Earlier this week, I wrote about “rollercoaster faith.” Today, I want to continue that focus on faith. I wrote that we often struggle with an up and down faith based on our circumstances, and how the Lord wants our faith anchored in him who never changes as opposed to our circumstances, which always do. Along with that is the increasingly popular idea among believers that faith should be comfortable.
Just this morning while having breakfast with a friend, we were discussing the trend of churches trying to make their worship services and the church environment as comfortable for the masses as possible. Popular music, entertaining but short sermons, coffee bars, etc. All designed to draw people to their churches. Whether intentionally or not, what the American church is selling people is a comfortable faith that doesn’t require much, and definitely nothing that makes people uncomfortable, such as the need for repentance from sin, generosity with one’s wealth, and reconciliation with other believers who you believe have wronged you.
What is fascinating about this trend is it ignores what we read about the believers in the New Testament and the commands of our Lord, as well as the witness of those in the Old Testament, such as Abraham and Moses. Their faith was tested and stretched throughout their journeys with the Lord. Abraham was called to leave his homeland with no idea where God was taking him. Moses was called from exile to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jeremiah was called to rebuke the Israelites who then persecuted him.
And Jesus often challenged the thinking that following him would be easy. To the rich man, he told him to sell everything he owned and then come follow him. He reminded people who sought to follow him that he had none of the creature comforts they were used to. And he said that if one is to follow him, he must be willing to take up his cross daily (an instrument of execution in the 1st Century).
And what of the persecuted New Testament Church? Yes, it grew exponentially, which church growth experts always point out, but what is often ignored is that growth didn’t come as a result of new building expansions or the hiring of a great pastor. Rather, it came in the midst of terrible persecution from the Roman government and the Jewish leaders. It grew because people could see believers being joyous in the face of terrible treatment. Theirs was a faith that was deep and abiding; it was a faith that was costly and uncomfortable. It was more akin to the faith of the Christians in China, India, or Iran, where persecution of Jesus followers is rampant. Yet, the Kingdom is adding new citizens daily in those parts of the world.
About a year ago, the Lord brought to my mind an idea that was a real stretch for me. I will not say what it was because that right now is between him and I. Suffice it to say, however, it was something that I didn’t feel at all comfortable doing, so I didn’t. A few weeks ago, after hearing a message about faith that is comfortable is no faith at all, the idea came back to me. This time, I realized I needed to follow through with it. So I did. It was uncomfortable, at first, but then I found great joy in doing it, and now I look forward to doing it and see the Lord working through me in this endeavor.
I love my comfort as much as anyone, and I am not easily moved to stray far from it. That’s my bent, and I think it is for most of us. Yet, the teachings and the examples in the Scriptures call us away from our comfortable lives to go where the Lord leads. Like all parents, he is not surprised by resistance, but he does want obedience, not for his sake, but for ours. Rather than allowing us to live the lives we prefer, he calls us to the life we need, which is to trust him and follow him wherever he wants us to go and do whatever he wants us to do. In other words, acknowledge his lordship over our lives, that we are not our own, but were brought at a price (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Sadly, many believers are being sold a comfortable faith, of which the only requirements are to participate in church services and be a good person. Everything is centered around people being comfortable and feeling good. This is not the faith of the Scriptures, and it is easy to figure that out merely by reading them.
The challenge for each of us in the midst of our culture of comfort is to rediscover the faith that is deep and abiding regardless of our circumstances, and a faith that leads us willingly to sacrifice our daily wants to the will of the Lord. In that we will find true joy.
© Jim Musser 2019 All Scripture References from New International Version.