December 8, 2015

Folly of idolizing comfort

Jeremiah 14:1–15:21, Romans 1:1–17, Proverbs 15:1–33

I’ve tend to question others whose prayer requests always involve healing or some other form of “fix it.” I know that God uses trials to make me grow so why not ask God about the purpose of trials instead of asking Him to remove them? Yet in my own life, my desire for comfort can interfere with my desire to obey God. This can be in every area of life, including room temperature, food, even what I think about when life is not pleasing me. “Idealism” can be my excuse, but that is just a cover-up.

This desire for a problem-free life can be susceptible to the “prosperity gospel” which claims God wants His people healthy and wealthy. God isn’t against these things, but the gospel includes “sharing in the suffering of Christ” and He owned nothing and died a horrid death.

An inordinate desire for comfort also ignores the discipline of God. If I continually put myself first and the will of God last, He could use suffering to chasten me.

In the Old Testament, God sent prophets to speak against the disobedience of His people. Jeremiah said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’ ”

Jeremiah knew these prophets were making false promises. His concerns reveal that the “prosperity” gospel is not a new message!

In affirmation, the Lord responded: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.” (Jeremiah 14:13–14)

Because of this false teaching, and because the people listened, God sent them into captivity and bondage. He said, “You have rejected me . . . you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you— I am weary of relenting. I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork in the gates of the land; I have bereaved them; I have destroyed my people; they did not turn from their ways.” (Jeremiah 15:6–7)

This is an affront to those who think God exists only to make us healthy and wealthy. They might consider that all troubles are from the devil (or other people) and refuse to see the value of the Lord’s correction. However, as Solomon says, “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die . . . . Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” (Proverbs 15:10, 16)

He goes on to say, “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33) For me, that points to the cause of my comfort desires: pride. Am I really so important and so wise that I can tell God to grant my every wish?

This reveals a false concept of God. He loves me as I am, but He loves me too much to leave me that way. He sees my sinful pride and other sins that distract me from obedience. Like a child who determines to have her way becomes blind to the wisdom of her father, my pride blinds me to the wisdom of my Heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul gave his life to serve others, following the example and the desire of Jesus Christ. He said, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

He did not put himself first, but was obligated to God and to those Jesus came to save from sin. He was not concerned about his own comfort as he endured ridicule and persecution.

His reason? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:14–17) This message from God was far more important than his personal comfort.

Jeremiah may have worried about his own situation. The people were not listening to him as he spoke the will of God. At times, he seemed to want to quit, but the Lord spoke to him: “If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you.”

Whether my run for comfort is some simple thing like a craving for potato chips, or a stronger issue like wanting human approval, putting comfort ahead of obedience is not wise and never will be. If nothing else, it keeps me from seeing the power of God to meet my needs.

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