“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”—Joshua 1:9 (NIV).
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.” When I saw this quote posted on a friend’s Facebook page, I had to share it with others. Curious, I googled the quote to discover the author of the statement. Although many have repeated it, the original source is unknown.
We’ve all seen similar inspirational quotes encouraging us to get out of our routines and do something we normally wouldn’t do. While it’s sometimes difficult to push the boundaries of our comfort zones, when we do take that step, we often wonder why it took us so long to cross that barrier.
So, what is a “comfort zone” exactly? It’s our tendency to get comfortable with the familiar and our daily routines. It’s a place or situation where we feel safe or at ease and without stress.
Examples abound in the Bible of those who left their comfort zone in obedience to God’s calling. Abraham struck out for an unknown land, leaving family and friends behind because God had called him to do so. Moses definitely left his comfort zone behind when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land.
Ten years ago this month, I obeyed God and moved from a small northeastern Oklahoma community, where I’d lived for more than 30 years, to a city approximately 80 miles southwest. Before relocating, I could count on one hand the number of people I knew in my new place of residence. It was a leap of faith for someone like me who had always played it safe. However, if I hadn’t obeyed and left my comfort zone, I would never have experienced a trip to the Holy Land or participated in overseas mission trips.
“If you love me, keep my commands”—John 14:15 (NIV).
Dubbed the fastest man on earth, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set the world record for running the 100 meter dash in under 10 seconds with a time of 9.58 in the World Athletics Championship finals in 2009. No man has beaten his record since.
Ten seconds. What can we as Christians do in that brief time that leads to following Jesus in an obedient manner? In his book, “The 10 Second Rule: Following Jesus Made Simple,” author Clare DeGraaf writes, “Most of us would like to think of ourselves as followers of Jesus, but what does that really mean, practically?”
In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
“I’ve found that the need for certainty is often the enemy of obedience.”
Says DeGraaf, “Simply put, it’s trusting Jesus enough to say ‘no’ to what we want, and ‘yes’ to what he wants. So, then why is it we don’t obey him more often than we do?”
During the course of his days, Graaf began to notice impressions to do something he was reasonably certain Jesus wanted him to do. “It could be an impression to either do something good for someone or a warning about a sin I was about to commit.”
“But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray”—Luke 5:16 (CEV).
When I arrived at a neighbor’s house recently, she was on hold with a company, trying to get help with a refrigerator problem. Hanging up after a bit, she asked me to take a look at the temperature gauge in the freezer section. Since her refrigerator is a newer model, the gauge is digital. I tried my best to figure it out but was unable to help.
Concerned about the frozen foods thawing out, my friend redialed the company’s number. As her phone was on speaker, I could hear the “mechanical” voice repeat a list of options. One of the final choices was to call a different number. My friend had to replay the final message three times before we got the correct number written down. Eventually, she made contact with a live person who was able to solve the problem with her freezer. While the solution was simple, the process she went through to get there was complicated.
Solitude is a time for being alone with God in complete silence.
Our lives have become more complicated in the 21st century. While technology has, in some instances, made things easier, in other ways it has contributed to modern society’s stress levels. With cell phones, computers and 24/7 cable television, we are kept in a perpetual state of “on” with information overload. Constant stress can lead to severe health issues, including physical, mental, emotional and behavioral problems. What if we learned to deal with stress in a biblical way?
Instead of turning to unhealthy habits like overeating and substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs, what if we chose the path Jesus took when He needed to escape the pressures of His ministry? Seeking God in solitude was Jesus’ habit when the going got rough.
“Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people”—Colossians 3:23 (CEB).
Have you ever closely examined your hands or the hands of another? While that might seem like a strange question, a recent devotional made me contemplate my own hands. In a little more than three months, I will celebrate my 62nd birthday. When I compare my hands to the smooth unblemished hands of my grandchildren, I try to recall what mine looked like before they became permanently marked with the telltale signs of aging.
More important than the appearance of our hands is what they have accomplished for God. We can choose to use our hands in worthless pursuits designed for personal gain or we can follow Jesus’ example to serve others.
We can waste our time and money or we can invest it in God’s kingdom.
In June, I was blessed to have my two oldest grandchildren participate in a week-long mission through our church’s VBS. Each day, the fifth and sixth-graders took part in a different project to teach them about the importance of serving others. One of our day’s activities involved helping at the local Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit dedicated to delivering hot food to shut-ins in Claremore. Most of those receiving assistance are the elderly.
My grandson enjoyed that day’s service project so much he volunteered to return in July and serve again. Last week, he spent the night with me. After breakfast, we drove to the Meals on Wheels headquarters where Brennan, who had just celebrated his 10th birthday the week before, assisted Jack Weyler, president of the nonprofit, to pack the eight meals we would be delivering. Mr. Weyler, who is in his mid-80s, is not the oldest volunteer who shows up faithfully to either cook, pack or delivers meals. One volunteer is 92-years-old.
“But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ”— Philippians 3:7-8 (CEV).
“While world changes, who will change me?” This headline on a recent opinion piece by an area pastor grabbed my attention. Opening his article, the pastor said, “I am a public follower of Jesus. I am only being honest when I admit my growing unease and sense of helplessness as cultural norms drift away from Christian standards.”
With hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and transgender celebrities, many Christians fear where our country is headed. As the author of the article says, “I find myself struggling for some meaningful way to respond to these changes in a manner that best honors the person I profess to serve. How can I, as a Christ-follower, respond like Christ when I disagree with the direction of our culture?”
Has a relationship with Jesus transformed you?
As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be concerned about our country’s direction. However, if we are to respond as Jesus would, we must know Him intimately.
Citing a passage from Brother Lawrence’s book, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” the pastor said, “Lawrence lived in an obscure 17th century European monastery, but his reflections on God have captured the attention of many since, including me. Lawrence’s biographer Joseph de Beaufort used 10 words to describe his friend Lawrence: ‘His love for Jesus Christ changed him into another man.’”
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’”—Matthew 16:24 (NIV).
Area residents from diverse backgrounds were recently interviewed by a large metropolitan newspaper. They were asked how they felt about the American Dream, how had it changed over the past decades and how hard is it to achieve?
A 68-year-old pastor who was interviewed said, “One of the things that has changed dramatically since the time I was a kid is the place of God and religion in the typical family life. I would suspect that there’s not as much practice of religion…And when you take God out of the picture and religious practice—which supports belief in God—I think the family also suffers.”
“The American Dream can very quickly become twisted into a self-serving vision and dominate our lives.”
The term, “American Dream,” was coined by author James Truslow Adams in 1931. Adams’ American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Writing in “Relevant” magazine, Seth Silvers asked this question: Can you pursue the American Dream and follow Jesus at the same time?
“Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus”—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (TLB).
In a recent discussion of 1 Thessalonians in our Sunday school class, one of our members, referencing chapter 5, verses 16-18 made the following statement: “Until our family was faced with cancer, we did life as usual. I’m actually grateful, not for the cancer, but that it changed our lives.”
Pain, disappointment, heartache and other challenges in our lives are sometimes the motivating factor in seeking salvation or in our spiritual growth. Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
God’s purpose in times of crisis and trouble is to teach His children precious lessons.
Unexpected crises are a part of life. They are like storms blowing through, destroying property and lives and leaving in its aftermath a mess. I’ve read or heard more than one pastor say, “At this moment you are in one of three storm categories; either you just came out of one, or you are in one right now, or you are headed into one.”