TO OUR COURAGE ZONE?
As Christians, we should be willing to place ourselves in new situations, even uncomfortable ones, FOR THE SAKE OF SEEING THE KINGDOM ADVANCE. We must trust that God will see to it that things work out for our good and for His plan (Romans 8:28).
LIVING OUR CALLING is possible only when we are willing to be obedient to God’s voice and risk stepping out to follow Jesus. When we do God’s will we are not assured of comfort and convenience. But we are promised that our every discomfort and inconvenience has meaning and purpose.
DISCIPLESHIP DEMANDS SACRIFICE and Jesus never hid that cost. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.
III. CHRIST CALLS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LIVE AS FOREIGN TRAVELERS ON EARTH AND AS SUCH:
1. Foreigners are OUTSIDERS in this world. Koreans don’t look like Filipinos, they eat Kimchi while we eat laswa or tinola, they say ‘Anyoung haseyo’ while we say ‘Mabuhay.’ Their world is totally different from ours. They remain SEPARATE from us even if they live in our midst here in Iloilo.
LESSON: As Christians we have to be SEPARATE from the world, the men of it, and the things in it and this means that although we live IN THIS WORLD yet we don’t allow ourselves to be OF THIS WORLD.
2. Foreign travelers don’t stay COMFORTABLE in air conditioned rooms whole day but they explore under heat, dust and dirt. Weather conditions don’t stop them. They are not AFRAID to explore an unfamiliar ground.
LESSON: As Christians, we should not cease serving Christ merely because of our DISCOMFORT. We should be willing to GO INTO UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITIONS if that’s what is required to serve God the way He desires.
3. Foreign travelers TRAVEL LIGHT, they don’t carry a heavy luggage as worldly possessions to hinder them.
LESSON: As Christians we should NOT BURDEN ourselves with much of this WORLD’S GOODS that would make our journey to heaven difficult.
4. Foreign travelers have a travel plan and no. 1 on their list is their DESTINATION.
LESSON: We should put our thoughts and affections to where we are headed -the place for which we are bound is HEAVEN, where our Father’s house is.
If we are BOUND TO HEAVEN let us agonize to live as foreigners on earth. How? By DYING TO SELF and LIVING BY THE SPIRIT in what we call our COURAGE zone. However, if we are ENJOYING THE PAMPERING OF THE FLESH too much in our COMFORT ZONE that we are so AT HOME in this world already then we are definitely bound to where? Hell.
Where are we going? Are we headed towards spiritual growth or to sinful compromise?
Can we leave our comfort zone to follow God? Are we willing to take up our cross and live for Jesus? Remember this, God can’t do SOMETHING NEW as long as WE ARE STAYING EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE.
If there comes a point in our lives where we are faced with a CHOICE—JESUS OR THE COMFORTS OF THIS LIFE—which will we choose? The easy way or the harder way?
God is looking for men and women who have a heart for Him… who want to take their lives to the NEXT LEVEL… Are we going to IGNORE what God is doing in our hearts or are we going to RESPOND to a life that God intends for us?
Jesus comes to all including the plain and the ordinary. All we have to do is to have a WILLINGNESS to GET OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE AND COMMIT TO LIVE FOR SOMETHING BIGGER THAN OURSELVES.
Time is running out church. Life is very short. You and I will be in eternity before we know it. What is our priority? What are we doing for Jesus?