A Swiss guy, looking for directions, pulls up at a bus stop where two Americans are waiting. “Entschuldigung, koennen Sie Deutsch sprechen?” he asks. The two Americans just stare at him. “Excusez-moi, parlez vous Francais?” he tries. The two continue to stare. “Parlare Italiano?” No response. “Hablan ustedes Espanol?” Still nothing. The Swiss guy drives off, extremely disgusted.
The first American turns to the second and says, “Y’know, maybe we should learn a foreign language.” “Why?” says the other. “That guy knew four languages, and it didn’t do him any good.”
Who doesn’t love to be comfortable? We devote our time, money, and energy keeping us satisfied.
If it’s hot in the summer I turn on the AC. If it’s cold in the winter I put on the heat. My closest friends tend to be those I feel the most comfortable around.
Being spiritually comfortable all the time isn’t as good for you however. There’s no doubt God challenges us to get out of our comfort zones and get into his kingdom zone.
Paul said, “…this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Get out of your comfort zone. Make it a goal to see what’s lying in front of you. The Lord has a better prize waiting for you.
Scripture tells us to press on forward, even if it takes some straining. I know this is a little early, considering today is Palm Sunday, but in Matthew’s Gospel on Easter morning, the risen Christ tells the disciples they have to go to Galilee where he will meet them. They have to get out of Jerusalem and journey to Galilee in order to see the risen Lord. He didn’t want them to get too comfortable in the big city. They had a purpose now to fulfill.
Don’t just stay where you are. Pick yourself up and head off seeking the blessings God has in mind for you. There’s a journey ahead of you if you go in God’s direction.
The truth is we’re pretty good at noticing when someone else is stuck and should get up and get going. We tell our children all the time to stop playing video games, or watching TV, and get outside and play, ride a bike,
or anything. We tell them they’ve got to get out there in order to challenge their bodies and minds.
It’s much more difficult doing the same thing for ourselves, though at times each of us make strides in stepping out of our comfort zone and becoming a bigger person.
I myself have grown in some very important ways: I can now pick up some small spiders and walk them outside. I never used to be able to do anything close to that. Daddy long-legs up in Wisconsin were too much for me to handle. But now I feel like the big guy when I save the kids from the hideous beasts’ malignant and terrifying presence.
I used to not be able to even consider eating beets until Marit showed me the error of my ways. Now I gobble them up. It’s true, they taste like earth but anything that tastes like dirt has to be good for you I keep telling myself. Besides it makes Marit happy that I join her.
But everyone has their limit. I don’t do most kinds of herring—only a little bit of the mustard herring; and I do mean a little bit!
We ought to learn how to tolerate distress better and more often than we do. Distress tolerance is important because it allows us to hang in there long enough to see the rewards for what we haven’t done before but now going to give it a try.
We have to go through some anxiety and distress to become stronger and wiser. Our brains can’t keep getting fed the same old gruel if they’re going to stay mentally agile. Happiness occurs in people who are more resilient and durable.
Now of course there are limits to this type of thing.
Back several years ago, a bored Californian sat down in a lawn chair, with a case of beer, pellet gun, a CB, altimeter, parachute and life jacket. Attached to his lawn chair were 40 large, helium-filled weather balloons. Lawn chair Larry began his ascent into the “wild blue yonder.”
At 15,000 feet, he floated into the flight path of L.A. International airport. A startled 747 pilot called in to the tower about passing a guy in a lawn chair! The FAA, the police and a bunch of other people scrambled.
When he decided it was time to come down he started popping balloons with his pellet gun. Back on the ground, after a successful flight, he said, “My family used to think I was crazy. Now they want me to write a book.”
Stepping out of our comfort zone never should lead us into the path of a 747.
On Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the time, the people loved him and treated him almost like royalty. They also got to greet old and new friends, and planned on celebrating Passover. What a week it was!
But Jesus had to make a decision. Would he stay where all those people wanted him to stay, with their expectations of what he was supposed to be and do? Or would he step out of that comfort zone and head in a direction he was supposed to?
He made the right, tough choice, praise the Lord, and the rest is, well, salvation history.
There are many times in our lives, especially when we’re younger, that we have to decide if we’re going to stay with the friends we have and the people we know and what they think is good enough or funny or important, or if we’re going to break out and do what we think is right and best and more important.
God calls us to make decisions that may cost us comfort and familiarity. Don’t back away. Step forward when the Lord calls you to become someone different.
God challenges those he wants to grow. The Lord lifts up those who have a special destiny. Don’t stick with the easy and the tried. Strain forward to answer the call of God. The Lord can fulfill our heart’s desires.
There’s no doubt following God’s will and rising to your highest abilities means you may get hurt or feel alone. Getting out of our comfort zone isn’t just uncomfortable. It’s painful for many people. We pay a price.
But there’s also no doubt the price is worth it. Because the truth is there’s always another price to be paid if we don’t accept we’re supposed to be doing something more and different. The cost is having regret for not having tried and for not believing in ourselves.
Forget your fears. Trust the Lord, and yourself. Make a new and bigger comfort zone that is much closer to God’s kingdom zone.
A lot of people are afraid to do this. They think what’s done is done, as if their life is set in stone. But scripture says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Nothing is set in stone until God does it.
Others believe they’ve never been good at doing anything but what was easy or comfortable. But a new blessed life can start with doing something as easy but as different as having a conversation you’d rather avoid, going to a restaurant by yourself, signing up for a new class, letting go of a harmful
relationship that normally you would stay with or doing just the opposite, hanging in there when your first reaction is to run away.
These are certainly smaller and easier to do than what Nehemiah went for. 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 quite a comfortable life in the king’s palace. He slept on satin sheets and down pillows. He was living the good life!
One fateful day, some Jewish friends of Nehemiah returned from a trip to Jerusalem. Nehemiah asked them how thing were going there. They told him not good. “The walls are down, the gates are burned with fire, and the people are living in disgrace.”
When Nehemiah heard this, it was like a shot to the gut. It buckled him. It swept him off his feet and onto his knees. He prayed, but not for just a moment or a minute or two. For four months he prayed, until God showed him what to do.
Nehemiah gave up his powerful and comfortable position as cupbearer to the ruler of the largest empire in the world at the time. Instead, he traveled to broken down and barely inhabitable Jerusalem, where he went to work rebuilding. Ultimately, Nehemiah became one of the two most important persons to bring about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the people of Israel, with an entire book in the Bible dedicated to him.
We too should be of good courage. Believe there is more ahead of you if you step up to the challenge. The Lord leads us forward to the better things in life.
We all have a comfort zone of seeing others and relating to them in a certain way. We do this because we believe they are this way, and we continue to react to them in the same way. It’s what causes arguments to keep coming around to the same topics and same words time and again.
This happens even when someone is trying to make a change or they actually are doing better at something they weren’t doing well at before. Too often, we’re still seeing them in the old way rather than who they’re trying to become.
When someone is making that effort, it’s important we get out of our comfort zone of seeing them in the same old way.
Look again to see how much they’re trying to become someone better. Encourage them early and often. They’re answering God’s call to strain forward and grow in Christ’s image.
There are signs you’re not making any more forward progress in your life. Some telltale signs you may have are that you feel bored, restless, tired, dissatisfied and unhappy. You have a lack of enthusiasm for your life. You find yourself daydreaming about a different life or imagining different adventures. But you don’t know the steps to take.
This is not how it’s supposed to be. Get out of your circle; it’s starting to feel more like a noose. God made birds, not bird cages. Open the door to what the Lord has been begging for you to be doing. The blessings you seek are outside the comfort zone you’re in.
So don’t just stay where you are. Pick yourself up and head off seeking the blessings God has in mind for you. There’s a journey ahead of you if you go in God’s direction.
Can the church say Amen?