August 24, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Rejoice in Your “Comfort” Zone
Faithful and compassionate God, we know that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Enable us to see with eyes of faith beyond a broken and hurting world that You are sovereign, and to believe with trusting hearts that You are undeniably good. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
What do you think of when you hear something about someone being in their comfort zone, or getting out of their comfort zone?
Usually this phrase is used as a challenge: We must get out of our comfort zone and boldly go where no one has gone before!
The term is almost redundant all by itself. It is when someone is “in their zone” that they are most comfortable. When Felix Hernandez is in his zone, for instance, the Mariners cannot be beat. When Felix Hernandez is “not in his zone”, you can bet he is most uncomfortable.
When I was in Little League, in my 3rd and 4th and 5th years, I was a nearly unstoppable sidearm pitcher – All Stars 3 years in a row – and undefeated (that’s how I remember it, anyhow)! But there was one game when I could not throw a strike! Ball after ball after ball. After I had walked the 4th run in my coach came out to talk with me, and in tears I begged to stay in for one more batter. I walked him. I was not “in my zone” and I was not, at all, comfortable. Fortunately, our team had batted in several more runs than I had walked, so we still won the game.
My coach never stopped believing in me, and he told me how proud he was that I stayed in for one more batter, but he wisely took me out of the game and sent in a relief pitcher.
That was a hard game, but those were happy, dream-filled days.
We tend to equate “happiness” with joy, but they are two totally different ideas each springing from a different source. One comes from the world around us. The other originates directly from the Spirit of the Living God. Happiness is conditioned by and often dependent upon what is “happening” to us. If people treat me well, if things are going well in my life, if I am winning, if I am pitching sidearm strikes, then I’m happy. If my circumstances aren’t favorable, then I’m unhappy – that describes me throwing nothing but “ball fours”!
Joy, on the other hand, throbs throughout Scripture as a profound, compelling quality of life that transcends the events and disasters which may dog God’s people. Joy is a divine dimension of living that is not shackled by circumstances. The Hebrew word means, “to leap or spin around with pleasure.” In the New Testament, the word refers to “gladness, bliss and celebration.”
Today we read from Philippians 4, a piece of Paul’s prison epistle to the Christian fellowship in Philippi that resounds with “joy” in the midst of struggle. Listen to God’s Word from Philippians 4:1-9…. —-
1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Today I am going to challenge you to NOT leave your comfort zone, but to make your comfort zone work for you!
Some of you might remember that a few weeks back I introduced the 16th century Heidelberg Catechism to you – this Reformation Era statement of faith in Q and A format. Question 1 asks, “What is your only comfort, in life and in death?” And Answer 1 is, “That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ….”
And in that study we learned that the root meaning of the word “comfort” is “strength”. That is why a “fort” is called a “stronghold”. Now, let me challenge you again. Do NOT leave your comfort zone. Not this week, anyway. Stay in your zone. Where you find joy and are able to rejoice – even if/when life throws curveballs you cannot hit – or that hit you! Rejoice in your “comfort” zone. Rejoice in your strength.
So how do we recognize our true “comfort zone”? It is not, necessarily, when you pitch nothing but strikes. What my coach reminded me of during that horribly bad game was that our team was still ahead! Not because of my excellent pitching – far from it. No, we were ahead because I was not alone on that team!
That is still true today. We are not alone! Not only do we have each other, for which we might be extremely grateful – but we have God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Last Thursday our Bible class in Mark 10 discovered Jesus telling the crowds and the disciples that we need to recognize our own helplessness in earning our salvation – like babies we cannot save ourselves – even the “rich, young, ruler” was told to sell everything and give the money away so that he, too, could see that he was helpless to save himself!
Paul understood that it was in his own weakness that he experienced God’s ultimate strength! (“But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” II Corinthians 12:9)
And notice, too, the connection between “joy” and “peace”. Happiness often brings with it a lack of peace – for fear of losing that which brought the happiness. But joy is always accompanied by peace.
Today’s third paragraph begins with the imperative to rejoice (again, I say, rejoice!); and ends with the promise that the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Some people fret and worry about everything under the sun – and if they can find nothing to fret or worry about they make stuff up – and others experience nothing but peace all the time! What do you think is the difference? It is not their life circumstances – for I have known down and outers, sick and dying, in the depths of hardship who are at peace; and I have known wealthy, healthy, easy-lifers who fret over every possible thing!
In Galatians 5 Paul lists what he calls the Fruit of the Spirit, and he lists them as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The top three? Love, joy, and peace!
To have the fruit of joy ripen in our lives is to recognize the journey involved in getting there. It takes time, diligence, patience, and hard work – but the result is peace that passes understanding (down in my heart).
I have given you the challenge to remain in your “comfort” zone, and rejoice there. But you need something to take with you today – application steps, action steps, so you’ll know you are in your “comfort” zone.
These are the bullet points on the bottom of your Sermon Notes page.
• “Be of the same mind in the Lord” – guard against joy BUSTERS! Paul names names here: Euodia and Syntyche, two women who were at odds with one-another. Guard yourself against those joy busters that crash into your life like a tidal wave. Be vigilant. Ask someone to hold you accountable so that you learn the secret of contentment, so that you keep short accounts with people, and to help you get into the habit of regular confession of your sins.
• Identify one joy builder that you need to work on. Pick one that is weak for you and bring it into your comfort zone:
o Recognize God as JOYFUL! He is a joyful God!
o Worship God for His qualities, His attributes, His character traits.
o Allow Jesus to take your problems from you!
o Remain close to Jesus – every day, every moment.
• Read through the entire book of Philippians every day this week (it is like 3 pages long!). Highlight the words “joy” and “rejoice” every time you see it. And ask God to ripen this fruit of joy in your own life.
Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
In closing, let’s allow Romans 14:17 to penetrate our lives: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Let us rejoice in our “comfort” zones! Amen.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 458.
Wheeler, Mark; “Being in CommUNITY”; Ledger; Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church; August 2014.