Posted by: Keith Clark | January 24, 2010

Burn Out Bright

It’s incredible how attached we are to comfort. She will shop at the same grocery store every week for years, but when the store’s management decides to reconfigure the layout of the store so that “everything is out of place,” she will walk out the door and never come back as a way of protesting the loss of her comfort zone. He will go to the same place every morning for coffee and a biscuit, but when others who look different and smell different begin to adopt a similar pattern, he will walk out the door and never come back as a way of demonstrating his displeasure with the loss of his comfort zone.

I guess somewhere along the way we also began to think faith was all about our comfort: So some of us have faith because we long to be comforted by the notion that our past sins have been forgiven. Others have faith because we long to be comforted in the present by a God who will make things easy for us or at least make us feel better about ourselves. Still others of us have faith simply because we long to be comforted eternally instead of punished.

Certainly God is a comforting God, who comforts people in distress. But the God who comforts is also the God who calls people to lives of risky sacrifice and service. Perhaps this is why so often when God calls, the people being called try to come up with all kinds of excuses not to answer. Moses and Jeremiah both say they can’t speak well enough. The people of Israel say they would be better off back in Egypt. Some of the folks Jesus calls say they have urgent tasks to complete before they can follow him.

Sometimes we’re not all that different from those we read about in Scripture who grasped for any possible excuse not to move outside their comfort zones into God’s calling. Sadly the consumer attitudes that lead us to boycott our favorite grocery store or abandon our regular breakfast haunt can all too easily find their way into the church. What’s especially dangerous about this is that we can find ways to spiritualize our excuses and relieve ourselves of taking any responsibility for our own unwillingness to get out of our comfort zones. So they will worship with the same congregation every time the doors are open for years, but when the church’s leadership, called into service by the Holy Spirit and the congregation makes intentional and thoughtful efforts to help the congregation grow in faith and live out their faith, they will walk out the door and tell folks they weren’t being spiritually nourished as a way of expressing their frustration with the loss of their comfort zone.

Sadly we often miss out on opportunities to do God’s will when we latch onto flimsy excuses to stay in our comfort zones. Imagine how different the world would be if Moses had refused to go back to Egypt or if Peter and Andrew and James and John had refused to hop off their boats and follow Jesus. May God give us courage to embrace the opportunities to break out of our comfort zones and let our lives burn out bright to the praise of God’s glorious grace!

Here’s a song by Switchfoot which first introduced me to this wonderful way of putting the calling of God on our lives: to “burn out bright.”

How might you be able to burn out bright this week?

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Responses

  1. Wow Keith! It's amazing how much our culture impacts our faith. So many of us 21st Century American Christians are more 21st century and American than Christian. Thanks for these thoughts the great examples. I may "borrow" them sometime soon in a sermon, but don't worry, I'll bring them back when I'm done! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the encouraging words David. I agree, we often claim all kinds of defining labels other than follower of Jesus. I suppose that's all the more reason to be glad God never stops working on us!


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