comfort-zone

Judges 1, Jeremiah 14

Today, read Judges 1 and Jeremiah 14.

This devotional is about Judges 1.

A repeated theme of Joshua and Judges is Israel taking the land of promise, but not completely. Their territory will be larger at times and smaller at other times but Israel will never occupy everything God promised them.

Why not? Unbelief which leads to inaction.

Here in Judges 1, Joshua is dead (v. 1a) but Israel is still procrastinating when it comes to taking their land. Judah followed God’s word in verses 1-21 and won some significant territory. But notice that they took Jerusalem at one point (v. 8) but then apparently lost it again (v. 21) and did not have it again until David took it many years later. Notice also the intriguing words of verse 19: “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.” The Lord was with them... but they couldn’t dislodge the guys with iron chariots. Why not? Because God is no match for iron chariots? No; because Judah did not believe God would give them victory over people with iron chariots.

In other words, they were willing to follow God to a point but when it came to confronting their fear and moving out of their comfort zones, they stopped obeying God’s word, claiming God’s promises, and decided to be happy with less than all the land God had promised them.

This is already starting to feel like a “name it and claim it” devotional. I definitely disagree with that theology and don’t want to bend the principles in this passage too far.

But, think about what’s going on in this passage. God makes promises. God’s people believe and act on those promises and succeed until the challenge looks hard. Then they quit and settle for less than what God promised.

Do we ever do that? Hasn’t God promised to be with us to the end of the age as we go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20)? Yes, he has. How much effort do we put into making disciples?

Hasn’t God said that we are his “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Yes he has. How much effort do we put into growing in grace, pushing out into new areas of ministry that might be uncomfortable for us?

What about in your work? Doesn’t God’s word say that, “All hard work brings a profit” (v. 23a)? Doesn’t it tell us to diversify what we do and try different things in order to find what will succeed (Ecc 11:6)? But are you stuck in a job that isn’t providing enough for your family because you feel comfortable and safe there?

How about when it comes to giving? Doesn’t the New Testament (of all places) encourage generous giving to see God provide: 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. But are you giving to his work sparingly or not at all?

Again, the New Testament doesn’t teach us that God wants us all to be rich or that we can have whatever we want in Jesus’s name if we just name it and claim it. But it does tell us that God will be with us and will bless things that we do for his glory. It may not be easy--iron chariots are nothing to sneeze at--but are we settling for less than God would give us if we stepped out of our comfort zone in faith and tried some things for his glory?

Leviticus 9, Proverbs 24, Psalm 96

Today the Bible passages we’re scheduled to read are Leviticus 9, Proverbs 24, Psalm 96.

This devotional is from Proverbs 24. It is also reposted from 66in16.

It is tempting to choose the most comfortable option. Today's reading gives us two Proverbs that caution us against this easy choice. The first proverb is 24:27: "Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house." I visualize this piece of wisdom going from Solomon to his newlywed son. As the young couple begins to embark on life together, they dream of having a home of their own. Using the property subdivided by his father, the young couple faces a choice: spend their time and whatever money they have building a comfortable starter home on their new land or live with ma and pa for a while as they work the soil, plant the crops, and tend to the weeds. After the process of starting their farm has begun and the growth of the crops looks promising for their first harvest, then they can start working on a home of their own. No one really wants to live with their parents and it's more fun to build a house than to plant a field. But the field will produce income. It will get you started in life financially. It will provide for you in the future. If you build the home first it will give you your independence and a comfortable start to your life as an adult, but it will also drain your finances and delay that first harvest. It is far wiser to put productivity over comfort in the short term so that you can be more comfortable in the future but that takes a disciplined approach to life that probably does not come naturally to most people.

In a similar way, verses 30-34 describe the ease of laziness. If a farmer skips one day of planting, is the crop ruined? No, but it is easy to let one day off become one week off; our legitimate need for rest can snowball (v. 33). We feel as if we’ll be able to work better tomorrow if we rest up today. That may be true; it may also be a way of rationalizing our procrastination.

I lived most of my childhood as a procrastinator. I came home from school and told myself I would do homework or study for my test after I ate a snack. Oh, but Scooby Doo is on, so I’ll watch that just to relax for a few minutes. It’s going to be dinner time soon so I’ll get busy after that. You get the idea. I created habits of laziness in my life. By the time I was in seminary, I was turning in papers at the last minute after an all-nighter. I got decent grades but in my heart I knew I wasn’t doing my best work or getting the most out of the opportunities God had given to me. Eventually I learned to build some disciplined habits, but even today if I deviate from those habits, the old sin of procrastination is ready to slither back into my life.

But what does any of this have to do with God? These are wise bits of knowledge and helpful for productivity but couldn’t we have learned them from somewhere else? Why did God encode them into his holy word? One answer is that these productivity problems—seeking the easy and comfortable way and allowing laziness and procrastination to take over—are spiritual problems. They are manifestation of a heart that wants to disobey God. God created the world to respond to the diligent work of humanity. He gave us everything we need to provide for ourselves but we have to obey his laws of sowing and reaping, of prioritizing investment over consumption. Our faith in Christ should lead us toward a productive life because we have faith in his commands and know that when we obey his commands and work with diligence God will provide and bless us.

Proverbs 24:19-34

Today we’re reading Proverbs 24:19-34.

You’ve moved to a new area. Which is more important--finding a home that you love or finding a job that will enable you to provide for yourself and--eventually--find a home that you love?

This is a question about priorities. It is about what needs to happen first in order to enable other things to happen. That’s what verse 27 is telling us when it says, “Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” In terms of comfort, it is appealing to do it the other way. You build yourself a nice comfortable home. Get out of that tent you’ve been living in and move into a nice, big, warm farmhouse. Then you can get busy being a farmer. A good night’s sleep in a warm home will help you plant and cultivate and reap those crops more effectively anyway, right?

No. That’s a rationalization for operating in your comfort zone rather than doing the wise thing first. If you’re going to be a farmer, you need to till up that soil, plant those seeds, and let them start growing. It takes a long time for that stuff to grow to productivity so the sooner you start on it, the better off you will be. The work you do now on those fields will pay dividends later for years and years. After you have a productive system started, you will have time to build yourself a nice home. You’ll also have the financial resources to pay for it.

How does this apply to us non-farmers? It teaches us to cultivate and work toward the long-term value. It teaches us to sacrifice personal comfort for a time in order to provide for the long term. For young people, start learning to save 10% of your income and tithe 10% of your income from the very first paycheck you receive. Don’t spend everything on a nicer apartment, leasing a new car, subscribing to cable TV and buying whatever new gadget. Sacrifice now to plant seeds in you life that will pay off when you are older and in eternity.

It applies to more than just young people, though. All of us are inclined to feather our nests and make our comfort zone more comfy at the expense of doing work and making sacrifices that will take years to pay off. It is easier to to eat that doughnut today and think about dieting tomorrow than it is to forgo that junk food for a healthy diet. It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch Netflix than it is to go for a run. Do you spend every dollar you have--and more thanks to easy credit--or are you disciplining yourself to set aside money for the future?

Think about something you’ve been neglecting because it will take sacrifices now and won’t pay off until the future? Then, make that your priority. Spend the first hour of your day on it every day, then go about doing the day-to-day stuff that seems urgent but is rarely important. These are some ways to wisely apply ourselves in the present that will benefit us in the future.