October 23, 2020

Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone

Last week’s blog was about doing one-to-one’s with women we don’t really like. I know I frilled it up a bit but, in truth, we all know that’s what I was really saying. It was one of those blogs that I know hit home for some—I know because you texted me and told me so. I usually dread seeing that line in a text or email that says “I was reading your blog and . . .” I’m never sure what’s about to come.

One text had me particularly thinking about the end of the blog: “Maybe God is nudging you to get alongside someone a bit different from you? To get out of your comfort zone? How will you respond? Will you step up or step aside?” I’ve been asking: How can we encourage you to take the step?

‘Comfort’ Is Relative

Years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of women in the Highlands about this very topic—“Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone.” I want to reflect a little on this talk, hoping that some of it may help those who were challenged last week.

This may surprise most people who have heard me speak in public but, I get really nervous. I mean, terrified—heart pounding, palms sweaty, gonna-be-sick-nervous. I know I may look like I’m comfortable up there, but the truth is, being up front, speaking to ladies (or a group)—no matter how nice and adorable they all look—is me stepping out my comfort zone.

Let’s face it: 500 faces staring at you in anticipation of something good is, frankly, scary. I might be rubbish. I might actually say something offensive, heretical, or a word that doesn’t translate well in other languages (I did that once in America. Thankfully it was a small group, and no one was offended; they just laughed at me.)  For me, this is a step out my comfort zone. How do you feel when God calls you to serve Him in challenging situations? How do you feel when God asks you to do something scary? Do you feel Inadequate? Fearful? All of us struggle to step out and, for each, that struggle will look different.

For some, it will be to tell your family about Christ. For others, opening your house to a young Christian in need. Or, like last week’s challenge, discipling a woman that’s not quite our cup of tea. In truth, we’re all different—what you find comfortable I may find horrific, and what I find comfortable you may find arduous and unthinkable.

Comfort and the Book of Judges

Whatever the situation or how God is stretching us to step out of our comfort zone, I’m convinced that there will be some similarities in how we respond. I want to think about this by looking at the book of Judges, specifically chapter 6. I think that Gideon may be the perfect guy for us to reflect on when we think about getting out of our comfort zone to serve the Lord.

In the book of Judges, it’s like the Israelites are set on repeat as a reoccurring pattern plays out. They’re constantly repeating themselves—like the ultimate Groundhog Day experience:

  • They knew what God wanted them to do, but didn’t do it
  • God intervened (sent his Prophet—in Gideon’s case, he was unknown)
  • God disciplined His people (Midianites)
  • They cried out to the Lord
  • God rescued them . . . and the cycle repeated itself

This is the state of affairs we find as we come to Gideon. The Israelites were living in mountain caves, fearful of the Midianites who’d come in consuming everything like a swarm of locusts. Gideon even hides inside a wine press to sort the grain . . . not exactly looking like hero material, is he? Then Judges 6:12–14 comes along:

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian. The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Judges 6:12-14

God asks Gideon to serve (verse 14). It’s clear as day what God is saying—go and save Israel. Now, I know we aren’t like Gideon. We haven’t got an angel of the Lord standing over us, giving the Lord’s direct instructions. But, when it really comes down to it, most of us clearly know when the Lord is challenging us to obey. Even though many of us want God to write in neon lights flashing on a wall or provide us with some miraculous “special” word or instruction just for us, we know. . . .

We clearly know when the Lord is calling us to obey. Are you being challenged to step out or step up? Maybe you are being asked to share the gospel with your work colleagues, going beyond just telling them you’re going to church; or challenge deliberate sinful behavior in a friend; maybe even disciple a younger believer who’s a bit weird; move to a different job; give more money to God’s work instead of buying another pair of shoes. . . . We all know.

The trouble is, many of us are just like Gideon. Our first response is, “But, how can I?” I mean, Gideon is all polite about it, but in essence that’s what he says: “Pardon me, my Lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (verse 13).

Gideon’s response is full of fear and excuse. How can I? I’m the weakest, the least. . . . Send someone more qualified for the task, you can almost hear him say. In reality, I think most of us are like Gideon. Our instant response when asked to step up is: But, how can I? I don’t have the training, I won’t know what to say, they aren’t my cup of tea, I haven’t got the time . . . the list is endless.

Many of the excuses, just like Gideon’s, actually seem legit. In truth, he was the dweeb of the family from the weakest of the clans. Gideon wasn’t on his own and I’m not just talking about the huge, scary, freaky angel in front of him. God has his back. Do we believe this to be true for ourselves?

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:16)

This is part one of a two-part series on stepping out of our comfort zone. Watch for part two next week.

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