Sister Cheryl brought us a challenging message this week on stepping beyond our comfort zones, and expanding our horizons in God’s service. For many of us the temptation is to stay with what is familiar to us, and to play it safe. There are several scriptures that address this including the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). And while the diligent servant in Luke 12:42-43, is rewarded for carrying out his master’s business, there nonetheless remains a call for further growth.
Okay, growth sounds good. But moving out of the comfort zone isn’t always easy. We each have our own points of resistance. It may be shyness. It may be time constraints. It may be ego. But these require change to overcome. Luke 22 gives an example of this,
“A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom,just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (vs 24-30).”
Here we see ego as a hindrance to growth. Jesus quickly nips it in the bud by turning the idea of greatness of its head. He says that if they are to be all they can be, they need to give up even the status they presently have. They are to become like children, and humble themselves.
Jesus then turns the focus onto the process of change. He notes that it is like a threshing, as He tells Peter what the future holds, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (vs 31-32).” This is a loaded statement. It notes that Peter will fail (expanded on in verses 33-34), but that he will in turn, be returned, and in the process of sifting, become a strength to others. Threshing and sifting (beating and being tossed about) are not pleasant propositions, but in prevailing through such tests and trials, growth is achieved.
As we grow, we find new comfort zones. Our horizons are expanded. And do we rest then? No, we grow again! It may not be easy, but it is rewarding. Paul writes,
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us . . . . In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8: 18-30).“
Our testings will lead to growth. Growth in turn will lead to glory. And what is the point we seek? To be conformed to the image of Christ. Now there is a comfort zone to rest in!