Comfort zones – our default position! It is where we want to live and work. We dislike the unpredictable, the potentially uncomfortable. Venturing out of our comfort zones without a guarantee of safety is foreign to most of our thinking. The problem is that we live in an evil world, a world in which guarantees against being hurt, abused, or taken advantage of, do not exist. In fact, if you have never been abused when trying to help someone else, then it is likely you have never been used by the Lord to help someone else.
It is extremely convenient and safe to remain within our comfort zones; but also extremely selfish and ineffective. All who have ever reached out, whether to other believers or to the unsaved, have, at times, known the pain of being hurt.
Abraham, to avoid strife with a brother, allowed Lot to have first choice in dividing the land (Gen 13). Lot, ignoring the seniority of his uncle, took the best part for himself. Paul knew something of abuse from brethren, when, chained under house arrest in Rome, some of the brethren preached Christ out of “envy and strife” (Phil 1:15) hoping to add “gall” to his bonds. But Paul, while aware of their motive, rejoiced because of their message (v 18). Mary had to hear the criticism of even good men when she poured her ointment on the Lord (John 12). Mary, the mother of the Lord, endured lifelong reproach for her willingness to have a Child, though a virgin.
Joseph was seeking his brother’s “peace” when they dealt with such malice toward him (Gen 37). Nehemiah had come to “seek the welfare of the children of Israel” (Neh 2:10), and found not only hostile enemies, but unfaithful “friends”! David was sent by his father to see “how thy brethren fare and take their pledge” (1Sam 17:18). His gifts of parched corn and loaves of bread did not lessen the sarcasm of Eliab when he saw his youngest brother appear. Can we begin to count Jeremiah’s tears as he sought to bring the nation to repentance, or the grief of David’s experience of being betrayed by those whom he had helped (1Sam 23)?
And what of the abuse experienced by those who have carried the gospel to the unsaved? Look at Silas’ stripes, Paul’s imprisonments and stoning, Stephen’s stoning and death. The record of all those who have sought to be a blessing to others involves something more than persecution. It is the record of those who have known what it is to be abused, taken advantage of, and scorned.
The world has not changed. If we are to be the blessing God intends, then we will need to expose ourselves to the liability of time invested in people, hours which do not result in fruit; to pour ourselves into efforts which may not show blessing; to risk spending money on people who might not appreciate the help. As another has penned, “It is the way the Master went. Should not the servant tread it still?”