As we continue our study in the Story Bible, we come to the episode where the children of Israel once again started complaining. God was supplying the children of Israel with Manna in the mornings, and Quail each evening. However, the people were upset that they weren’t getting meat. On top of their complaints, the Israelites were also becoming nostalgic about their captivity in Egypt. They imagined that the Egyptians were providing them free food. This is what we will refer to as an imaginary comfort zone. They imagined that their slavery was somehow comfortable. Numbers 11:4-6(NIV)
‘Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”
This scripture passage exposes a problem with our comfort zones. Comfort zones are not reality. We use our comfort zones in an attempt to escape reality rather than embrace God’s protection and provision. In the scripture passage, the children of Israel chose to live in ungratefulness instead of praying for God’s direction.
In the story, we see God’s judgement on the complainers. Numbers 11:31-33 (NLT) “Now the Lord sent a wind that brought quail from the sea and let them fall all around the camp. For miles in every direction there were quail flying about three feet above the ground. So, the people went out and caught quail all that day and throughout the night and all the next day, too. No one gathered less than fifty bushels! They spread the quail all around the camp to dry. But while they were gorging themselves on the meat—while it was still in their mouths—the anger of the Lord blazed against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.”
The lesson is clear. How many times have we brought God our complaints and doubts? Let us live outside our comfort zones, always trusting the Lord with our lives and with the lives of our families. Comfort zones also keep us from seeing God’s possibility. We rob ourselves of potential blessings by not trusting God. We serve a big God who is full of possibility.
In more recent times, we see examples of God moving us outside of our comfort zones. In preparation for the Aretha Franklin movie “Respect”, CBS “Sunday Morning” interviewed Jennifer Hudson at the “Fame” recording studio in Muscle Shoals, AL where Aretha Franklin recorded her breakthrough hit “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”. Aretha traveled to Muscle Shoals in 1967 to record the song.
Two of the studio musicians: Spooner Oldham (the organ player), and David Hood (the bass player), told CBS that Aretha didn’t quite know what to think of the studio musicians who were all white. For their part, Oldham and Hood were not impressed with the written version song Aretha was scheduled to record. However, when Aretha sat down at the gold Apollo grand piano, it happened. Aretha started singing, and as David Hood put it “Spoonies’ got it”, referring to the Spooner’s now famous organ accompaniment.
Aretha and the “Swampers”, (as the Fame studio musicians were nicknamed), discovered that leaving the comfort zone was the key to changing themselves and changing the music world. After this song, these musicians went on to collaborate with Aretha on several more projects, including the hit song “Respect”.
We will never grow as long as we keep doing the same comfortable things over and over. As John C. Maxwell put it “Life begins at the end of our comfort zone”. But John Maxwell goes on to say “And you get there by stretching”. What do you mean by stretching? Stretching means that you need to take positive action to move beyond where you are. Here’s how we can stretch:
(1) Trust God with your life. If you have never prayed for God to come into your heart, now is a great time to invite Him in. You can say this: God, I trust you with my whole life, I trust you to forgive me, and I trust you with my family and my career. Revelation 3:20(NIV) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.
(2) Let God renew your mind. We need to reprogram out minds to recognize God’s opportunity. This is what we will call God’s “Open Door” detector. In this story, we see that God had placed the children of Israel right outside the promised land. In the promised land there was plenty of food, and meat, and fruit, but the children of Israel had to change their hearts and their outlook in order to recognize and be prepared for God’s opportunity. Romans 12:2(NIV) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We need to stretch our minds to recognize what God has given us. This means we exchange our complaining for praising. Living in gratitude is the key to opening the door of God’s opportunity.
(3) Live in Fellowship. The Bible passage, and Aretha Franklin’s life teach us that in order to avoid living in a rut, we have to live in fellowship. We have to seek out like-minded people that will encourage us. We need each other. Proverbs 27:17(NKJV) Iron sharpeneth iron; So, a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
During the recent 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, there were two U.S. athletes who competed in the Women’s 400m hurdles: Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin. They have been competing for several years and McLaughlin describe their relationship as “I just say iron sharpens iron. It’s two people pushing each other to be their best…”.
We need to encourage each other to keep stretching, and to keep running. As our friend and late mother,Helen, would say. “Keep running for the Lord”.
We love you
Pastors Willie and Rochelle McIntosh
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