Monthly Archives: October 2016

Comfort or Blessing?

Note: This blog post is based on a sermon I taught about a year and a half ago.  For some reason, I felt the pull to post it now.  Maybe someone who reads it, needs it.  And I definitely needed to revisit this.

 

I think sometimes we confuse our comfort and security for God’s blessing.  God doesn’t promise us comfort and security.  In fact, Jesus says repeatedly that if you follow Him, you will have hard times.  And sometimes (often times?  most times?), getting out of those comfortable places is the blessing that God wants to give you.

Look at Elijah.  In 1 Kings 17, Elijah is hiding out by a little creek.  That may not sound too comfortable, but consider the circumstances.  The king and queen (Ahab and Jezebel) were trying to kill him.  There was no rain for three years, but this tiny secluded creek still had water.  Because of the drought, there was no food to be found.  But God sent ravens to Elijah twice a day carrying food.  He kind of had it made…God was literally bringing exactly what Elijah needed to Elijah’s doorstep.

But God had another plan that wasn’t necessarily comfortable for Elijah.

Towards the end of the three-year drought, God told Elijah to go to the town Zarephath. To fully understand the impact of this, you have to understand what and where Zarephath was.  First, it was a Gentile city.  God could have easily sent Elijah to a city in Israel, but He didn’t.  He sent Elijah out of the physical comfort of his homeland.

Second, it was right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, right smack in the middle of two Phoenician towns, Tyre and Sidon.  Jezebel’s father was the king of Tyre.  And Jezebel was the reason that Elijah was on the run.  She was the one who had turned King Ahab against Elijah and the reason Elijah would be killed if caught.  God wanted to move Elijah out his emotional comfort zone by calling him to go to the home of his enemy.

Third, Sidon was one of central points of Baal worship.  The very idolatrous belief that Jezebel had brought to Israel, which had prompted the drought and famine.  And the very religion that Elijah would soon deal with head on in the famous confrontation on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18).  Sending a prophet of God into an idolatrous, pagan land was pulling Elijah out of his spiritual comfort.  Suddenly, he was not just outnumbered, he was completely alone.

God took Elijah out of all his comfortable places and sent him right into the mouth of the beast.

And of course, God didn’t send him to some rich family who could take care of him.  God told Elijah, “I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” A widow who had just enough food to make one last piece of bread before she and her son were going to starve to death.  A poor widow in the middle of enemy territory.  A poor widow in the middle of a drought and famine.

So God performed an amazing miracle and kept food and oil in supply.  The widow, her son and Elijah always had enough to eat.  So things are looking pretty good…

Until the widow’s son dies suddenly and mysteriously.

And she blames Elijah.

All the widow had to do was step outside and tell everyone Elijah was in her house and suddenly, Elijah would be hanging from the nearest tree.

I have to wonder at that point if it crossed Elijah’s mind that he could have just stayed by the creek being fed by ravens. Life was good there.  All his needs were taken care of.  He was safe and comfortable.

But again, God showed that He had a better, bigger plan.

Elijah takes son’s body upstairs in her house.  He begs God to do the unthinkable, the unimaginable…to raise the son from the dead.

And God does.

Holy cow.

So…Elijah could have just sat there by the creek, eating his raven-delivered food. He could have been all safe and comfortable.

But God wanted Elijah to do more.  To be a part of more. To be blessed more.  To not just be a witness to big, crazy, talk-about-it-3000-years-later things, but to actually be an active participant in those things!

But Elijah understood that his comfort and security were not God’s blessing.  God’s blessing is whatever brings us closer to Him.  And whatever allows us to be right in the middle of the redemptive, life-changing work that He’s doing.  And comfort and security rarely do that.  Whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual comfort.

We build these little castles. And we think, “Wow, look at this…God has really blessed me.”  Meanwhile, God is whispering to us, “No…not that, I have something bigger and better for you over here.”  And we just sit there in our little castles.  And often we’re bored.  But we call ourselves blessed.  While right outside, God has this amazing adventure waiting for us.  This incredible faith-growing, Kingdom-building adventure to experience along with Him.

Our castle might be a physical comfort that we build for ourselves.  Or it might be an emotional castle that keeps us from ever being brokenhearted.  Or it might be a spiritual castle that means we are able to live our faith without being tested or challenged.

But God has more for us.  God has more for me, and for you, than comfort.  He wants so badly to bless us more than we can imagine.  But we settle for good, when He offers GREAT.

So, I hope you’ll join with me in praying a desperate prayer that God would reveal those areas where we are striving to sit in our little castles of comfort instead of stepping in to the world-altering adventure that He has for us.