I’ve been thinking regularly about “comfort zones” lately as I become increasingly convinced that the spiritual problems we face are often times more basic than we think. In our study last night at Grace, I heard a good word on the need to learn the secret of contentment (from Phil. 4:11-13). I began thinking about the difference between contentment (which is “great gain”) and being comfortable (which is our default disposition).
1. Contentment requires you to take in all circumstances as opportunities to make much of Jesus, knowing that every situation is filtered through God’s sovereign hands and are purposefully intended for your good. Being comfortable, on the other hand, chooses to take in circumstances that are pleasant and sweet. Choosing comfort over contentment eliminates circumstances that are unpleasant and difficult as venues through which the infinite worth of Jesus is displayed.
2. Because contentment embraces all circumstances–good and bad, pleasant and painful–a contented Christian is always learning. Contentment is not natural to us. Our default disposition is being comfortable, and being comfortable is not a learning experience. It requires nothing from us but to continue in the course of least resistance. Contentment, on the other hand, is a school we never graduate from and always look to excel in making much of God in whatever state we find ourselves. To the unlearned, comfortable is normative. To the disciple of Jesus, contentment is school where treasuring Christ is “tested”.
3. The contented Christian understands that the life we are called to live is “through Christ.” Philippians 4:13 is often quoted out of context. The “all things” is in reference to all the places and circumstances resulting in growing contentment through the enabling and strengthening life of Christ in you. Being comfortable eliminates the need for Jesus to be your “functional Savior” on a daily basis. Instead, “I can do all things through my own self-determination and inner strength.” So the “things” we take on in life are only those that do not surpass our own strength and determination to do them. Self-reliance for strength dismisses circumstances and situations that force you beyond your comfort zone where Philippians 4:13 functionally happens. The call for contentment is a constant reminder that God will put us in places and situations where the strength we need we don’t have in ourselves, but Jesus will be enough for us, satisfying us with His presence and enabling us with His power.
Learning to live a life of contentment challenges us NOT to covet a life of ease and comfort. The opposite of contentment is covetousness. And practically speaking, what our flesh covets on a regular basis is comfort, ease, and safety. God calls us to go outside the camp and go outside of ourselves to live in the power of His Spirit and relying upon His strengthen to make the most of every circumstances to live for God’s glory. We are called to go hard, to spend and be spent, to live no longer for ourselves but for the One who died and rose again. Our master did not have the comforts of foxes and birds, and we readily advance our comforts so as to insulate ourselves from difficult or demanding situations.
As I examine my own life and the ways of living in my “comfort zone” my hope and prayer is that I will walk in repentance and faith on a daily basis–repenting of living in my own strength and having renewed faith that Jesus is enough for me no matter what circumstances I face. He is good, He is great, and He is glorious!