Pastor, City United Church
I like to be comfortable. I can’t wait to get home after a long, hard day in the office. I change into something comfortable, relax in my comfy chair, and then later crash in my comfortable bed. Everything in my flesh cries for comfort. However, I have learned one thing throughout the years working in local church ministry. God does not call us to be comfortable. Instead, He calls us to be conformable, which can be the direct opposite of comfortable.
There are many bible characters that I found myself relating to throughout my revitalization journey with Christ, but never would I have thought that I would relate to Simon of Cyrene (Luke 23:26). Think about it. It probably seemed to be a typical day for him. The Bible tells the story about this Simon, “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him, they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.”
Luke tells us about a guy who was compelled by a Roman Soldier to carry the cross of Jesus through a crowd that was emotional, hostile, and angry. He was going about his day, and suddenly he was called on to carry the burden of someone else. Did he ask to be uncomfortable? Did he want to conform to God’s plan? I am sure the answer was a resounding, “No!” However, he was not in a position to refuse because it was in the plan for something more significant.
A heavy cross was strapped to his back, and he began to carry it behind Jesus. He must have felt the pain and weight, not to mention fear as he walked through the crowd, stepping into the unknown and wondering why? Jesus was walking ahead of him, already flogged, whipped and beaten, His own body weakened.
The story of Simon is captivating to me. Did Simon know that he was carrying the Messiah’s cross and that the Son of God was orchestrating the events to save the world from sin?
Church Revitalization can often feel like you are carrying someone else’s cross. That cross can take many forms, tradition, bitterness, hurt, debt, failure, pain, and legalism. You may even face broken and angry people, criticism, and obstacles. When we become uncomfortable, we slowly move to conformability.
I have learned three life lessons from Simon.
- God’s plan is to grow me before He grows the church. When you enter the ministry and give your life over to God, He is in control of your life. We don’t get to choose the assignment. God has a more significant interest in growing me to be conformed into the image of His son rather than crowing a crowd to attend a church building. When God calls you to carry the burden, you stay focused on Jesus and keep walking and don’t stop. The finish line is not far away.
- God’s plan is always better than my plans. The journey might be painful, but short-term temporal pain is worth it for others to experience long-term, eternal pleasure. You were called by God out of a crowd of many others to be the “one” in your area. God must think that you have the leadership, capacity, and heart to accomplish the task. Jesus is building his church, and we get to be called out of crowds to be a part of it. Trust that He will give you the strength to do it. We must choose conformability to His will for our lives over the comfort of current circumstances in our life. The pain we face in our lives today will become His platform tomorrow.
- God’s plan is for me to hear His voice. Simon must have heard all kinds of voices around him, and you will too, especially in revitalization. Don’t just focus on the voices from the sidelines as you walk the path, stay focused on the One that walks ahead of you, in you and with you. Jesus’ voice is the only voice you need to hear for this journey ahead. It does not matter what others may call you, only focus on that Jesus has called you for this position, and has called you to be faithful to handle the task.
While I still try to be as comfortable as possible, I have learned along the way to embrace conformability because through it I have learned what it means to rest in the call of Christ.