“We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking only to learn that it is God shaking them.”
– Charles West (brought to my attention by Jonathan Barton)
To be comfortable and happy is nice. Though, not only is it nice, it is necessary. Our cars, TV’s couches and houses are there out of necessity, and it is necessary to upgrade them the moment we can afford to. This is necessary, and I can prove it because the majority of our lives are spent acquiring these things with passion and zeal. It is not an option to downgrade, to go backwards. If we can afford it, or more commonly, if we can afford the debt then the answer is to buy it. Our comfort and happiness is the most important thing. It is more important than family, it must be, because we spend more time getting and using items of comfort and happiness than we spend with family. I do not count watching TV as time spent with family, this is not quality time in any way shape or form. Our colossal drive and focus on comfort permeates everything. The easiest way to get people to give money to something is to show some disturbing pictures, plead and preach on the suffering of children and generally make people uncomfortable. What we do then is reach into our wallets, give money and use this to plaster over the feelings of discomfort. Or, if we are lucky we get an email about it, which we can then just forward to everyone in our address books, believing, or trying to believe, the bottom of the mails admonishment not to deny Jesus lest he deny us, and if we forward this mail to EVERYONE we know that somehow it will make a difference. At least it will raise awareness. So we click forward, make a mental note to find out how to give some cash to this plight and promptly forget about it.
This drive for comfort has even permeated our religion. Christians, you need to be comfortable and happy the bible seems to be telling us. God wants you to have all the best that the world can offer. After all, Jesus came to give life, and life in abundance (to the full) did he not? Are the streets of heaven not paved with Gold? Jesus was our example, but only in a super spiritual sense, the fact that he was a materialistically poor man is not for us. It is not for us that the first example of a church was so ridiculously generous and selfless with their possessions that they went so far as to sell their property for their belief. We hear a lot of preaching on how we can be better people, more moral people, better fathers, husbands, mothers and wives. We have an incredibly popular and world renowned Pastor/preacher/minister who claims the bible can teach everyone, no matter what religion they are from, to have better lives, to live better lives and that this is the POINT of it all. The underlying idea seems to be that we must be comfortable and we must not disturb anyone else’s comfort. We must live this moral life, through this we will be blessed and happy (with stuff probably) and “holy” and as a RESULT, lost people will come to us to ask about how it is we are so happy and blessed and “holy”. I don’t see that example anywhere in scripture, with exception of some of the people coming to Jesus, the prostitute and the rich man as examples. But this is not taught with the purpose of making it a style of life. The people coming to Jesus were a result of the actions that lead Jesus to be crucified, not a result of living as inoffensively as possible. Jesus wasn’t walking around trying to make everyone comfortable. He trod on toes, gave the really hard and, oft times, offensive answers. Even to the broken and contrite heart, like the prostitute, “go and sin no more” there was only forgiveness and grace, but I still think “sin no more” is quite the heavy challenge. Please don’t think that I am implying we must charge about trying to offend everyone we can. What I am saying is that Jesus told the truth, and the truth is offensive to many people. It has to be, if it was not the case, then the Son of God telling the truth would not have been so hated, and many of the people that sat at his feet would not have been martyred horribly. If it was a comfortable, inoffensive truth then I don’t think Jesus would have warned his disciples that they would be despised and hated because of his name.
I think to some extent we start to feel nervous about our comfort, and so we seek a church service that will challenge us in some way. We seek this difficult knowledge so that we feel fed and challenged, too feel comfortable about our comfort, but that is where it stops. That knowledge never bears fruit in obedience. Even in the simple area of finance, your own PERSONAL money… not talking about giving it away, talking about how you spend it on yourself. Trust the lord we say, “Jehovah my provider” is the wondrous cry… yet the fruit of obedience in most lives seems to imply we are saying, Jehovah Jireh, my provider of banks and credit cards and debt.
Relying on God in times of trouble is uncomfortable and difficult, relying on the wonderful system of loans and interest is comfortable, not only that, it allows us to buy what we want, when we want it. And surely it is ok, because God has blessed us with the means with which to afford all this crushing debt?
Seeking to be comfortable is quite possibly opposed to seeking a deeper relationship with God. I can only see a pattern of greater and greater “discomfort” for the examples no one can argue with as to whether they were truly Christian or not. The weird and utterly bizarre thing, by the worlds measure, is that these examples not only started being exposed to this “discomfort” because of their passionate seeking of relationship with Jesus they seemed to embrace it and be completely joyful about it. They drew encouragement because of the “discomfort”.
Acting in obedience to the promptings of God in the true believers life often results in some discomfort and persecution.
Perhaps the streets of heaven are paved with gold because gold has so little worth in heaven. So why seek gold, and the things that gold can buy here on earth? If you do not desire to seek and spend time with God and his children here on earth, worshipping him and speaking about him and learning more about him, Why would you want to go to heaven? Learning more about the living God, I think, will be the primary activity in heaven and it excites to a greater and greater extent the truly regenerate Christian. So why keep silent about your belief, which will very likely offend many people. The comfort that the world offers of stuff and inoffensiveness brings, demonstrably, a greater sense of discontent. The discomfort that God offers, through relationship with him, brings a greater sense of joy and encouragement. I believe that this is the life of abundance, that this is what life to the full is.