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Getting All Tangled Up in our Comforts

by J Patrick Bowman  
7/25/2019 / Christian Living


I was napping in my chair several years ago when my phone rang.  I set my recliner up, stood up, took a step toward my desk to retrieve my phone, and found myself face down on my office floor.  I have neuropathy in my feet, so they are numb, and in my not-quite-awake state of mind, I failed to realize my feet were still wrapped in my blanket. One small step for man and I went down like a felled tree.  The only harm done was a nasty rug burn on my forehead and the benefit was getting a little sense knocked into me.

But the whole ordeal got me thinking about how easily we can get tangled up in our comforts. We all tend to seek comfort and to get too comfortable in our comforts. We call this our comfort zone. There is nothing generally wrong with comforts. God is a good God and provides for us in ways we are meant to enjoy. However, problems arise when we get so tangled up in pleasures and comforts that we can’t move forward in life, and our Christian walk, without taking a fall. Realizing how attached we are to the comforts of our current life and how hard it would be to untangle from those comforts, tells us how ready we are to follow Jesus, no matter what the circumstances.

In Matthew 8:18-22, Jesus is recorded to have responded to several inquiries about following Him. “Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”

To the scribe, Jesus was forcing a deeper look at what following Him means: “Are you really willing to come with me and forsake your privileged position and even your home to live like a vagabond? Even animals have a more permanent abode than I.” The scribe may have had good intentions but was he prepared to follow through on those intentions?

The other disciple met with a like answer. His question was based more on waiting to a more convenient time, after he had fulfilled his duties to his family, than an actual need to bury his father at that particular time. But Jesus made the distinction for him between the living, those that follow Him, and the dead, who can bury their own. Jesus put the ball back in the court of this unnamed disciple for him to decide his allegiance. Jesus was not saying in either of His responses that the comfort of position, possessions, or people is wrong. He simply wanted these seekers to count the cost of their finding.

In the parable of the sower in Mark 4, Jesus warns about the good seed of His word being sown among the thorny soil. “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mar 4:19 KJV). Looking back in the parable, the thorns were there when the seed was sown but they outgrew the word. We don’t start out thinking our attachments to position, possessions, and people are going to hinder us moving forward with the Lord and obeying His word. We are certain they can grow side by side in harmony. We think the good seed will outgrow the thorns. The good seed can outgrow the thorns, but only when we untangle ourselves from the attachments the thorns have created and free ourselves from the chokehold they have on us.

In Mark 8:34-38, Jesus makes this entanglement very clear. “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The cross for some is position, for others' possessions, and others' people. Having these things is not the issue. They having us is the issue. We can have position, possessions, and people, holding them loosely with a right perspective, and enjoy the comfort of them. But if any of these gets in the way of God’s call on our life, they have become idols that have entangled us. When God asks us to send our Ishmaels away or sacrifice our Isaacs, what will our answer be? How would you answer God if He asked you to take a demotion with your company and transfer to a different city because He had kingdom work for you to do there? How would you answer God if He asked you to pull money from your savings to help fund a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? What if He asked you to give some of your favorite furniture or clothing to someone who needed it? How would you answer if God asked you to take a stand for Him at home or in the workplace, knowing it would alienate you from family or friends?  These aren’t easy questions to answer. They’re not meant to be. And they get even harder when the questions are actually asked and not just hypothetical. We aren’t shown in the scriptures what response Jesus got from the scribe or the disciple. But we do know these were real encounters and not parables.

If we walk long enough with God, He will ask the hard questions. He knows what our Ishmaels are, as well as our Isaacs, and just when we’re sure we’d do anything for Him, and follow Him anywhere at any time, convenient or not, He puts us to the test. We have the Bible to show us God’s ways and we have an advantage over the scribe and disciple in knowing the questions ahead of time. In fact, in having the Bible, we can say He’s already asked the questions. The questions aren’t hypothetical, but real questions at the core of our commitment to Him. And in having the Bible, we know what our answers should be. If we aren’t all tangled up in the comforts of this life, our humbly holding all things loosely with the right perspective is a positive response.  If we are tangled up in the comforts of this life, hindered from moving forward without a fall, our humiliation will speak for itself and cause far more harm than just a rug burn on the forehead.

Rev. J. Patrick Bowman is an ordained Christian minister, author, and educator. He lives and ministers from The Dalles, OR in the midst of the scenic Columbia River Gorge. He is "Papa Pat" to his grandkids and to whoever the Lord may send his way. Learn more at revjpbowman.com or www.gorgefaith.org

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