Monday, September 6, 2010

Comfort vs. Growth

“You cannot grow, AND hang onto your comfort
at the same time.” -- Deborah Stewart

So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.
-- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (Message)

I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of hard/difficult/can't-really-plan-for-them times. I like a certain predictability (most of the time) to my days and for things to go along at a nice, steady pace. No big surprises or bumps in the road that leave me without an idea as to what is going to happen next, please and thank you. Yet how often does God actually operate that way? One needs only to read the stories of many people in the Bible – Abraham, Joseph, Job, Hosea and Paul to name but a few – and look at the lives of Christians around them and even at one's own life to see the uncertainties we are often faced with in this life.

And so much of Western culture is opposite of what we find in God's Word. Life is to be easy, comfortable, profitable and free of unpleasant shocks and surprises. At least that's what I hear.

But God isn't interested in our comfort and ease of life as much as He is in getting the word out about His love, mercy, salvation, and impending judgement for those who choose to reject Him. And for those who have chosen to follow Him, He wants to achieve in us the following:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
-- Micah 6:8 (NKJ)

Sometimes experiencing an injustice helps us to do justly. Or having someone be unmerciful towards us seeds in our hearts a strong appreciation of mercy both received and given. Perhaps having our castles and dreams . . . our idols, really, topple to the ground will open our cloudy eyes to the greatness of the God who gives us all the breath we need to live each day.

God does want to bless us. He wants to give us good things. He has good things in store for us. Read Jeremiah 29: 11 – 14a. And John 3:16, along with 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 – 24. Those aren't bad things, are they? So we – and I heartily include myself – need to keep 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18 in mind, particularly verse 17: These short-term troubles lead to long-term rewards.

Abraham experienced the reward – at least the beginnings of it via Isaac. As did Joseph and Job and Hosea and Paul. Maybe they didn't see it all this side of heaven and had to wait until they got to the 'other side'. But seen it they have for the One who made the promises to them and makes them to us today is faithful (2 Thessalonians 5: 24). Remember that when you're being pulled and stretched and are growing. And remember, too, you are not alone.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
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 us,
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God.
-- Hebrews 12: 1-2 (NKJ)

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