“You Are Now Leaving Your Comfort Zone”

Pt. 1 of Series: “Igniting Your Faith through Evangelism”

January 7, 2018

 

Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

A number of years ago, Nancy and I went on a cruise.  One of the excursions that was offered was a parasailing expedition, you know where you are hooked to a parachute that is tethered to the back of a boat and the boat zooms along and you ascend some 800 feet above the water.  Nancy, in her continuing quest to scare the bejeebers out of her husband—by now I shouldn’t have any bejeebers left—in her continuing quest to scare the bejeebers out of her husband, Nancy convinced me to do this thing.  So here we are in a boat with about 10 other people going out to where we will do it.  There must have been a slight paleness to my face because one of the ladies in the boat said to me, “You know, if you are that upset, you don’t have to do this.”  Of course, with that comment from a woman, my male ego kicked in and then I couldn’t not go.  Our time came.  They hooked Nancy and me into our harnesses.  I was about to say to the guys, “Are you sure these harnesses will hold us,” when the boat took off.  Nancy and I ascended, up, up, up.  I was holding onto the bar, I mean really white-knuckling it—and the whole time I was going, “Oh my gosh.  Oh my gosh,” until we came down at which time I had to cover myself up because I had created a puddle.  Suffice it to say parasailing is not in my comfort zone.

 

  1. Our Comfort Zone

 

  1.  We prefer to remain in our comfort zone

 

Actually, our comfort zone is what I want to talk about today.  We like it in our comfort zone.  We like feeling safe and secure, well comfortable.  For most of us—except for you dare devil junkies—we like the image of a baby in its mother’s arms way more than some screaming fool on a parasail.  We like the familiar.  We like the routine.  We get used to doing things the same way over and over.  We don’t want a lot of change in our lives.  Someone said that the only ones who want change are babies in diapers.  It is easier to keep things the same.  Said differently, we are scared about what may be beyond.

 

There was a story about an American POW captured by the Japanese during WWII.  He was a spy and was sentenced to death by the Japanese army.  Before carrying out the sentence, the Japanese general gave the spy a strange choice.  He told the American that he could choose between a firing squad and a big black door.  The spy thought about the choice and after a few moments chose the firing squad and the sentence was carried out.  The general turned to his assistant and said, “They always prefer the known way to the unknown way.”  The assistant asked the general, “So, what is behind the black door.”  The general replied, “Freedom.  Behind the big black door is a passageway that leads outside but only a few have been brave enough to see what is behind that door.”  Even though the firing squad was anything but a comfortable choice, for that American, it was better, it was more comfortable, than the unknown.

 

We don’t usually like the unknown.  We usually much prefer remaining in our comfort zone.  We can also prefer a spiritual comfort zone as well.  One pastor described a spiritual comfort zone as “a state of spiritual behavior within which believers seek to live out their Christian life without the presence of any spiritual anxiety or conflict.  They adopt a spiritually neutral condition by limiting their spiritual behavior to deliver a nondescript level of performance, usually without any sense of spiritual adventure.”  That pastor went on to say that comfort zone Christianity brings about a spiritual mediocrity that wallows in self, that it is going through the motions of serving God without any risk or adventure.  He said that “comfort zone Christians never experience the abundant life that Christ promised.”  We like the comfortable, even in our faith life.  We like that which is safe.  We don’t like change.  Yet,

 

  1.  Change is inevitable. 

 

You have already stepped out of your comfort zone in many aspects of life.  Unless you live in a bubble, you can’t help it.  Taking the training wheels off of the bike is living outside of your comfort zone.  Going off to school for the first time all by yourself with your big boy back pack and your big girl lunch box is living outside of your comfort zone.  Going off to high school, going off to college is, too.  So is driving a car.  That is living outside of your comfort zone for the teen just learning to drive and also for the parent of that teen.  Deciding to become a parent is a huge living outside of your comfort zone moment.  So is retirement.  Some of you have done that one.  But, truth be told, wasn’t it in one of those beyond the comfort zone moments that you experienced the exhilaration of really being alive.  How proud you were having faced your fears without the training wheels and you zoomed down the driveway.  How elated when you went off to school and you felt the pride of doing something all by yourself. 

 

I came across a little graphic that I think is pretty cool.  There is a little stick figure with a circle around it.  There is an arrow pointing to that circle with the words, “Your comfort zone.”  Then there is a larger circle away from the stick figure.  Inside of that circle is the words,

 

  1.  “Where the magic happens”

 

It is living beyond our comfort zone where the magic happens.  I have to admit, that after accomplishing that parasailing adventure, I felt exhilarated and wanted to do it again.  Are you nuts!!!  You ain’t gonna get me on one of those things ever again.  I guess my point doesn’t apply to all situations, at least not to this wimp.

 

  1.  Where the “magic” of faith happens

 

By theological extension, though, we might say that beyond the comfort zone is where the magic of faith really happens.  Yes, it is true that faith can grow in the ordinariness of life.  Faith can certainly grow in an everyday routine of reading your Bible and praying and coming to church.  But, ‘fess up, as you look back over your life, didn’t you experience the greatest growth in your faith when you lived beyond your comfort zone, usually when life forced you out of your comfort zone.  Maybe it was an illness, or a job loss, or relationship problems, or maybe it was embarking on a new ministry, something challenging, something you had never done before, but wasn’t it in those times when you felt spiritually alive, when God said, “Go, do, step out” and all you had to hold on to were Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always.”?  I always like the illustration of the trapeze artist.  They swing and swing and swing and then all of a sudden they let go and fly through the air with nothing else to buoy them than the belief, the faith, that their catcher will indeed catch them.  Why do they do that again and again, even if their catcher misses and they fall into the net below?  I would think it was the feeling they had when they let go, when they let go, out of their comfort zone and just trusted.  If that catcher was Jesus, wouldn’t that sound pretty, well, theological?  Wouldn’t that be a description of out of your comfort zone faith?

 

  1.  People in the Bible

 

The Bible is littered with people who lived beyond their comfort zones.  God told Abraham to leave his home town of Ur and travel about 1000 miles to settle in Canaan.  Setting out on that excursion was beyond his comfort zone.  Think what it was like for Moses to hear God’s call from the burning bush and for him to march into Pharaoh’s chambers and demand that Pharaoh let his people go.  Remember, Moses was a fugitive, an outlaw, who killed an Egyptian.  How about that, an enemy of the state returning to the scene of the crime and demanding his rights!  How about Joshua who was told to lead the motley crew of Israelites into the Promised Land and then to defeat all of the entrenched peoples and take over their home towns.  How about David, heir to kingship yet servant of the deranged King Saul?  How about Jonah?  Go tell the mean and nasty Ninevites to repent.  At first, Jonah chose to flee rather than get out of his comfort zone.  But, God had him be whale food and 3 days of that changed his mind.  How about Paul in the New Testament?  Can you imagine going into a pagan village and telling them they were worshipping the wrong God, that it is only through Jesus that they could be saved.  All of these people lived beyond their comfort zones.  Or, what about

 

  1. Peter

 

Our lesson today is one of those leaving your comfort zone stories.  Jesus sent His disciples on ahead as He went off to pray.  Here they are in the middle of the night, with wind and waves whipping around them trying to keep the boat afloat when suddenly Jesus comes walking on the water to them.  They cried out in fear but Jesus tells them, “Take courage.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  Peter, says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Now, I can tell you from experience that being in a small boat on a lake in the middle of a storm is not very comfortable but being outside of the boat is far worse.  Yet, Peter is ready to throw his leg over the side and launch out on the sea.  Talk about a leaving your comfort zone kind of moment!  Now, it is true that Peter only got so far when he took his eyes off of Jesus and fell into the drink only to be rescued by Jesus, but can you even imagine what it must have been like for him to walk on water even for just a couple of steps?  Let me tell you that especially in that case, leaving his comfort zone was where the magic happened.  Walking on water is a pretty big deal, and it must not have been around Rochester because the water wasn’t even frozen.

 

So, Jesus picks Peter up and the two of them get into the boat, Peter now dripping wet.  What do you think was the reaction of the other disciples?  “Are you nuts, Peter, jumping out of the boat like that.”  “Do you have a death wish?”  “There he goes again, impetuous Peter.”  Yet, I bet there was somebody, anybody, who said, “Peter, what was it like?  What was it like putting your leg over the side and stepping out onto the water?  What was it like walking on water?  What was it like having Jesus rescue you carry you back to the boat?  What was it like, Peter?”  Don’t you think that experience impacted Peter’s faith like big time?  And, don’t you think that in the years that followed, as Peter gathered his family and friends for dinner, don’t you think Peter told that tale again and again, the tale of him leaving his comfort zone and walking on water?  He experienced something all of the other disciples never did.  He walked on water.  I think the title of Pastor John Ortberg’s book is so cool,

 

“If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve got to Get Out of the Boat!”

 

Living beyond your comfort zone, particularly when it comes to faith, is where the magic happens.  Now, I want to apply this concept of leaving your comfort zone to a specific area of ministry.  We have designated this year as an opportunity to grow your faith deep.  If, as is my thesis, your faith will grow leaps and bounds when you leave your comfort zone, then I cannot think of another area of ministry that will move you beyond your comfort zone than the area of ministry called evangelism.  If there is one area of ministry that can really impact your faith, it is when you are  

 

  1.  Leaving Your Comfort Zone through Evangelism

 

Just the mention of the term scares the bejeebers out of a lot of Christian folk about on the same scale as me and parasailing.  It would be a whole lot easier just forgetting about evangelism, maybe letting someone else do it, like the pastor.  Of course, the pastor is going to pass it over to the deacon.  It would be a lot easier, it would keep you in your spiritual comfort zone, if you just didn’t bother.  Except that Jesus has called you, much as He called Peter out onto the water, Jesus has called you to do just that.  He has called you to make disciples of all nations.  It is called the Great Commission.  As I said last week, it is the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion.  It is what every Christian is called to do.  It is the mission Jesus gave you even if it means leaving your comfort zone. 

 

  1. Why should you do this?

 

Well, I just said it,

 

  1. Because Jesus commanded it

 

When God commands it, it is best not to slough Him off.  Here’s another reason to do evangelism;

 

  1. Because people are dying without Jesus

 

I mentioned this last week, too.  Billions of people are dying without Jesus and since Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through” Him, people are spending eternity separated from God, they are spending eternity in hell because of it.  Even more impactful, people you know are dying without Jesus and that is a huge reason to do evangelism.  But, here is the reason I want to get to today;  You should do evangelism

 

  1. Because it will grow your faith

 

As I said, evangelism is a scary thing.  It is a whole lot easier and safer and more comfortable, to let your co-worker or your friend or your fellow student believe what they want or not believe at all, than it is to take a big gulp and walk across the room to tell them about Jesus.  I mean, that can be as hard as it was for the disciples—not Peter—to throw their legs over the sides of the boat and walk on water.  After all, you don’t know what their reaction will be.  You don’t know if they will reject you, become angry with you, or maybe even cease to be your friend.  It is easier to stay within your comfort zone and not rock the proverbial boat. 

 

Yet, leaving the comfort boat of your private faith and walking toward an unbeliever will ignite your faith.  It will ignite your faith because by doing so, you will be responding to Jesus’ call.

You will be obeying Jesus even though the results are not laid out for you.  It will ignite your faith because you will be taking responsibility for someone else just as Jesus said.  And you don’t know how they will respond.  Then, it will ignite your faith because they may just listen to you.  Your friend might accept Jesus as their Lord and savior, they might come to faith and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that God has used you to snatch a soul from the clutches of Satan and have given them eternal life.  You will know that God used you for an eternal purpose.  You can think what it will be like when, in heaven, someone might come up to you and say, “I am here because of you.”  I dare say that being used by God to bring someone to faith is probably on the same level as Peter walking on water.  It sure is leaving your comfort zone but that is where the magic happens. 

 

I’ve been used by God to bring a few people to know Jesus.  I’ve impacted a few to help them walk across that line of faith.  I wished it was far more than it was but at least God has used me to impact a few and I will tell you it is such a high being used by God like that.  It is a feeling that will move you to talk with others, too.  And, as you leave the comfort zone of your routine faith life and step out toward another, your faith will grow.  It will grow.  So,

 

  1. How can you leave your comfort zone in doing evangelism?

 

  1. Face your fears

 

Peter had to face his fears.  He had never seen anyone walk on water before.  This was new territory for him.  Yet, he went.  When it comes to evangelism, what are your fears, what is the worst case scenario, that they will reject you?  Keep in mind that it really isn’t you they are rejecting.  They are rejecting Jesus.  So what?  If a friend was in a burning building, would you refuse to call out to them because by doing so they might reject you?  So, first, face your fears.  Second

 

  1. Focus on Jesus

 

Faith is only as good as its object.  If you have faith in people, you will get what people can do.  If you have faith in money, you will get what money can do.  If you have faith in yourself, you will get what you can do.  If you have faith in Jesus, you will get what Jesus can do—and He can do a lot. 

 

Peter kept his eyes focused on Jesus.  When he looked around at the wind and the waves, Peter failed.  When faith gives way to fear, we start to sink.  Yet, Jesus was the one who gave this command to make disciples and He gave a promise with that command, that He will be with you as you do it.  He is with you as you leave your comfort zone to share your faith.  It is Jesus who is saying to you, “Take courage.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.” Third

 

  1. Be willing to make mistakes

 

I love the story of the young man who worked for a big company.  The man initiated a strategy for the company that, in the end, failed and it cost the company $11 million.  After that happened, he was summoned to his boss’ office.  The young man pre-empted his boss.  “I know I cost the company $11 million and I am ready to tender my resignation.”  The boss said, “Resignation!  I just spent $11 million on your education.  Now get back to work.”

 

Peter landed in the drink.  He wouldn’t have if he had just played it safe and stayed in the boat.  He made the mistake of taking his eyes off of Jesus, yet he did give it a go and his faith soared.  Later, he denied Jesus 3 times and yet Jesus reinstated Peter and gave him the task of loving His sheep.  Peter made mistakes and yet Jesus used him mightily. 

 

In sharing your faith, you may not get it right.  You may say something and get a sharp reply.  You may do something that turns that person off.  But, if you don’t try, you will never make a mistake, and you will also never have the exhilaration of bringing someone to Christ.  You see, the other disciples didn’t experience what Peter experienced.  They wouldn’t get out of the boat.  They wouldn’t leave their comfort zones.  You won’t experience the thrill of leading someone to Christ if you don’t get out of the boat, if you won’t step out onto the water with your eyes focused on Jesus.

 

Your comfort zone can be safe.  It can be easy.  It can be, well, comfortable.  Getting beyond your comfort zone, especially in the area of evangelism, can make your faith soar.  It can be where the magic happens.  Some people insist on staying in the boat.  Some people miss the boat completely.  And, some people get out of the boat, and what do they do?  They change the world.  Which are you?  Do you believe your Christian life is about stepping out in faith and serving an almighty, all knowing God whose boundaries are limitless,  or is your Christian life limited to your comfort zone?  For there will come a day for all of us when Jesus will come to us the final time.  He will say to us, “Come, my child.  It is time to get out of the boat and walk into eternity with me.”  And, we might be timid.  And, we might be afraid.  But, we will look to Jesus and He will put out His arms and He will say, as He said to Peter, “Take courage.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  And, we will trust Him, we will get out of that boat and walk hand in hand with Him, right into heaven.  And, if you will do that, if you will leave your comfort zone for that, then maybe, just maybe, you can leave your comfort zone now, especially as Jesus tells you to go and do evangelism.  So, right here and right now, get out of the boat for Jesus, and that is where the magic happens.

 

In Jesus’ name.

 

Amen.