Craig Smith - Comfort Zones
So, if we wanna start living unleashed, we have to stop living in our comfort zones. If you wanna live unleashed, one of the things you’re gonna have to do is you’re gonna have to stop living in your comfort zones. I love what John Ostrom said about comfort zones. He said, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” And he’s absolutely right. If there’s one thing that’s clear as I look back on my life, it’s that the greatest times of growth in my life have been in those times that I was least comfortable. One of those seasons for me, a season of great growth and great discomfort was when I was 21. I was 21, and I kind of realized that I’d gotten into some pretty unhealthy patterns of doing life and relationships, and specifically relationships with girls or relationships with one particular girl, actually. There was a girl, we dated off and on through high school, and then off and on in college.
And we were just terrible for each other. We brought out the worst in each other, but we somehow kept coming back to each other. You know, we’d break up and then we’d date some other people, and then we’d get back together, and we’d be terrible for each other, so we’d break up. And we’d date some other people and we’d we get back together. And I think that was when I first began to realize the reality that, you know, comfort zones, aren’t always pleasant. We tend to think, “Well, we have comfort zones cause that’s where it’s pleasant.” But the reality is we choose comfort zones and we stay in them because they’re familiar, not necessarily pleasant, right? And the reality is that sometimes we can get pretty comfortable with things that are pretty dysfunctional. I don’t know if anybody’s ever had an experience like that, but I realized that was going on in my life.
And that was the beginning of me realizing this kind of depressing reality about what it means to be a human being, it’s that we’re often more comfortable with familiar poison than with unfamiliar medicine, right? We’re often more comfortable with familiar poison than we are with unfamiliar medicine. We’ll keep drinking the poison, even though it’s hurting us, because it’s familiar, and familiar things are comfortable. Unfamiliar medicine is not something we’re comfortable with because it’s unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar is uncomfortable. And so, I realized that I’d got way too comfortable with some things that were really dysfunctional, and I decided I needed to break out of my comfort zones to begin changing these patterns. And so, I signed up for a summer of service with a group called YWAM, Youth With A Mission. And it was basically, it was called a Musician Summer of Service. I was a musician. And so, essentially, I joined a Christian rock band and we went on tour in Eastern Europe for three months that summer.
And everything about that was out of my comfort zone, okay? I mean, first off Youth With A Mission was a more charismatic group than I was used to. And so, that was uncomfortable. It was out of my comfort zone. I’m an introvert by nature, which means I recharge best kind of by myself or with my wife, and yet, that summer I was with people nonstop. It was exhausting. I’m a little bit on the shy side, honestly, and so, meeting people and not knowing anybody, that was uncomfortable. And Eastern Europe was uncomfortable. The Iron Curtain had come down not too many years before, and it was kind of the wild west. It was crazy. And we stayed in some horrible, uncomfortable places.
I remember one hotel, and I kid you not, I killed 87 spiders in our hotel room. I had like a shoe on a stick and we were just stomping him everywhere. It was crazy. Try to sleep in a room filled with spiders like that, very, very uncomfortable situation, okay? And it got worse. Midway through the summer, it got even more uncomfortable because we had a team leader. His name was Duck. I don’t know why his name was Duck, but that’s what his name was. And he was the team leader, but he got sick halfway through trip. And he had a cough. And so, to deal with the cough, he was buying cough medicine. And it turns out, in Bulgaria, which is where we were, you could buy cough medicine with codeine right off the shelf.
And Duck was an ex-drug addict. He was a recovering drug addict. And so, the codeine kind of messed him up. He made some bad decisions and he got re-addicted to heroin. and he ended up abandoning the team, just left one day. And we had another team leader, and she had a mental breakdown. She started saying…I kid you not, she started saying, “Well, you know, we’re this isn’t happening. We’re gonna wake up.” And I was like, “Well, okay. But until that happens, you know, maybe we should do this.” And I was trying to help her and support her. And I remember vividly one point, I helped her. We found a phone. This is in the days before everybody had cell phones. And so, we found a phone so we could call back to the mission base in Montana. And I was standing there with her to support her.
And I remember she was telling him what had happened. And then I remember vividly, she said this, she said, “Oh, and, and Craig has stepped in as the team leader. Okay. They wanna talk to you.” “Wait, what?” And the guy back in Montana, he didn’t ask a single question. He just basically said, you know, he said something about the mantle passing from Elijah to Elisha, some Old Testament verse. And then he prayed over me and then he hung up. And I was in charge of this team, which was super uncomfortable, so far outside my comfort zone. I mean, most of the team was older than me. And I had never really been and interested in being a leader. I’d never thought of myself as a leader. I never aspired to be a leader, but one of the things that became clear to me in that uncomfortable place was that God had actually put into me a gift for leadership. A gift that people, for whatever reason, that they tended to appreciate my perspective and they tended to be willing to follow where I was leading. And that was for first time I began to realize that, and that really was a path that God put me on that ultimately led to this place, but it was in that summer of discomfort that I began to see that.
It was also in that very uncomfortable place that I was that summer that I began to realize that that comfort zones can be numbing agents. That when we’re comfortable, it’s a little bit like being given anesthesia and we can get kind of numb to some things, especially to the voice of God. And so, the reality is that I was seeking God’s clarity on some things, especially women and relationships and I just wasn’t getting it. But there, in that very uncomfortable place, I began to hear the voice got a little bit more clearly than I had before. Like I said, you know, I knew I was having problems with relationships. And so, I had sworn off all relationships and I wasn’t dating anybody, anything like that. But there was this one girl back at Kent State University. Her name was Coletta Wetmore. And we had never been on a date. We never talked about dating. We were just good friends, but we found that we’re pretty good at being a team for ministry. And I didn’t think, honestly, I was talking much about her, but I remember one night laying in my bed in a hotel, not the spider bed, a different bed, and I was rooming with the lead singer, a guy named Ted. And I thought we were just talking, and all of a sudden, Ted, like he rolls over, he looks at me. He goes, “Craig, you are obviously in love with her. Please just go home and marry her. But for God’s sake, let me go to sleep.”
And then he went to sleep and I spent the rest of the night awake going, “That can’t be right. Is that, God? God, am I in love with her? Am I supposed to marry her?” And I began to hear the voice of God very clearly that I really was in love with her and I needed to marry her, so I came home and I married her. I mean, we went on a couple of dates first, but it was in that moment, that season of discomfort, that I really began to hear the voice of God clearly. And I began to realize something, and that is that sometimes we have to forego comfort to find clarity. You hear me, church? And I say that because I know some of you, you’re seeking clarity. You’re longing to hear from God, but it’s just not coming through. You’re not getting the clarity that you’re craving. And it may very well be that you’re living in a place that’s just a little too comfortable. And sometimes we have to forego comfort in order to find clarity.
And the reality is that for every one of us who follows Jesus, that there comes a time, and maybe multiple times, where following Jesus leads us right up to the boundaries of our comfort zone. Jesus leads us right to the boundary of the comfort zone and then Jesus steps over and keeps going like it’s not even a thing. And it’s only after he’s walked over that he looks back and he says, “So, you’re still with me or not?” And we have to make a decision. Will we follow him outside the comfort zone or stay in that comfortable, familiar place? And the good news is that when we’re willing to follow Jesus out of those comfort zones, we begin to have an opportunity to be part of things that we never thought we would ever a chance to be part of and we begin to see that God works in us and through us in ways that we might not have ever thought possible.
I’m gonna take you to a story today of a man who models for us really well what happens when we’re willing to step outside of our comfort zones. If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in Acts chapter 8 today. Acts 8, starting in verse 26. It’s the story of a man named Philip. And if you were with us last week, you may remember Philip. Philip was first introduced to us in the Book of Acts because he’d been selected to wait on tables. The apostles, the early church leaders had found out that some of the Christian widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food and they said, “Well, it would not be good for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables.”
So, they selected a group of guys to wait on tables. And what’s interesting, we never see those guys wait on tables. Maybe they did, but that’s not what they’re remembered for. They’re remembered for their Word work. They’re remembered for, they were ministering the Word of God. They were sharing the Gospel. And Philip, in particular, last week, we saw that Philip actually shared the Gospel with Samaritans, people who had some Jewish ancestry, but that was mixed in with Gentile, with non-Jewish blood, and we saw God work through him in a really powerful way. Well, we’re gonna see God continue to work through Philip, but I think, largely, we’re gonna see God work through Philip because Philip is willing to get outside of his comfort zones.
Acts 8:26 says this, “Now, an angel of the Lord said to Philip, go south to the road, the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” And I love how nonchalant that is. Like, an angel told Philip to do that, right. An angel showed up and told Philip, “Go down to this road.” I don’t know about you, but like if an angel told me to do something, you’d get at least a sermon series out of it. There’d probably be a multi-book deal out of that experience. And the Bible just gives us one sentence, just like, “Oh, yeah, that happened.” And that seems weird, but I think it’s probably kind of dealing with the same thing that we were talking about last week. We were talking about the importance of not getting fixated on signs. God doesn’t wanna obsess with signs, and sometimes we just need to start doing the good that we’re called to do and not waiting on sign anymore. And I think that’s kind of what’s happening.
The reason that we’re given signs, as we talked about last week, is not so we get obsessed with them or that we need them all the time, but signs show us where we wouldn’t otherwise know to go. Signs show us where we wouldn’t otherwise know to go. And that’s very much the case in this particular situation because the road that the angel told him to go to was not the kind of road that Philip would normally have picked for himself. It was a desert road or a wilderness road. It didn’t have a lot of traffic on it. It wasn’t the kind of place for you to expect to meet significant people. And because it was a wilderness road, it went through very remote places. It was kind of a dangerous road. It was the kind of place where robbers or bandits would hide out. They were less likely to run into Roman patrols, and so, there were more likely to be robbers on that road waiting, you know, to mug travellers.
And so, it’s not the kind of place that Philip would’ve gone. Basically, this road was outside Phillip’s comfort zone. Do you hear me? He was outside of his comfort zone. And so, now, he has a choice. He can either step outside of his comfort zone and go to this road, or he can stay inside his comfort zone and miss out on what God might have for him out in that very uncomfortable place. So, what happened? And we’re told, “Well, so, he started out.” And I’m just gonna stop there for a second because I love the way the New International Version translates the Greek there. It says, “So, he started out.” I love that because it emphasizes the most important parts of following Jesus in uncomfortable places, which is just getting started.
See, so, often, you know, we think, “Listen, I know I’m not everything that God’s called me to be. I know that I have a lot of room to grow as a husband, and as a father, and as a pastor. I have all these places where I know like, I wanna get to that.” But sometimes where we are and where we know God’s calling us seems like such a leap. We’re like, “How can I ever get there? I can’t cover that distance on my own. And God doesn’t call us to cover that distance on our own or in one big leap. He calls us to consistently take the next what the next, what? The next step. That’s why we say that small steps in the same direction will take you to places you never thought possible. Small steps in the same direction will take you to becoming the men and women that you never thought you could be. But of all those steps that will ultimately get us there, what’s the most important step, and what’s the hardest step? It’s the first step. It’s that first step. It’s the hardest one, but it’s the most important one.
Starting out is the hardest thing. I love what Gandalf said to Frodo. And I know this is a very nerdy reference. Gandalf said to Frodo, he said, “It’s a dangerous thing, Frodo, stepping out your front door, because you step into the street, and unless you keep your feet, you might be swept away to places you can’t imagine.” Listen, I believe Jesus wants to sweep you away. Jesus wants to sweep you away and take you on adventures and let you be part of things that you would never have imagined you could be part of. He wants to do end things in you. He wants to do end things through you that you would never have imagined you could be part of and he wants to help you become a man or a woman that you, in your heart, you dream of becoming, but you can’t imagine actually getting there and becoming that person. Jesus wants to sweep you away to that place. And the only thing keeping you from all that is that first step, it’s starting out.
Philip starts out. He takes one step in the right direction, and then another, and then another. So, he started out, and on his way, he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means the queen of the Ethiopians). And this man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home, he was sitting in his chariot, reading the Book of Isaiah, the prophet. Now, there’s three things that Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, three things that Luke tells us about this man, and all three of the details are really intended to help us understand that this guy was outside of Philip’s comfort zone. Okay?
First thing he tells us is that he was an Ethiopian, and what that means is he was a Gentile. He was a non-Jewish person, which is significant because, up to this point, all of the followers of Jesus have come from the Jewish community. Okay? With the exception, kind of, just a little bit of an exception of the Samaritans we talked about last week, but see, Samaritans, they weren’t exactly in the comfort zone for Jewish people, but they weren’t real far outside of it either because they had Jewish blood. They were descended from Abraham. They read the same Bible. They worshiped the same God. And so, yeah, not quite inside the Jewish comfort zone, but not real far outside of it either. But that wasn’t true for Ethiopian. An Ethiopian was, in every way, a complete, pure Gentile. He even looked really different, right? I mean, the Samaritans looked a lot like the Jewish people, you really couldn’t tell the difference physically, but the Ethiopian was black. There was no mistaking, the fact that this guy was foreign, this guy was different, this guy was not part of the Jewish community. And what you need to understand is that interacting with a Gentile was outside of a Jewish man’s comfort zone. Jewish men didn’t interact with Gentiles. They didn’t hang out with them.
Second thing that Luke tells us is that he was a eunuch. You know what eunuch is, right? And you’re like, “No, no. Please tell us. How uncomfortable can you make this, Craig?” If you don’t know what eunuch is, as my British friends would say it, “He’d had his naughty bits cut off.” Okay? Anybody feeling a little uncomfortable yet? Good. Because if you’re feeling a little uncomfortable, then you know a little bit about how Philip would’ve felt about a guy like this. It was a very uncomfortable thing. And for Philip, it was even worse. It wasn’t just naturally uncomfortable, it was also religiously uncomfortable because in Deuteronomy 23:1, an Old Testament commandment, is this, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting.” Talk about uncomfortable. Crushing, really? May enter the assembly of the Lord.
So, for Philip, it wasn’t just naturally uncomfortable like it is for all of us, but it was religiously uncomfortable. This man, even though Luke has kind of given us some advanced notice and said, “Hey, you’re gonna find out later that he had actually gone to Israel to try to worship,” what we know though is because of that command, he wouldn’t have been really allowed into the worship. He wouldn’t have been allowed into the assembly. He would’ve been kept on the outskirts because the reality is, Jewish men didn’t interact with eunuchs. A eunuch was way outside of Jewish man’s comfort zone.
And then the third thing Luke tells us about this guy is that he was a VIP. “He was a very important person. He was an important official,” Luke says, in charge of the treasury of the Queen of Ethiopia. And Philip’s not a VIP. And so, interacting with somebody of that level of status, social significance was something probably was very uncomfortable for Philip in the same way it might be for you and I. I remember when we were touring Eastern Europe, like I said, it was not long after the Iron Curtain had come down, we were the first Americans most of them had ever seen. And so, we were constantly getting invited to state dinners. The old communist bosses in each town would invite us to these big dinners. And like, sometimes they actually had a literal red carpet that we walked into the building with, which is crazy, because we were a rock band. And every time we were like, “We do not belong here. We should not be having this interaction. We shouldn’t be having these… We should not be here.” It was extremely uncomfortable. That’s the kind of thing Philip’s dealing with in dealing with a very important public official.
And the point of all this is just to make sure we understand that interacting with this man was way outside of Phillip’s comfort zone. It was way outside Phillip’s comfort zone. But it’s on this road that an angel has told him to go to, and he sees the chariot coming and his natural reaction, his place of comfort would’ve been to just step aside and let that chariot go by, which may actually be what happened, because what we see next is the Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” And then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah, the prophet. He ran up to the chariot. Why did he have to run? Because he’d probably let it go by. Wasn’t comfortable to interact. He couldn’t imagine the Spirit would be wanting him to deal with a guy in that kind of a scenario. And so, it had gone by, and then the Spirit’s like, “Dude, that’s the guy. Get up close.” And so, now, Phillip has run, which, by the way, running was outside comfort zone. Okay? Jewish men didn’t run. Kids ran, but Jewish men didn’t run. It was considered to be undignified, which isn’t all that hard to understand, because remember, they’re wearing robes, right? Can you imagine having to hike those babies up?
Like, you’re gonna look pretty silly. You’re gonna look undignified. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but that’s what Phillip has to do. He has to run to catch up. And as he gets up close, he realizes that the guy is reading from the Book of Isaiah, which is fascinating because I’m sure that Philip assumed that this guy, this Ethiopian eunuch, would have no interest in hearing about a Jewish Messiah, right? Because that was the message that Philip had to share, is the message of a Jewish Messiah named Jesus, and he would’ve assumed this guy had no interest in a Jewish Messiah, but now he gets up close and he realizes he’s reading the Book of Isaiah, he’s reading Jewish Scripture. And suddenly, he realizes, “Maybe that assumption was wrong. Maybe there’s something in this guy that is being attracted to the God of Israel and maybe he does wanna hear about Jesus.”
And I think that’s really interesting because I think we can make a very similar kind of assumption that would’ve been natural for Philip, right? It’s easy for us to assume that God brings people into our lives and we think, “Yeah, but they’re not gonna wanna talk about Jesus. They’re not gonna hear about my faith in Jesus or what Jesus did for them.” Especially in our culture where statistics tell us that 10% of people today now say that they don’t believe in any kind of god at all. They don’t believe in any form of god. And that that number is radically higher now than it was even 10 years ago. The number of atheists is increasing dramatically. And so, it’s easy for us to go, “Well, yeah. Given what I keep hearing about how increasingly irreligious our society is, people that I meet, they’re not gonna be interested in talking about Jesus.”
But here’s the thing. If 10% of people don’t believe in God, that means 90% do still, which means that we can assume this person’s not gonna wanna talk about Jesus, but statistics say we’re probably gonna be wrong more often than we are right about that assumption. And, really, the reality is the only thing that’s keeping us from speaking truth, and maybe having a divine moment where God uses us in that person’s life is the fact that we’re uncomfortable starting that conversation. Our assumptions become a smokescreen, but the reality is we’re just outside of our comfort zone to have that conversation.
Philip gets up close and he hears that he’s reading and begins to go, “Huh?” And Philip realized, I think what we all have to realize, which is that people often have more interest in Jesus than we assume. You hear me church? You need to hear this. God has put people in your life who need to hear about Jesus, and people often have more interest in Jesus than we assume. And it’s really, it’s our discomfort that’s keeping us from sharing what they desperately need to hear and are very interested in talking about them. People often have more interest in Jesus than we assume. Now, he hears this man reading Isaiah, which provides an obvious opportunity, right? It’s an obvious opportunity, a place to begin the conversation. But what I want you to ask yourself, though, is, “How did he end up getting that opportunity?” And the answer is he was obedient, right?
He was obedient. He was obedient to the angel going, “Hey, get out of your comfort zone, go to this road.” And having let the chariot go by, which was comfortable for him to do, the Spirit said, “No, dude, go. Go, run. I know it’s gonna be uncomfortable, run.” And so, he ran up and now he heard it. Because listen, obedience creates opportunity, okay? Obedience creates opportunity. Just be obedient to the call of God, especially the call of God to step outside your comfort zone. And you’re gonna find that you have a lot more opportunities than you realized, because God’s always working around you. And he’s creating those opportunities. We don’t see them because we haven’t been obedient. But this man has, Philip has. And so, here’s this man reading from the Book of Isaiah and he thinks, “Huh? Well, maybe this is an opportunity.”
So, he took a next step. He interrupted the man. He said, “Do you understand what you’re reading? Do you understand what you’re reading?” Philip asked. “Well, how can I,” he said, “Unless someone explains it to me?” And so, he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Understand that was outside of Phillip’s comfort zone, too. Man was riding in a chariot. Phillip had probably never been in a chariot. They weren’t that common. It was a little bit like you or I being invited into somebody’s private jet. It was outside his comfort zone. And it was outside of his comfort zone to sit in public, even on a fairly deserted road with an Ethiopian eunuch. It was uncomfortable. But the man said, “Why don’t you come on up?” And I’m sure there was a moment where Phillip went, “Whew, am I ready to do that?” But here’s the thing. Listen, next steps are always easier than first steps, right? Next steps are always easy than the first steps. If he’d woken up that morning and an angel said, “I want you to sit in a chair with an Ethiopian eunuch,” he’d been like, “Oh, I don’t think so.”
But now, because he’s already taken a series of steps, he just has to take one more. And next steps are always easier than first steps. Spiritual momentum actually allows us to end up in a place where we’re willing to step even further outside and to do things that we can’t imagine ourselves doing now. But if we’re obedient, if we keep taking next steps, we’re gonna find that each next step is surprisingly less difficult. And maybe even not as uncomfortable as we expected it to be. So, he says, “Hey, do you understand what you’re reading there?” The guy goes, “How could I? I need somebody to explain it to me.” I mean, talk about an opportunity. He says, “Come up, have a seat, explain it to me.”
And this is the passage of the Scripture the eunuch was reading. “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. And in his humiliation, he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants, for his life was taken from the earth.” And the eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” And then Philip began with that very passage Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
It was a perfect setup. The guy’s reading the Book of Isaiah, which allows Philip to go, “Huh? Well, maybe he’s more interested in a Jewish Messiah than I might have otherwise assumed.” And he’s reading a particular passage, and he reads this passage and he goes, “Hey, who’s this talking about, himself or somebody else?” And the answer is, he’s talking about Jesus. This is what we call a messianic prophecy. It was given to a man named Isaiah several hundred years before Jesus was born. But it spoke in great detail about everything Jesus would do, including, as this passage goes on, in Isaiah 53, as Isaiah 53 good news is on, it also predicts that the Messiah would die as a sin offering. He would die to pay the price of our sin that separates us from God. And it goes on to predict the resurrection.
Everything about that passage is custom-made for him to go, “Yeah, he’s talking about Jesus. Let me tell you how Jesus fulfilled all this.” I mean, it’s an unbelievably good setup. And I read that kind of stuff and I’m like, “Come on, God, that’s just not fair. Like, come on. I need opportunities like that. Like, you give me an opportunity like that, I will step up, I promise.” And, you know, I have friends sometimes that tell me stories about, you know, “I was on a plane and I was sharing my faith and this crazy thing happened.” And I’m like, “Come, on God, I need those opportunities. Give me that opportunity, God.”
And years ago, I began to realize that maybe the reason I don’t have that kind of opportunity is because I’m not being that kind of obedient, especially to God’s call to get outside my comfort zone. And so, I began to go, “Hey, maybe God would give me that kind of opportunity if I were that kind of obedient.” And it might be the case for you, too. Maybe God will give you that kind of opportunity, those unbelievable setups if you’ll just be that kind of obedient, especially to the call of God to get out of your comfort zone and to get a little uncomfortable for Jesus’s sake. It’s an unbelievable setup. So, he explains the good news of Jesus. And as they travel along the road, that they came to a body of water, to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here’s water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. And then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
Let’s make sure we don’t miss what happened here, okay? Philip just baptized the first Gentile into the Christian community, okay? He just baptized the first non-Jewish person as a follower of Jesus. This guy said yes to following Jesus. He said, “I wanna go public with that right now” and Philip got to baptize him. It’s an amazing thing. And, by the way, it’s also the third stage of Jesus’ plan for the church. We talked about this last week, when Jesus called his apostles together after his resurrection, He said, ‘Hey, I want you to go in Jerusalem and wait there in Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit comes. But when the power of the Holy Spirit comes, you’re gonna be my witness in three stages. Number one, you’re gonna be my witnesses there in Jerusalem.” That’s the comfort zone, it’s hometown, right? But then, stage two, is, “You’re gonna share the Gospel in Judea and Samaria, the surrounding regions.” That’s a little bit less comfortable. And then he said, stage three, is, “You’re gonna share the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to the rest of the world.”
Now, last week, we saw Philip take the Gospel to the Judean and Samarians. We saw Philip get to take the Gospel to stage two. Interestingly enough, the reason he was doing that is because the apostles were still back in Jerusalem. Luke very specifically said, “The persecution broke out because the church was there huddled in Jerusalem.” It was a nice holy huddle, but it’s not supposed to be a holy huddle. It’s supposed to be a missional organization. And they were staying there in Jerusalem, and so, persecution broke out and they were scattered. And Luke says, “Everyone was scattered except the apostles who stayed in Jerusalem.” And now, Philip is going beyond Judea and Samaria, he’s sharing with a Ethiopian, a clearly Gentile eunuch, bringing him into the Christian faith. And why is Philip doing it? Why is the table waiter doing it? Where are the apostles? They’re still back in Jerusalem, right smack in the middle of their comfort zone. But Phillip’s not. He shares the Gospel and he says, “Yes.” He gets baptized. And history tells us that he went on back to Ethiopia and he shared his faith, and that was the root of the Ethiopian church, which still exists today. Philip got to be part of that. Why? Because he is willing to step outside of his comfort zones. He baptized this man.
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away. And the eunuch did not see him again, but he went on his way, rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared in Azotus and traveled about preaching the Gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. So, God doesn’t have a miracle. He gives another sign. What’s the point of this sign? It’s an unusual miracle, by the way. I mean, as near as I can tell, you know, Philip just teleported, right? He was there and then he wasn’t, he was somewhere else. And the point of that is that God is saying, “Hey, I’m all over this. This is my will. I’m blessing Philip and his ministry because he’s doing what I’m calling all of my people to do.” And so, the miracles is an affirmation that this is all from God. This is exactly what Jesus wanted for his church all along.
And the reality is, and we got to make sure we don’t miss this, is that when we’re willing to get uncomfortable, God works in and through us in ways we never thought possible. Do you hear me, church? When we’re willing to get uncomfortable, God will work in you and he will work through you in ways that you can’t even imagine right now. But if you’re willing to get uncomfortable and to see God do those things in and through you, you’re gonna be able to look back and go, “I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on that.” I remember years ago, I was traveling from London back to the U.S. and I was in my comfort zone. When I’m on an international flight like that, my comfort zone is headphones on, laptop up open. I don’t like to talk to people, I’m in my comfort zone. I was sitting in the middle seat and there was a woman to my left and a guy to my right, and I was in my comfort zone and a couple hours into the flight and the Holy Spirit began to annoy me. I know that sounds sacrilegious, but that’s how the Holy Spirit often operates in my life, he just annoys me.
And he started doing, “No, man.” He said he, “This little nagging sense that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and have a conversation.” I didn’t really wanna do that, but I eventually took the headphones off and I closed the laptop. I looked at this woman and she looked really mad about something. So, I was like, “I don’t think so.” And looked at this guy next to me, and he was clearly Muslim. And I was like, “Well, he wouldn’t be interested in talking about Jesus or anything like that. ” But there’s just something about him that I found kind of interesting. And so, we started talking, and it was amazing, very quickly, we went really deep. We connected and we’re on the same wavelength in a lot of different ways and we’re going back and forth and we got way beneath the surface really quick. We were going deep. We were talking about Jesus, and the Quran, and the Bible, and things like that. And it was so comfortable that like, at one point, I said to him, he said that he believed something. I was like, “Dude, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Really, you believe that?” And then a little bit later, I said something, he was like, “No, no, no. That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” And we were just having a really good time.
And then somewhere, hours in this conversation, the woman on my left leaned over and she goes, “Can I tell you guys something?” “Sure.” And she goes, “You’re both full of beep.” “Him, right? What…” And then she introduced herself. This is how she introduced herself. She said, “I am an atheist geneticist.” I was like, “I don’t know what to do with that. My name’s Craig. I…” And basically, she started to vomit out all the reasons she thought we were morons for believing in any kind of God. And she kind of threw it all out there. And then she kind of, she ran out of steam and I was like, “Okay, can I talk to Farran now? Because I like Farran.” And I looked over at Farran, and Farran looked at me and he looked at her and he looked back at me and he goes, “Let us get her.” And so, over the next couple hours, this Muslim and I argued with this atheist. And the Muslim and I were on the same team. It was the craziest thing. And, obviously, we didn’t believe the same things. And at certain points after go, “No, no, no. Don’t listen to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” And other times, he’d go, “No, no, do not listen to him. He’s the one who does not know what he’s talking about.”
But we were arguing with this atheist and it was such an incredible experience. And then several hours in, the guy next to this woman and leaned over and he said… And I kid you not, this actually happened. He leaned over and he goes, “Hey, can I just say something?” He goes, “She’s the one who’s full of beep.” And Farran goes, “Yes.” And I don’t know where Farran is spiritually today. We weren’t able to keep up after that. But I know he got to hear the truth of Jesus. And my prayer consistently throughout the years has been God, “Hey, would you water the seeds and maybe got planted in that conversation?” My prayer is that he’s come to find and to follow Jesus. Because for a moment, we had common grounds, that a Muslim and a Christian were arguing with an atheist. That was a powerful moment. And here’s the thing, I would’ve missed it if I kept the headphones on and the laptop open.
Well, here’s the reality. If we want to live unleashed, we have to be willing to get uncomfortable. Do you hear me, church? If you wanna live unleashed, you have to be willing to get uncomfortable. And so, the question I want you to wrestle with is just this, what uncomfortable thing is God calling me to? What uncomfortable thing is God calling you to today? Maybe the uncomfortable thing is to say yes to following Jesus for the first time. Maybe you’ve been circling, saying yes and in committing your life, and your trust, and your faith to Jesus, but for whatever reason, it’s uncomfortable. Maybe you have a family history that makes it uncomfortable or maybe you’ve got friends that make it uncomfortable, or maybe you had a bad church experience that makes it uncomfortable. For whatever reason, you haven’t been willing to step out of your comfort zone and to say yes to following Jesus. Maybe that’s the uncomfortable thing God’s calling you to today. And maybe you need to take that step by just telling us that you’re ready to take that step.
Text the word “Jesus” to 80875. You’re stepping outside the comfort zone. Text “Jesus” to 80875, which is gonna tell us that you wanna follow Jesus. Or maybe you’ve said yes to following Jesus, but you’ve never gone public with it. You’ve never been baptized like this Ethiopian eunuch was willing to do right there in that moment. And so, we got a baptism service coming up a few weeks. Maybe your step outside the comfort zone is to text “baptism” to 80875 and let us know that you’re ready to get a little uncomfortable and be baptized here in public to say that you’re a follower of Jesus, too. Or maybe it’s time to start connecting with others.
At Mission Hills, we really believe that becoming like Jesus and joining our mission happens best up close and over time with other people who can get into our lives and challenge us about our next steps. And that’s uncomfortable. Joining a Life Group, or a women’s group, or a men’s group, or something like that, it’s uncomfortable. But maybe that’s the uncomfortable thing God’s calling you to do, is start connecting with others. Or maybe it’s serving others. Serving others in maybe in our kids’ ministry, or at the greeting team, or maybe at the Life Center where you interact with people that might make you really uncomfortable. And maybe that’s that uncomfortable thing God’s calling you to. Or maybe it’s another thing that followers of Jesus who are on a mission with Jesus do, and that inviting others to find and follow Jesus.
Or maybe there’s somebody that God has brought into your life that doesn’t know Jesus and you’ve been afraid to take that conversation to the next level to invite them to find them follow Jesus, maybe to invite them to come to Easter services coming up here in a few weeks. Or maybe there’s a message in this series that, you know, that that would be perfect for that person that God’s put in my life. Maybe you invite them to come and listen to that message and see what God might do in their lives. Or maybe it’s a sin. Maybe you’ve gotten way too comfortable with something that’s very dysfunctional and you need to deal with that. Maybe there’s an uncomfortable conversation you need to have. What’s the uncomfortable thing God’s calling you to do?
We could take a moment right now to just listen to the voice of the Spirit and respond in faith, and in trust, and in obedience. And it may be that as we’re taking this time, as we’re singing this song, you feel like you need to plant your flag and do something uncomfortable to signal that you’re willing to get uncomfortable for Jesus’s sake. And so, maybe during this song, you need to come down to the front here and just kneel down and pray or talk to one of the prayer people down here. Online, maybe you need to identify yourself and ask for prayer, or just online, say, “Here’s the thing that God’s calling me to do.” Be public about it. I know that’s uncomfortable, but that’s the point. If we wanna live unleashed, we have to be willing to get uncomfortable. Let’s pray over that together. Would you join me?
Jesus, thank you for being so willing to get uncomfortable for our sake. Leaving heaven, coming to earth, that couldn’t have been comfortable. And there’s no question that your death on the cross was extremely uncomfortable. But you were willing to do that. You’re willing to get uncomfortable because of your love for us, and we’re grateful. Lord, we thank you for the example of Philip, who was so willing to step outside of his comfort zones, and because of that, you worked in him and you worked through him in ways we all long to experience. So, Lord, we just confess, confess how easy it is for us to get comfortable and to stay there. And we ask for clarity from your Spirit now about where it is you’re calling us to step over the boundaries of those comfort zones. And we ask for courage from your Spirit to actually take those steps, whatever they look like right now and in this week to come. Lord, move us to discomfort and then move in us and move through us.