It’s good to be uncomfortable

When I was a little kid (8 or 9 years old), I took piano lessons. My mom is a really accomplished musician, and she wanted me and my brother to be comfortable with music. I liked piano, and I was pretty good at it, but I lacked the discipline to really practice, which is what eventually led me away from music as a potential career. But during the years that I played, my mom always set up a series of recitals for us.

I hated recitals. I hated getting up in front of people. I hated knowing that people were watching me. I hated the possibility that I would make a mistake and look like a fool. But my mom insisted that I do them, even though I hated them, because it was good for me. If I had never gotten up in front of people, I would have missed out on some really important lessons that I’ve needed in life. I needed to know how to present myself to people. I needed to know how to be professional in front of an audience.

Honestly, I needed it more than I ever could have imagined. This coming Saturday, I’ll be up in front of a crowd reading from my latest novel. Believe me, I’ll be drawing on some of the things I learned during those dreaded piano recitals.

I didn’t like them. They were the last thing on earth that I wanted to do. But I needed them, because if I’d stayed comfortable in my little introverted shell, I would never have learned what I needed to know.

4K2VPPOSR1Today’s verse is Joshua 1:9.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

I think this may be a verse I’ve said to myself more than any other verse. I put myself in these uncomfortable situations, and while it’s important for me to be there, I don’t want to be there. I’m scared. I feel inadequate. I feel like anyone else would be better suited to the job than me. But it isn’t anyone else there. It’s me.

God has specific things for me to do, and He wants me to be courageous in how I do them. That means pressing forward when I don’t know how to do something. That means having enough humility to ask for help when I’m stumped. That means trusting other people to know the right decision when I don’t.

Fear keeps me rooted in place, and that’s not the life God has for me. Insecurity keeps me silent when God is telling me to speak up. That isn’t what God has called me to. I’m supposed to live victoriously. I’m a conqueror. More than a conqueror, the Bible says. So what am I doing cowering in the corner when God’s already won the battle for me?

I can’t go far enough away to escape God, even if I wanted to. He’s always with me, so why do I insist on being afraid? My silly fallen nature, I guess.

So what is it that God wants to teach you? Everyone has something. We all have a lesson we’re in the middle of learning, and take it from someone who knows, most lessons aren’t fun. Most lessons mean you have to get uncomfortable, and we live in a world that tells us to get comfortable. Our culture tells us to find where we are happy and stay there and never push the edges and never challenge the status quo. And that kind of living is fine if you want to stay the way you are. But I don’t.

I want to grow. I want to know God better, deeper, more than I did yesterday, and I can’t do that by standing still. My faith can’t grow if I don’t challenge it, and I can’t challenge my faith by only doing the things I’m comfortable doing.

So I’m going to get uncomfortable. How about you?

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Pear growing on the tree - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Asking for better fruit

Summer is hot. Yes, that’s probably a complaint, but I’m not a hot weather type of person. And this weather has been remarkably uncomfortable. Better than last year, I’ll admit because it’s a bit drier. But still — not much fun.

Something about the heat just makes me feel generally unproductive. All I really want to do is stretch out with a cold iced tea and write a book. But it’s rare for life to accommodate.

Pear growing on the tree - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Pear growing on the tree – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Colossians 1:10.

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

Producing Fruit is one of those phrases that gets used in the church and in religious circles a lot. It used to kind of creep me out when I was little because I couldn’t put the concept of a tree growing fruit on its branches out of my mind, and I think some part of me expected that doing things for God might make apples pop out of my fingers.

But producing fruit for God is more like helping other people come to know Him. Other than bringing praise to God and glorifying Him with our lives, that’s why we’re here. I think Christians forget that sometimes. We need to be telling as many people as we can about who God is and about what He’s done in our lives. Is it up to us if they choose not to believe? No. But it’s our responsibility to tell them.

Another way to produce fruit for God is to encourage other believers. Life is hard, like summers are long, and it’s easy to get discouraged. And if you, as a Christian, can help another Christian to persevere through a difficult season or to get back on the road after they’ve fallen off, that is an accomplishment that will bring glory to God.

This verse is interesting to me, though, because it sounds very much like a process. First, we have to live in a way that will always honor and please the Lord. And as we live that way, our lives will produce every kind of good fruit (not just one kind).

So how do we know how to live in a way that will honor and please the Lord?

Well, notice how this verse starts with the word then? That indicates that this verse follows a statement and that it’s not a standalone verse but a summary of something that’s already been said. So what do the rest of the verses in this chapter say?

This passage comes from Colossians 1:3-14, which is the first chapter in a letter Paul wrote to the Church at Colossi. Like the rest of the epistles, it opens with Paul introducing himself. But in this case, it also identifies who first told the Church about God (a man named Epaphras (Col 1:7). And it’s fascinating to me that Paul tells the Church at Colossi that he has been praying for them constantly (Col 1:9). Ever since he heard about them, Paul started praying for them, and according to the Amplified translation, he hadn’t “ceased to pray and make special requests” for them.

What was he asking?

…[asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things —

That’s from the Amplified Version. Here it is in NLT:

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, …

Complete knowledge of his will and spiritual wisdom and understanding — that’s what we need to have if we’re going to live lives that honor and please God. Sounds like a tall order to me. How do you get those?

Well, I suggest doing what Paul did. Ask for them.

Because if you can obtain an understanding of God’s will and an understanding of God’s wisdom, knowing how to live in a way that pleases God will be second nature to you. And if living to please God is second nature, producing fruit for God will be effortless.

And there’s a bonus: you won’t just produce fruit; you will continue to grow as a person, as a believer. And the more you grow, the better you’ll get to know God.

Colossians 1:13-14 (The Message)

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.