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Just dropping by ... Spiritual comfort zones

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 19 October 2017

It was back in the ’70s or ’80s that I first heard the term “comfort zone.” It became my new buzzword, and I even wrote goals to break out of my comfort zones. Back then, I was obsessed with self-improvement, but it wasn’t until a few Sundays ago in church I made the connection between comfort zones and repentance.

Repentance means to “turn from,” as in turn from evil, but I learned repentance is much more than that.

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“Repentance is the act of changing one’s mind.” Webster defines the word as to feel sorry for or reproachful for what one has done or has not done. Webster also gives the definition as “to feel such regret and dissatisfaction over some past action or intention as to change one’s mind about it or to change one’s way.”

In other words, when we truly repent, we have no more disposition to repeat the sin. In effect, we have broken out of our comfort zone. We see life in a new way. We walk in newness of life.

The Bible has many stories of people who broke out of comfort zones to walk in newness of life. Saul of Tarsus was one of those. He was an avid persecutor of Christians. He even held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen. After his encounter with Christ, he changed his name to Paul and became an ardent Christian, even dying for the cause of Christianity.

Peter, the fisherman, walked and talked with Jesus, and loved him deeply, yet he did not rise out of his comfort zone until, overcome by fear, he denied Jesus three times. After that incident, Peter, in great sorrow, walked in newness of life. Fear was replaced by fervent faith. He not only lived for Christ, he willingly died for him, being crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same death as Christ.

Moses was content to be a shepherd until he encountered the burning bush. He was never the same after that. He went through trials bigger than anything most of us will encounter in 10 lifetimes. He performed miracles that would astonish the modern mind, but to the children of Israel, they were everyday occurrences. He, through the power of the Lord, brought the plagues upon the Egyptians.

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Flies, frogs, lice, sea into blood and finally allowing the first-born of all of Egypt to die. Then Moses went on a huge camping trip in the wilderness with thousands of people who were literally as volatile as teenagers. In their defense, they had never been taught to fend for themselves. They were uneducated slaves who were told exactly what to do and how to do it. They were whipped and beaten into conformity for generations.

The walls of their comfort zone were 10 bricks thick. Poor Moses, who could see the possibilities, was left to shape them into a people ready to enter the Promised Land. The saddest story of all was when Moses and his people stood at the brink of the Promised Land. The story is recorded in the 13th and 14th chapters of Numbers.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.

In other words, the Lord commanded Moses to send one of the best men from each tribe of Israel into the land of Canaan to check it out.

Caleb and Joshua came back with grapes and other fruit and reported:

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“We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”

But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.

And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.

And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

The response of the people was classic.

And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.

And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!

And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?

And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

In short, they hunkered down in their comfort zones and cried to return to even the worst place of comfort they had known in the past.

The Bible records Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel, and Joshua and Caleb rent their clothes.

I can just see them, saying “Come on, people! Haven’t you seen miracles? Didn’t you see the Lord part the Red Sea, and didn’t we walk over on dry ground? Didn’t the Destroying Angel pass over you? Didn’t the Lord take you out of Egypt’s rich people? Didn’t you see the plagues brought upon Egypt because Pharaoh would not let you go?

Where is your faith? Don’t you remember how hard it was to be beaten and have your children taken from you as slaves in Egypt? Come on, people! Open your eyes.”

The Lord was not pleased with the response of the children of Israel. They had chosen to stay in their comfort zone and would continue to stay there, no matter the miracles, the coaxing and the hope of a better tomorrow. The Lord let them have their way.

Every person who murmured with a desire to return to Egypt was sent back into the wilderness. The older generation from 20 years and up were consigned to wander in the wilderness for the next 40 years. The sad part was Caleb, Joshua and Moses went back with them to bear with their blindness of mind for 40 more years.

The Lord did not forsake the children of Israel. He continued to bless them and help their children grow into a generation who would break the walls of their parents’ comfort zones and would follow Joshua in lock step to watch the walls of Jericho fall at the Lord’s command as they went in to possess the land their parents had rejected.

I wonder about my own spiritual comfort zones and how I will learn to see what I now cannot see. Am I missing my own Promised Land because I murmur and pine over the things I don’t have? Am I losing blessings because I want to do everything my way? Is God just waiting for me to repent so I can break out of my comfort zone?

Repenting isn’t just for sins; it is the pathway to new life and new visions of what we can become. God will give us what we truly seek with all our hearts. If we want to know what walls we need to break, we need to ask. He has given us the power of prayer and the gift of faith to make things happen.

C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. Those who knock, it is opened.”  end mark

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