The Comfort Obstacle
By March Villareal
During the time when warfare involved knights, swords, and
castles, there would always be a need to scale the walls when
attacking cities and fortresses. The size and strength of the
wall will be what makes or breaks the campaign. We often find
some sort of wall separating two warring side- one trying to
conquer, the other refusing to be conquered.
Within our relationship with God, there are normal sets of experiences that challenge our growth, peace, and joy. The beginning of 1Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man" But, in addition to these "common" obstacles, there are also certain things that we encounter that become barriers to our faith-walls that are between us and the maturity of walk in Christ. Sometimes these so-called barriers are even dependent upon the geographic location and the resident culture there.
For example, in major parts of Africa, there is widespread hunger & poverty that can prove to be a challenge when you are dealing with the idea of a God who supposedly gives "exceedingly, abundantly, more than you can ever ask or think"(Ephesians 3:20 NKJV). In China and most Middle Eastern countries, where the government systems are openly hostile to the Gospel, there is extreme social pressure to become a closet or underground Christian (Psalm 119:157). Still in most Asian countries, the barrier is religious plurality. There are so many belief systems to contend with and to live alongside of, that the diverse worldviews are just begging to be dabbled in. It is such a huge part of that resident culture that the challenge is simply resisting even a portion of compromise (Deuteronomy 32:16). Finally in Europe it's liberalism. Sexuality, politics, pop-culture, even laws have polarized to their full liberal expressions, so that almost everything is tolerated, if not altogether socially accepted. Religion is viewed as an accessory, something that drags you down from experiencing a total freedom that you deserve (Romans 1:24-32).
In light of all this, I believe America is still left with the greatest challenge of all. As opposed to the obstacles found in foreign countries, where the threat is visible and measurable, America's problem is much less tangible, and therefore much more often overlooked.
What is it? In Deuteronomy 6:10-12, the Lord warns the people that during their times of safety and plenty that they do not forget who saved them from Egypt.
"So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage".
In their prosperity, they were in danger of forgetting God. While they experienced peace and comfort, they were at risk of overlooking who led them to the very bounty they now enjoy. America is faced with the same type of stumbling block. While Christians in other countries are in the battle for their lives against inhospitable threats, we here in America are in war against peace itself- against abundance and good quality of life.
Ironic enough it's the challenging settings, where persecution and hunger oppress the believers, that we find the strongest and most well-rooted Christians. The Bible makes a great example of flourishing under hard circumstances. In Exodus 1:12 it says,
"But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites"
The Hebrews grew greater when they were treated harshly by the Egyptians.
In general terms, we live in relative comfort here in the United States. And though we have some social, political, and economic challenges of our own, we have freedoms and opportunities that allow for a great potential for success and enjoyment of life.
Paul argued that suffering ultimately produces hope (Romans 5:3-5) In our case, this promise of prosperity and wealth produces comfort. Comfort in turn produces complacency. Complacency produces contentment - which neither recognizes a need to call on God, nor sees the urgency for Him to act quickly on behalf of His people. For the Christian, it is doubly destructive. For one, since everything is doable and within reach, we treat God like a genie or a butler that we only call when we need Him. Secondly, the need to preach and spread the gospel to a dying world has become non-urgent.
These walls of comfort and contentment must be either pulled down or climbed over. As we live in our air-conditioned houses, where we watch our colored televisions, surf the net, and eat our favorite snacks, we are unsuspectingly being dulled and fattened for the kill. As our comfort zones become wider and more encompassing, our desire to do, move, pray, seek, work, help, reach, and care will fade in proportion to our growing complacency. It will continue to dissolve till finally we become exactly the Christian that our enemy wants us to be: lazy, comfortable, indifferent, unkind, content useless.
March M. Villareal is a Christian who just happens to like to write.