Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Getting out of my comfort zone...

Sundays are usually my day off from working out, but this is day 6 of Janathon, the challenge to do some sort of exercise every day of this month and blog about it. So rather than sitting on my tail watching football after church all afternoon, I decided to air up the tires on the bike and hit the road for a little cross training.

It had been quite a while, at least a couple of months since I'd straddled the frame and placed my feet on the pedals, but I managed to get in 10 miles in just under 50 minutes. That's enough for me, because the bike sure isn't my strong suit. I promise you I can feel every one of those miles right now, saddle sore like running never gets me.

But once again, during the workout my thoughts turned to the parallels in life. This time, today's workout, spawned to meet the demands of the Janathon challenge, reminded me how life's challenges often demand we step out of our comfort zone and step up to meet them, and how after meeting those challenges, we're left stiff and sore, sometimes even bruised and battered.
"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." -- James 1:12

With running, just like in life, we can get into a routine (or a rut). We get to a point that, when everything is running the way we want, it's almost like we're on cruise control, just going through the motions of the routine, not progressing and not regressing. The routine becomes comfortable, and our comfort zone becomes the routine.

Life is full of challenges and it's through these trials and tribulations that we grow. Just like a runner will never get faster or run farther by running the same mileage at the same pace in every workout, we'll never grow as Christians if we're stuck in a routine that never forces us to work harder, learn more, or think clearer than we do when everything runs exactly as it's supposed to. We'll never become smarter, stronger, better people if that routine is never broken.

God didn't make us to be comfortable, not here on earth, not in this life. Was Jesus comfortable as He walked among men? Were His disciples comfortable as they spread the Gospel after His death? Was the apostle Paul comfortable when he was beaten, imprisoned, and threatened with death?

Not the kind of comfortable we speak of and too often seek.
" 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." -- 1 Peter 5:8

Just like Satan tempted Jesus on the mountain, he seeks to turn us from God's will. The devil wants us to fall to temptation, to succumb to life's challenges, to throw up our hands and give up when things get hard. Lucifer is always trying to convince us that doing what's good and right, doing what will make us stronger, better Christians, representatives of Jesus Christ here on earth, is not worth the pain that comes with it.

So the devil attacks! Not long ago, for several weeks, I passed a church sign on my way to work that read, "When Christians serve, Satan attacks." And that's exactly right!

The challenges we face when we work to do God's will come from Satan, trying to knock us off our horse, knock us off course. Anything he can do, anyway he can accomplish it, the devil seeks to deter us from following God's plan.

And so we feel pain. And so it's not comfortable when we're doing God's will. We're being pushed and pulled and pelted with anything the devil can hit us with in the hopes that we'll stop working for Jesus. Satan wants us at least idle Christians, at most actively working against Christ.

So he attacks!
" 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." -- 1 Thessalonians 4:17

But we can take comfort even as the rocks Lucifer throws strike us. We can smile even as we feel the pain from his blows. We can rejoice, not because we're suffering, but because of why we're suffering!

The disciples' comfort came from the love and grace of Jesus Christ, from His promise of an eternal life free of suffering, after this one. They knew that comfort in life on earth would be a stranger to them, that this life would be challenging, tough, even painful. But they persevered, they endured, because they had the hope and eternal encouragement that only comes from knowing Jesus Christ as one's Savior!

Jesus gave them the strength and encouragement to smile through the pain and continue doing good deeds and spreading God's word even as they were smitten by Satan over and over and over again.
" 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." -- Matthew 5:12

They smiled, rejoiced and were glad, not because they suffered, but because they were promised their suffering would be rewarded! And so should we, when we are working for good, for Jesus Christ, doing God's will, we should take pleasure in knowing that a reward is waiting.

So accept the challenge, endure the discomfort, welcome the pain that comes when you're trying to work for Jesus and grow spiritually. It means the devil considers you an enemy and God will reward you in Heaven!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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