We all know bad words when we hear them, don’t we? Swear words are commonplace in today’s society. But these words are not the kinds of words to which I am referring in this article. I am not speaking of cuss words or swear words. The kind of bad words to which I am referring are everyday words that can take on bad meanings for us. Here is an example of what I mean.
This four-letter word can frighten some men I know. It can be fearful to think of this word and what it means. The word is iron. Think verb, not noun. This is not the element iron but the object used to get wrinkles out of an article of clothing. An iron is plugged into the wall socket and begins to heat up. When it gets to whatever temperature the fabric requires, the user, that is I, (and yes, I do iron my own shirts from time to time), pushes the iron across the shirt until the wrinkles disappear. It is actually quite fulfilling knowing that I beat the wrinkles! Although, truth be told, I have used the dry-cleaners more lately. But I digress…the point is that the word iron is not a bad word but it can have a bad or negative connotation.
I want to share my thoughts about a bad word I heard in church recently.
We have been in a series of sermons at church that deal with this idea: Are you a fan or follower of Jesus? It has been refreshing in that I walk away from church with a new sense of challenge in my own life. It’s easy to be a fan, but it is tough to be a follower. As a normal human being, I desire what most people want. This is a common want or desire for probably every human on this planet. At least I think it is. This common desire that seems to be present in any area of life can be summed up in one word. This word is the bad word to which I have been referring. And the word is…comfort.
Growing up in the church, going to Bible college, being a pastor, and being around Christians for most of my life, I feel as if I have heard this term, “comfort zone,” hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. The idea is that there is a place where I am content with my surroundings to the point where it does not hurt and I am not growing. This applies to my physical world, but more importantly, it applies to my spiritual world as well. I do want to point out that being comfortable is not necessarily bad. My house is set at a comfortable temperature. I like to wear clothes that are comfortable. If people come to my home, I like to make them feel comfortable. Movie theaters have comfortable seats. My car is comfortable to sit in. These things are not the major point of my thoughts for this writing. There is another realm in which comfort is not the goal.
Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (NIV) Luke 9:23. There is no comfort in that statement! Let’s look more closely at that verse.
“If…” – Jesus starts with a question. Whenever I see the word ‘if,’ I know that I have a choice. Right off the bat, there is an opportunity for me to choose comfort or something else.
“…anyone would come after me…” – This is the best part about this verse. Of course I want to follow Jesus. Sign me up. And since I fit into the category of ‘anyone,’ I won’t be turned away. Jesus won’t turn anyone away as long as they understand the terms.
“…must deny himself…” – You mean that following Jesus does not leave room for my stuff?!!?[*] I must restrain myself from indulging in my own desires. Jesus needs all of me. I can’t give him all if I am not denying myself of the stuff[†] in my life. The problem is that stuff makes our lives comfortable.
“…take up his cross…” – Have you ever carried a cross? Have you ever carried any piece of wood that was over 50 pounds? Try it; you won’t like it. But wait, Jesus carried his cross. In fact, he did it while under tremendous strain, excruciating pain, and terrible pressure. Trust me when I say that there was not one ounce of comfort in the last moments of the life of Jesus.
“…daily…” – Yep. That says ‘daily’. At the start of every day, we have a choice. I can choose to be comfortable, or I can choose to follow Jesus. When I wake up in the morning, I am faced with that same decision. Comfort or Christ? You are too, my friends. That is the deal for which we signed up. Take it or leave it. It is time to choose.
Hold on, I’m not quite finished. If someone was presented with this article, they might be thinking that following Jesus is nothing but pain, suffering, and trouble. In a word, it could be considered uncomfortable. Why would anyone want to choose this kind of life? Even with the knowledge of heaven and eternal life with God, people still are choosing their comfort. Let me share one more passage of scripture with you.
John 14:16 says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of Truth.” (NIV) Jesus spoke these words to the disciples right after the Last Supper. It was the night before the crucifixion. No doubt the men were feeling scared and unsure of what was happening. Jesus said he would ask the Father to give another Counselor. That word, counselor, is the word that is found in the New International Version. Some of the other words that are used in various translations are: helper, advocate, and comforter. The word literally means, “called to one’s aid.” So, when Jesus was saying “follow me, carry your cross, deny yourself, etc.,” he was saying that in all of that discomfort, the Holy Spirit will be right next to me so that I may have comfort.
In conclusion, when following Jesus, it requires me to let go of my stuff[&]. Sure, this may seem uncomfortable, but it really is the best way. When God through the Holy Spirit comforts us, only then can we see the value in our self-denial, our cross carrying, and our daily choosing of living uncomfortably. I am certainly glad that Jesus didn’t let his comfort get in the way of God’s plan. I certainly hope that my comfort won’t either.
[*] I used the word ‘stuff’ to represent anything that would conflict, interfere, replace, or remove Jesus as the number one desire of your life. For me, pornography and laziness was the ‘stuff’ of my life.
[†] Stuff gets in the way. Let it go!
[&] See earlier footnotes