It was cold up in the mountains on that Wednesday evening. Even though Ecuador is located on the equator, when you are at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, the temperature at night is about forty degrees. The Qechua church had no heating system — the people arrived from the fields wrapped in their familiar wool blankets. The seats were simple wooden benches on a hard tile floor; there were no cushions or pew racks. The sound system was also primitive — one microphone, one old distorted keyboard, and one very large speaker in the corner. If this church were located in the United States, you would expect it to be in one of our most impoverished communities.
Yet the people were so thankful, so open, so content. Their church was just over twenty years old, born out of the fires of persecution, and strong in their love for the truth. They numbered almost two hundred on Sundays, but on this Wednesday evening at 9:00 pm, about sixty or seventy were in attendance. And though they had little, smiles were abundant, especially as they sang and prayed and listened as I preached the Word. It was one of the greatest experiences I have had in ministry.
Going to the mission field is a truly sanctifying exercise, particularly in the way it confronts our American sensibilities. There are certain things we have come to expect in life, and particularly in worship. We expect the most comfortable, peaceful environment, complete with cushioned chairs, beautiful instrumentation, aesthetic lighting, and a professional presentation. If the air conditioning or heating system is broken, then we might not even attend. We value comfort over simplicity, and having those comforts is as important as the worship itself. That is why it is so good for our spiritual growth to see how other cultures experience Christ. It gives you perspective. It helps you to see how “small” and self-focused we can be.
Please hear me correctly — I appreciate air conditioning and comfortable seats and appealing music as well as anyone. Those things are not sinful in and of themselves; rather, they are blessings. However, those blessings can also become idols if we do not maintain proper perspective and priorities. Our comforts can consume us and strangle us spiritually, sometimes without us even realizing it. And it doesn’t just happen at church, it happens in our homes as well. Our love of “things” can choke us, starve our souls, and diminish our affection for Christ.
There are three great remedies for the love of comfort. First, the study of Scripture and an active prayer life feeds the soul with truth and leads us to God’s presence. It gives us proper perspective, leading us away from a sense of entitlement to the expression of sincere thankfulness for all that God has provided. Secondly, service is a great remedy. True service forces you to place the needs of others before oneself. Done correctly, it takes us out of our “comfort zones” and challenges us to see others as God sees them, to focus on spiritual priorities rather than temporal ones, to invest in kingdom growth rather than our own temporal happiness.
Thirdly, the discipline of generous giving is a poignant remedy for the love of comfort. We have become addicted to comfort here in America because we are the wealthiest nation on earth. Even those among us who have the most modest incomes are still among the top 2% of the world’s wealthiest people. God has given us so much, and rather than turning around and being generous as He is generous, we have hoarded His gifts and squandered much on our personal comforts.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 reminds us, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.”
What will the day of judgement reveal about what you have built? How can you guard yourself from the idolatries of comfort that are afforded through wealth? In what ways can you give cheerfully and sacrificially for the glory of Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom? Regular, disciplined giving to the church is the starting point. This weekend’s global missions offering is another amazing opportunity. How is God leading you?