I love to be comfortable. One of my favorite activities is to take a nap on our ultra-squishy, overstuffed couch. It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but when it does it is true bliss. I don’t like to sweat (moving to Cyprus not a good idea), stand for too long, wait for anything (moving to Cyprus not a good idea) or virtually anything else that causes the least bit of discomfort. Being raised in the U.S., comfort has been pretty easy to come by. Isn’t that what the American dream is all about? Build up a life that is predictable and avoids discomfort? I have spent much energy on this dream.
The problem with this is that my desire for comfort could and probably has hampered my ability to follow God. I have yet to read anywhere in the Bible that we are to seek comfort with all our ability. Nor does it say, that the reward in heaven is great for those with the softest couch. The message by John Piper in my last post has been challenging me. But, even before listening to this, I believe that God has been pruning away my selfish desire for comfort. He has been replacing this with a desire for Him. For this I am grateful.
There are a couple of examples of in the Bible of people choosing comfort over obedience. Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus three times was rooted in the desire not to be in jail or persecuted. Jonah’s free-loading in the whale’s gut was also an avoidance of doing the uncomfortable. I believe even the Pharisee’s denial and killing of Jesus was based on a “don’t rock my boat” mentality. Would any of us like to be Peter during the crucifixion? How about the Pharisees pretty much anytime after that? How do you think Jonah smelled with fish vomit baking in the sun under the tree? Don’t you think that this only heightened his sense of sorrow over failing God? Well, he was obedient in the end by his actions, but his heart never fully got to the place of obedience. Talking to the Ninevites was a better deal than what would have come after the big fish, for sure.
I’ve been reading the stories of many martyrs lately. These people like Richard Wurmbrand, Brother Yun, Stephen, Aida Skripnikova, Gul Masih and many, many others chose to shun the comfort of this world for pain, torture, humiliation and death. These dear brothers and sisters took quite literally, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In the face of much discomfort, they opted for love and obedience. This choice didn’t just affect themselves, but also stole the comfort and security of their families. But, in this, God was honored. Richard Wurmbrand’s wife’s statement to her husband in the story below continues to bring glory to the God as it gives us proper perspective.
It was the year after the Communists had seized power in Romania. The government had invited all religious leaders to attend a congress at the Parliament building – over 4,000 attended. First, they chose Joseph Stalin as honorary president of the congress. Then the speeches began. It was absurd and horrible. Communism was dedicated to the destruction of religion, as had already been shown in Russia. Yet bishops and pastors arose and declared that Communism and Christianity were fundamentally the same and could coexist. Out of fear, these men of God were filling the air with flattery and lies.
It was as if they spat in Jesus Christ’s face.
Sabina Wurmbrand could stand it no longer. She whispered to her husband, “Richard, stand up and wash this shame from the face of Christ.”
Richard knew what would happen: “If I speak, you will lose your husband.”
Sabina replied, “I do not wish to have a coward for a husband”
Richard spent the following years in Communist prisons enduring torture, isolation and brain washing: 1948-1956, 1959-1964. Sabina also spent three years in prison herself. They went on to begin the ministry that we know today as Voice of the Martyrs (source: Jesus Freaks, Bethany House Publishers).
So, this is all challenging me to check my motives. What am I seeking after? Am I seeking comfort? Or, am I seeking His glory? Am I avoiding the things that I know to do out of the fear that it may be uncomfortable? Am I so busy fighting for my piece of the pie, that I earned with my own two hands, that I can’t be bothered to serve others?
I think that the first prayer of each day should be, “Lord help me not to seek after my own comfort today. Instead help me to follow you better even if it means discomfort.”
Pray for me to have an obedient heart. I’ll pass on the fish vomit. What about you?