Do Christians have to step out of their comfort zones to follow Christ?
Christians are called to die to self, to put aside our own interests and desires and instead seek Jesus and His desires. Here's how Jesus put it: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24–26).
Becoming a Christian is a radical decision. Jesus gave up His life for yours, and now you are deciding to give up your life for Him. Often, the practical implication of living our lives for Christ is stepping outside of our comfort zones.
In our fleshly natures, we seek our own comfort, success, and peace. We are not naturally inclined to live holy lives. We are not naturally inclined to love others well. God gives us His Holy Spirit who transforms us, but we still fight against our fleshly natures. Following God is not comfortable or easy, but it is where we find true life (John 10:10; Matthew 19:27–30). As Jesus said, it is in losing our lives, including stepping outside of our comfort zones, that we find them.
Here's some more of what Jesus says about our comfort:
• "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19–21). Rather than focus on earthly goods, we are to invest in things of eternal significance.
• "And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you" (Luke 12:29–31). Rather than anxiously concerning ourselves with our physical needs, we seek first to honor God and trust that He will provide.
• "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets " (Matthew 7:12). Rather than seek selfish gain, we look for ways to love and serve others.
Again and again Jesus says to disregard our own comfort and the things we think will make us comfortable. He knows that the god of self is false and will ultimately provide us with no comfort (Matthew 6:19–34; 19:16–22; John 10:10).
Now, to be clear, Jesus does not call us to a life of misery. He knows these temporal things will not bring us what we hope for. He knows His way offers true joy. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). He also told His followers, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:10–11). There is joy in living life God's way.
We cannot earn the favor of God by ascetic practices. Our salvation is through Jesus, not through our actions or inaction (Ephesians 2:8–10). Christians do not need to intentionally make themselves uncomfortable in order to win God's love, as if service to God must be burdensome in order to be true. In fact, God specifically equips us for service to Him. Many times we feel in our comfort zone when we are functioning in our spiritual gifts and calling. Yet, we are to be willing to step outside of our comfort zones, recognizing that our ultimate security is in Christ. Sometimes God asks us to do something that is not in our area of gifting. Sometimes growing in the use of His gifts is uncomfortable. But comfort is not our goal; honoring God is.
Living our lives for Christ will undoubtedly involve some level of discomfort. Obeying God's commands to help the poor, widows, and orphans (James 1:27); to share the gospel (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8); to love others with the self-sacrificial love of Jesus (John 13:34–35); and to put to death the sin that is in us (Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:12–17) do not naturally fall in our comfort zones. Growth always seems to come with discomfort and pain, and yet growing in faith and in the likeness of Christ is what we desire. So we step outside our comfort zones, trusting that our God is faithful and that He will complete His good work in us (Philippians 1:6).
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