The idolisation of comfort
Many who live in Asia enjoy extremely comfortable lives. Everything we need or want is just a short trip or click away; food, living essentials, family, friends, entertainment etc. There are none of the wars, diseases or hardships faced by millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, a life filled with comforts can breed self-idolatry – we can love our comforts more than we love God.
The Bible warns us that if we truly live the way Jesus calls us to, we will be despised, hated and persecuted. Friends may mock us for refusing to have sex before marriage. Co-workers may ostracise us for not gossiping about the boss. The boss may fire us for not lying to clients. People will hate us for being grieved by same-sex marriage. Parents may threaten to cut us off if we get baptised or go into full-time ministry.
2 Timothy 3:12-13 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Faithfully keeping God’s commandments requires us to constantly step out of our comfort zones. For instance;
- It is not comfortable to go against the mainstream to stand up for God’s truths.
- It is not comfortable to love our enemies.
- It is not comfortable to give up financial security.
- It is not comfortable to bear other people’s burdens.
- It is not comfortable to forgive those who have hurt us deeply.
John 14:15 ESV “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
If we feel comfortable in our walk with God, then we might have to pause and check if we have simply been circling in our man-made comfort zones, instead of expanding God’s kingdom in our lives and the lives of those around us.
Romans 14:17-19 ESV For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Nothing that Jesus did for us was comfortable
We all prefer to stay within our comfort zones for various reasons:
- Self-idolatry | We are used to taking care of ourselves first.
- Control | We think we can control things (when we really can’t).
- Doubt | We don’t trust God’s plan to be better than ours.
- Sloth | We don’t want to put in the extra effort.
- Fear | We tend to avoid the unknown.
- Ignorance | We don’t understand God.
- Shortsighted | We love this world too much.
Many people, myself included, are guilty of the above. Yet Jesus never lived this way. The Son of God left the comforts of His perfect Father in heaven to live with imperfect people in a messy defiled world so that He could demonstrate what it means to love others more than ourselves – to the point of dying on the cross for us.
Jesus chose to deny His own tremendous power and live in absolute humility, even though He could have had anything He wanted.
- Jesus didn’t have a comfortable place to sleep in | Matthew 8:22 ESV And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
- Jesus didn’t enjoy comfortable financial or material security | Luke 9:3 NIV He told them: “Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.
- Jesus didn’t choose an outstanding appearance | Isaiah 53:2 NLT … There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.
- Jesus was gracious to people He knew would betray Him | After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
- Jesus put the interests of others before His | Matthew 20:27-28 ESV and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Jesus allowed Himself to be despised by people | Isaiah 53:3 NLT He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
Jesus went to such uncomfortable lengths for us to demonstrate how we ought to live – not within our man-made comfort zones but in God’s kingdom on earth.
Being transformed by discomfort
The “comfort idol” is a major blind spot for modern Christians.
Many of us sing praises about God’s great love for us, then resist Him whenever He calls us to love others like Jesus did – forgetting that we are meant to be transformed through the Holy Spirit “into his image with ever-increasing glory”.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
1. A preference for comfort is self-idolatry
Change takes time, but we must be careful not to assume that God in His infinite mercy, will keep tolerating us just the way we are. Such stubbornness takes God for granted – and we become no better than non-believers (heathen at heart). The bottom line is that stubbornly sticking to our comfort zones is the same as self-idolatry, and we need to repent whenever we willfully “do things the way we like it” in defiance of our loving Father in heaven.
Acts 7:51 NLT “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? …
1 Samuel 15:23 NLT Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
2. “Dying” brings a rewarding new life in Christ
God does not intend to steal our joy when He calls us to die to ourselves and deny our desires. It is actually to release us into greater joy, purpose and strength, as He leads us into His true intentions for our talents, passions and experiences.
When we stay comfortable, we only experience a fraction of the marvellous possibilities He has in store for us. When we “die” to our own ways of thinking and doing things, we are released to experience a much more fulfilling life because God is infinite and He rules the entire universe. Like any amazing adventure into exotic new territory, the journey will not always be comfortable, but the destination will always be worth it.
Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 5:24 NLT Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
3. Proactively stepping into God’s higher purpose
We all desire a higher purpose in life and we only find it when we seek God’s way – not the “path of least resistance”.
The fact is, we will never have a sense of deep spiritual satisfaction until we participate in the works that God has prepared for us even before we were born. It is a journey of wonderful self-discovery – and one we only begin on by taking the first step forward.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
4. It is better to feel weak and under-equipped that confident
Someone once said that “If you feel confident to do something for God, you are probably the least qualified to demonstrate His grace and power and the most likely to grab the glory for yourself.”
All things are possible with God by our side. Whenever we step into something that is unfamiliar and a bit scary for the sake of God’s glory, we can be confident that He will reveal His power through our weaknesses. God will do all things that bring glory to Himself, so His name may be demonstrated throughout the world – that’s His guarantee.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Matthew 19:26 ESV But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Exodus 9:16 ESV But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.
So let us all shake off the strongholds of a comfortable complacent life. A life that is not entirely comfortable with God is far, far better than one that is comfortable without Him!
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