Vol. 8, No. 7
Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*
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Comfortable is defined as being at ease, contented, relaxed, happy, easy, calm, comfy and well off. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus is doing anything but addressing our comforts. God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are much more interested in our character than they are in our comfort! In this judgment scene, Jesus tells us about a separation that is going to be made based on the lives we have lived.
To the ones on the right Christ will say, "...Come, you blessed of My Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you you six times in these verses.
Let's face it; we are going to have to come out of our beds, our lounge chairs, our recliners and our hammocks to meet the expectations of these verses! Somebody else's problems and needs are going to have to come before our rest! When we are made aware of a need or a problem, getting on our computers and emailing somebody else is never going to suffice! When we are made aware of a need or a problem, getting on the phone calling somebody else is never going to be acceptable! Sending a fax regarding a need or problem to somebody else in no way relieves us of responsibility!
Some of God's commands we may find hard, harder or the hardest to obey, but that does not dismiss them. A couple of those hard commands are study of God's Word and not sinning when we become angry. Harder commands could be going to an offended brother/sister, or forgiving someone who has offended us. Perhaps some of the hardest commands are withdrawing from a wayward member of the body, or fulfilling what we often refer to as the Great Commission. Obedience to these commands and all others are designed to bring us out of our comfort zones as we yield to the will and discipline of God.
Jesus Christ came into this world completely out of his comfort zone! Whenever we get to thinking that we are really being "put upon," we just need to remember what our Lord gave up to save us from the fires of hell! We need to remember that if it had not been for him and what he did, since we were helpless to do anything for ourselves, we would all be eternally lost! The agony Christ would suffer was prophesied hundreds of years before he died.
David said, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?" (Psalm 22:1). "I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death" (Psalm 22:14-15). "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:5-7).
The apostle Paul was an apostle, teacher, preacher and missionary, and his life was anything but comfortable! After Saul's encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus, the Lord tells Ananias to go to Saul. Ananias said, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name" (Acts 9:13-14). Verses 15 and 16 are rich in response, "But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." We need only to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 to get a graphic description of Paul's sufferings for the cause of Christ. Paul was a man who knew nothing about a comfortable zone! He knew nothing about neglecting his God-given talents, abilities or opportunities! He knew nothing of refusing to do things he was not comfortable with, or being afraid to even try!
We would do well to follow his example in our efforts to worship, serve and work in the kingdom of God. Some of the things that keep us from moving out of our comfortable zone are misplaced priorities, excuse making, fear of doing the right thing and unbelief in the Word.
Misplaced priorities All the things that weigh, drag, and hold us down--the accumulation of material things, money, power, position, education, etc. We are warned about such in Hebrews 12:1-2, "...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
Excuse making I don't know enough about the Bible to teach anybody. I don't cook well enough to take food to anybody. I don't think anybody would wear anything I might give them. I work all day. I have small children. I'm too old, and I have too many health issues. I'm too young; I have my own life to live.
In the Parable of the Great Supper in Luke 14:15-24, an invitation is extended to many and they all with one accord begin to make excuses. The first one says he has bought ground that he has to go see. Who buys a piece of land sight unseen? The second one says he has bought oxen that must be tested. Who buys oxen without knowing if they will work? The third one says he has married. Why couldn't he bring his wife? These were all lame excuses! Luke 14:21 says, "Then the master of the house being angry, said to his servant, go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor, and the maimed and the lame and the blind." He ends by saying none of those who had been invited would taste his supper.
Fear of doing the right thing Pilate's decision to hand Jesus over to the Romans was partly based on his fear to stand up for his own convictions; he had no backbone! He said, "Behold I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him" (John 19:4). "Therefore when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, crucify Him, crucify Him! Pilate said to them, 'You take Him and crucify Him for I find no fault in Him.' The Jews answered him, 'We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.' Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, He was the more afraid" (John 19:6-8). Matthew 27:24 says, "When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it."
"Do not be afraid" is a statement Jesus made over and over and over again to his apostles and disciples. We can never be afraid to do the right thing! In Revelation 21:8, the fearful are the first group of people listed who will be in hell eternally. "But the fearful, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone which is the second death." Solomon states it this way, "A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well" (Proverbs 25:26).
Unbelief in the Word It seems as though everyone in the world knows and can quote John 3:16. Does anybody know what John 3:17-18 say? "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
The writer of the Book of Hebrews 3:12; 18-19 says, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."
Our comfortable zone is on the other side. In this life, God expects us to be transformed into the image of Christ. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). The following email I received a couple of years ago expresses that very well.
"He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering of righteousness" (Malachi 3:3). This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.
That week the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he also had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined? He smiled at her and answered, “Oh that’s easy; when I see my image in it.” If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eyes on you and will keep watching you until he sees his image in you.