Monday, October 03, 2005

Getting Too Comfortable

I'm not generally a guy who pampers himself. Oh sure I may have to struggle with the occasional bout of laziness, but I rarely go out of my way to make things really comfortable. The pickup that I drive isn't exactly kept in pristine condition. My office is in my basement, and my desk sits next to the piles of Christmas decorations. My wardrobe will never be confused with Donald Trump's. I'm all for comfort, but I wonder about those people who take things beyond the simple comforts.

For instance, how does one get to the point of truly craving gourmet meals? Wearing designer clothing? Hiring household staff? I imagine some of it can be blamed on just showin' off, but part of it must be a belief that these behaviors are better. Maybe that food does taste better than Burger King. Maybe those clothes do feel better than a Jerzees t-shirt and a pair of Lee dungarees. But are they necessary?

On the other hand, some people are more comfortable in surroundings they don't need to keep clean, or eating fast food and wearing clothes from Wal-Mart. They have their own preferences. Truffles are too pretentious. Why wear a shirt from a fancy store when you can get one on sale at Dollar General that will work?

The point is that we all tend to seek our own comfort. My comfort level is found in simpler things than some people, but in far more extravagant things than others. Each of us look to make ourself happy and we hope that others will make us happy also. Let's face it, sacrifice is not something we easily embrace. And most times, we will seek to make ourselves happy instead of making God happy.

Our denomination lost a missionary pioneer last week. Archie left his native Canada in 1952 with a wife and three daughters in tow, setting off for the Central American nation of Nicaragua. He and his family went from relative comfort to an underdeveloped country. Not too long after he arrived, the English-speaking churches he went to work with left the denomination. Archie then turned to the Spanish-speaking populace, bringing the Gospel to many Honduran villages for the first time ever. When he died last week at the age of 87, he completed 55 years of his life in Central America.

How many people do you know willing to make that kind of sacrifice? I know some who have made similar sacrifices, but they are few and far between. I'd have to say I'd struggle with a call to the mission field like Archie answered. I'm far too comfortable in my surroundings.

I love being in a rural area. I can handle being in the big city for a few days, but living in Chicago or New York or even Fort Wayne, Indiana for a year or two would pull me way out of my comfort zone. I wouldn't enjoy it. But if God was calling me (and strengthening me) I'd do it.

Paul writes this in Philippians:

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven...

It's quite an image of people whose god is their stomach, isn't it? Yet it's so true. Paul contrasts those "who live according to the pattern we gave you" with those who live for their own happiness. The first group live as Christ's friends while those in the second group "live as enemies of the cross of Christ." Read that again so it soaks in. When we live for our own comfort instead of following God's desires for us, we live as His enemies.

We live much of our lives striving to be comfortable. Live in a comfortable home. Eating what makes us happy. Wearing clothes that feel good. After being at work or at church dressed up don't we "slip into something a little more comfortable" when we get home? We do the same thing with our churches. We want to have comfortable seats, good lighting, air conditioning, plenty of convenient, clean restrooms. There's nothing wrong with having these things, however our comfort can easily become an idol in our lives.

I'll make the same challenge here that I've made numerous times elsewhere: show me in the Bible where God says we are to be comfortable. In most versions the word "comfortable" isn't even in there. I can find "comfort" as in God comforting us and we are to comfort others, but the idea of being comfortable is alarmingly absent.

The truth is that too many times we get too comfortable and become unwilling to do as God wants. We make excuses and justify our behavior. We proudly show off our jammed calendar on our PDAs to prove we can't truly dedicate ourselves to prayer and the Bible and seeking God's face. We try to twist Scripture to say what we want it to say. We seek the company of other Barkolounger-bound Christians and non-Christians to try to discredit the idea of self-sacrifice.

I struggle every day with the idea of remaining comfortable or doing something else -- stepping out on faith or giving up something I enjoy or breaking out of my bad habits. Getting comfortable can be such an idol in my life. And I know I'm not alone.

No comments: