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LEAVING OUR COMFORT ZONE –

A SERMON DELIVERED ON MY 75TH BIRTHDAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, April 10, 2016

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21).


I will speak this morning on the subject, “Leaving Our Comfort Zone - A Sermon Delivered on My 75th Birthday.” If you follow Jesus closely you will suffer, at least a little. If you don’t suffer at all it means you are not following Jesus closely. And if you follow Jesus He will lead you out of your comfort zone. By “comfort zone” I mean the place where you feel comfortable and not challenged. A person who is afraid of leaving his comfort zone can never change or meet the challenges of life. A person has to leave his comfort zone to be converted in the first place. After conversion a Christian cannot grow strong and be an overcomer without leaving his comfort zone to meet new challenges. Jesus left His comfort zone many times and so should you and I.

I. First, Christ left His home in Heaven and came to this earth.

He was coequal with God the Father in eternity past. Yet Christ left the comfort of Heaven and came down to earth, to the human race, that knew not who He was. The Bible says,

“He was in the world...and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10, 11).

An old hymn says it very well,

Out of the ivory palaces,
   Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love
   Made my Saviour go.
(“Ivory Palaces” by Henry Barraclough, 1891-1983).

Another old hymn puts words into the mouth of Jesus,

My Father’s house of light, My glory circled throne
   I left for earthly night, For wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee, Hast thou left aught for Me?
   I left, I left it all for thee, Hast thou left aught for Me?
(“I Gave My Life for Thee” by Frances R. Havergal, 1836-1879).

Those songs moved my heart when I was a teenager. I made a deliberate decision to go to Hong Kong as a missionary. I never got there, but God knows I was willing to go and leave my own country behind. I did leave the comfort of a white church and joined a Chinese church where I was the one and only white kid; the only other white man was much older than me. It was a completely different culture but I stayed there teaching Chinese kids, spending many hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, while I worked a full-time job and slaved my way through college at night. By the grace of God I knew I had to leave my comfort zone to be a good Christian.

I left, I left it all for thee, Hast thou left aught for Me?
   I left, I left it all for thee, Hast thou left aught for Me?

I am not a perfect person, but I can say to you this morning that I probably would not be a Christian at all if I had not left my comfort zone to help those young Chinese boys and girls long ago. “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21). Will you leave your comfort zone to help new kids feel at home in our church?

II. Second, Christ came into the world to save sinners.

The Bible says clearly,

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).

Jesus Himself said,

“The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Christ worked hard to win souls. It was the main business of His life. And we are called to make soul winning the main object of our lives. Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Since soul winning was the main work of Christ, it should be our main work as well!

Who’ll go and help this Shepherd kind,
   Help Him the wandering ones to find?
Who’ll bring the lost ones to the fold,
   Where they’ll be sheltered from the cold?
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.
(“Bring Them In” by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).

Notice that there is not one word in the song about passing out tracts! Notice that there is not a word about bringing in names and phone numbers! Not one word! The theme of the hymn is in the second stanza, “Who’ll bring the lost ones to the fold, Where they’ll be sheltered from the cold?” Soul winning requires you to give up your comfort zone and really make a difference in a new kid’s life! Will you do it? It isn’t easy to pull yourself away from your friends to help a new kid come in, and be part of our church family. But that is what Jesus requires from you. Pull away from your comfort zone and do it – like Jesus did! The “machinery” of the church never brings anyone in to stay. You have to get involved with them and bring them into the church family!

I gave you a photograph of our church when it was only 7 years old. Many were surprised to see about 1,200 people. We went from one person (me) to 1,200 in only seven years! We worked all day Saturday to get visitors. My wife was on the phone from 10:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night – every Saturday! Then I would bring her some fried chicken and someone would take her home. Then she sat down for another two hours and translated the sermon into Spanish. She wasn’t the only one doing all that stuff. Many people were. But it didn’t work. The church fell apart. Why? For two reasons. First, we were “decisionists” back then. We gave them the Billy Graham booklet, “Steps to Peace with God.” We had them recite the “sinner’s prayer” at the end of the booklet. That was it. A few people were converted, like Judith Cagan, Dr. Chan, Melissa Sanders, and Mrs. Salazar. But very few of the others experienced salvation in Christ. The second reason was because we had bad leadership. The “leaders” wanted to be lazy and expected the people to come in without any help. I sometimes see that problem now as well. Some of our young people want to pray for the new kids without getting involved in their lives. They want to have a little group of old friends to talk to – while they turn their backs on the new people. They don’t want to bring a new person into their little circle. I do not see any difference between that and what the lazy leaders did in the photo I gave you last night! It won’t work! You can pray for revival until the snow is all gone from Mount Kilimanjaro – but there will not be any revival – none! No matter how hard we pray. If everybody is looking out for himself – and nobody is willing to follow Jesus – there will never be a revival here. Brian H. Edwards said, “The men God uses in revival were always men who...had a fear of being disobedient” (Revival: A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 1991, p. 65). “There is no revival without deep, uncomfortable and humbling conviction of sin [beginning with] Christians,” he said. We must see young Christians follow the example of Jesus, “Who in the days of his flesh...offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears...and was heard in that he feared” (Hebrews 5:7). But you can’t really pray for new people if you don’t even know their names! You have to leave your comfort zone and get involved in their lives.

“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21).

Jesus was always involved with new people. Follow His example!

III. Third, Christ demands absolute surrender and complete obedience.

Jesus said, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Dr. John R. Rice said of that verse, “You may be a child of God without suffering for Him, without forsaking things for Him. But you cannot be His disciple...you cannot walk in His footsteps, you cannot follow Him truly, except by forsaking all and going outside the gate [with] Him” (What It Costs to Be a Good Christian, p. 66).

Dr. Rice is one of my heroes. I didn’t know anything about him until I went to graduate school at the seminary. At the liberal seminary they hated Dr. Rice – yes, they literally hated him! I thought he must be nuts – real weird – from what those Southern Baptist professors said. Then somebody gave me Dr. Rice’s biography, called “Man Sent From God,” by Dr. Robert L. Sumner. I sat down to read it one evening. I stayed up all night and read that whole book from cover to cover! Dr. Rice did exactly what he said. He literally forsook all and went outside the gate with Jesus. God used him to get thousands of people saved because he left his comfort zone.

In my third year at the seminary, I was approached after class by Dr. Green, the professor of preaching. He warned me to stop correcting the professors who attacked the Bible. He said, “Hymers, you are a good preacher. You will get a fine church and have a good life, but you are getting a bad reputation as a trouble-maker. If you don’t stop making trouble you’ll never get a church.” I said, “If that’s what it costs I don’t want one!”

They used every dirty trick in the book to smear me and ruin my reputation. But I started my own church in Marin County – and forty churches have come out of it – all over the world! That happened because I left my comfort zone!

I had a pretty Chinese girlfriend when I was up there at the seminary. She was the first girlfriend I ever had, because I lived like a monk when I was in college all those years. Her mother found a letter I wrote her and kicked her out of the house because I was a white man. I called Dr. Timothy Lin and he sent someone to take her home. But Dr. Lin told me I couldn’t come back for about two years. I was still a member of the Chinese Church, but I couldn’t come back yet. I remained a member there for many years after this event. A couple of years later Dr. Lin started asking me to preach each year in evangelistic meetings there. Still later, when he was in his nineties, I became a close friend of Dr. Lin. I’ve never told about that girl in a sermon before, only sometimes in private conversation. It’s OK to tell it now that more than forty years have passed. There I was alone, up near San Francisco, in that horrible, cold, liberal seminary. I walked the streets at night – alone. I hadn’t done anything wrong! Nothing wrong! It was just a sweet letter to a girl who liked me, after she drove up to see me at the seminary. I didn’t speak with her again for over forty years. Then she smiled and said, “It’s OK, Bob,” which made me feel better about it. But there I was on those lonely, dark streets in Mill Valley. I had lost the girl and all my friends back in Los Angeles. I was crushed. I walked alone at night like a dead man. The poet Robert Frost said,

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
   (“Acquainted With the Night” by Robert Frost, 1874-1963).

I brought a piece of driftwood back to my room one night. I picked it up by the seashore near the seminary. I have kept it on a shelf in my home office to remind me of that cold and lonely time when I left my comfort zone again. It was a major turning point in my life, when I left the comfortable old way and became a stronger man for Jesus Christ!

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21).

There are other stories I could tell you. When you’re 75 years old you can remember lots of things; almost a story for every situation. I could tell you about the time a Chinese deacon screamed at me, and I lost several million dollars. True story! I could tell you about the night I came down from my office in the Hollywood bookstore and saw a stunningly beautiful girl from Guatemala – and I took her out for a cup of coffee the very night I met her. Even though she spoke very little English, and I spoke only a few words in Spanish, and she was 22 years younger than me – I left my comfort zone and asked her to marry me – not the first night, but later I asked her to marry me and she said “no” – the first time I asked her. Later she said “yes” and I breathed a sigh of relief! We have been married for almost thirty-four years. I’m glad I left my comfort zone for Ileana, my wonderful wife!

Or I could tell you how I started a second church – this church – in my apartment, at that time located on the southwest corner of Westwood and Wilshire Blvds. And I could tell you how that tiny church grew in only seven years to 1,200 people in attendance. And then we lost most of them. But this time we will do it right! You will have to wait for another sermon to hear those other stories. It’s enough to say this morning that “I have been acquainted with the night.” And if you get angry with me, and I lose you, I will try to make sure that no one sees me crying, for I have always hated to lose a friend like you!

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21).

Jesus was a strong man, but He often wept over sinners. Please sing the last song on your song sheet.

Though the way seems straight and narrow,
   All I claimed was swept away;
My ambitions, plans and wishes,
   At my feet in ashes lay.

Then God’s fire upon the altar
   Of my heart was set aflame;
I shall never cease to praise Him,
   Glory, glory to His Name!

I will praise Him! I will praise Him!
   Praise the Lamb for sinners slain;
Give Him glory, all ye people,
   For His blood can wash away each stain.
(“I Will Praise Him” by Margaret J. Harris, 1865-1919).

Jesus shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin. He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. He is now in Heaven at the right hand of God. I pray that you will trust Jesus and be saved from sin and judgment by Him this morning! Dr. Cagan and John Cagan will go to the back of the room now. If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please follow them to the back of the auditorium. Amen.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme:
Dr. Hymers’ favorite Psalm, Psalm 27:1-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“If I Gained the World” (by Anna Olander, 1861-1939).


THE OUTLINE OF

LEAVING OUR COMFORT ZONE –

A SERMON DELIVERED ON MY 75TH BIRTHDAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21).

I.   First, Christ left His home in Heaven and came to this earth,
John 1:10, 11.

II.  Second, Christ came into the world to save sinners,
I Timothy 1:15; Luke 19:10; Matthew 4:19; Hebrews 5:7.

III. Third, Christ demands absolute surrender and complete
obedience, Luke 14:33.