By Pastor Glenn Pease
It was 1847, and St. Paul, Minnesota was a town filled with ignorance and drunkenness.
Liquor was sold in every store.
Half the parents could not read, and so drinking was about their only form of entertainment.
It was typical of frontier towns, and no one even dreamed of trying to make a difference.
Then Harriet Bishop came along at age 13.
She was converted to Christ and baptized as the youngest member of her Baptist church in Vermont.
She read about missionaries and became determined to get an education to be one.
She went off to Albany, New York to a Christian school for training teachers.
A pioneer missionary in St. Paul wrote a letter to that school telling of the desperate need for a godly teacher for the children.
He painted no pretty picture, but warned of the sacrifice, risks, and obstacles.
No one wanted the task except Harriet.
She felt she was most needed there than anywhere else on earth.
She accepted the call to be a missionary to Minnesota.
Her call was confirmed by the special providence of God in her life.
She did not want to travel on the Sabbath, and so she stayed over in Palmyra, New York instead of taking the ship Chesapeake that day.
The ship went down in Lake Erie, and all the passengers were lost.
She finally made it to St. Paul.
The last 9 miles was in a canoe paddled by two Indian women.
Her first school house was a mud plastered log hovel.
It was formerly a black smith shop on the corner of 3rd and St. Peter.
Two weeks after her arrival she began the first Sunday School in town, and it became the foundation for the First Baptist Church of St. Paul.
By the third Sunday there were 25 people.
She started the fight for temperance to release the community from the bondage to alcohol.
She took a lot of flack from the men, but she was supported by the women.
She said, "To women is entrusted the future destiny of Minnesota."
In 1867 she helped organize the Ladies Christian Union which helped the poor and homeless.
Like so many loving people she lacked good judgment for her choice of mates.
Her first fiancé was a lawyer, and he broke the engagement just before the wedding.
Seven years later she married a harness maker, and he was a drunkard.
He was abusive, and after 9 years she divorced.
Unhappy in love, but she still made a major difference in other lives as the founder of the first public school and first Sunday School in St. Paul.
She broke out of her comfort zone in the East to be used of God in the West.
Almost everything in God's plan calls for breaking out of a comfort zone and taking some risk.
God called Abraham from the center of a great civilization to go out to a land he knew nothing about.
He gave up his security and comfort and headed West, and that was the beginning of the people of God.
Very little can happen for positive change if people stay in their comfort zone.
When Jesus said to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow Him He was saying in essence that we need to break out of our comfort zone to be useful for the kingdom of God.
That is what Jesus was saying to the rich young ruler.
He was basically a good guy.
He was raised from childhood to be obedient to the commandments of God.
He grew up to be a very successful Jew.
He was both rich and a ruler, and so he had achieved two of the most frequent dreams of men, which is the dream of having power and possessions.
Yet for some reason he was not content, and he had some doubt about his relationship to God.
His religion was obviously just mechanical and legalistic.
He kept the commandments out of a sense of duty, and it was a mere matter of habit.
He did not feel that he had a personal relationship with God, and so he had no assurance of eternal life.
Jesus knew he was typical of the many in Israel who had developed a mere legalistic religion where the kept a lot of rules and cared little to nothing about the needs to be met in a fallen world.
They were religious and wealthy.
They had the good life and they were content.
Jesus shocked this young ruler by saying you lack one thing.
He told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor, and then follow Him.
Jesus never said this to any other person.
Other rich people became His disciples, and He never told them to sell all and give it to the poor.
You have Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, and others including some of his chosen 12. Peter and Andrew, and James and John had a substantial fishing company with hired hands, but Jesus did not tell them to sell it all.
The point is that Jesus is using this rich young ruler to teach a major lesson.
The truly committed person is one who is willing to break out of a comfort zone for the sake of the kingdom.
If you are content to stay stuck in the comfort zone, you are not available to be used to fulfill God's dream for you.
He goes on to say to Peter that those who have left loved ones and possessions for the kingdom of God will be greatly rewarded, for giving up of comfort is a key sign that reveals that a person is really serious about the dream God has for them.
No pain-no gain is a biblical truth.
Almost every beneficial change in the history of mankind demanded that someone break out of a comfort zone.
A hurting world is seldom helped by comfortable people.
It is people who are willing to suffer hurt who help the hurting.
Jesus was comfortable in heaven.
He was rich beyond anything we can conceive, but He became poor for our sake.
He gave up perpetual pleasure and took on the persistent pain of a real human life.
It was a life of rejection and then crucifixion.
Had Jesus gotten stuck in His comfort zone there would be no plan of salvation, and we would face eternal condemnation rather than eternal comfort.
We own everything to the fact that Jesus broke out of His comfort zone.
If you look at the history of every miserable situation and the people who changed it, you will see the same pattern.
Somebody has to break free and pay the price of sacrificing their own comfort.
For example, take the life of Sara Josephine Baker.
She was born in 1873 to a well to do lawyer in New York.
Her mother was one of the first to inter Vasser's new college for women.
They were rich, educated, and sophisticated.
Sara became a female doctor when it was very rare.
In 1902 she was offered the job of seeking out sick babies in New York for the health department.
Believe it or not, in 1902 there were 1500 babies that died every week in New York City.
Dr. Baker climbed stairway after stairway where she saw drunk and filthy mothers with dying babies.
She came to the conclusion that these babies were better off dead than to have so degrading a life.
The whole medical community was fatalistic.
It was inevitable that these babies would die, and nothing could change it.
By the time doctors saw these babies it was too late to save them.
Dr. Baker fell into the comfort zone of accepting the inevitable.
But then in 1907 The Bureau Of Municipal Research asked Dr. Baker to help find the reason for New York's high death rate.
She learned that one fifth of them died before they were one, and one third died before they were five.
It was obvious that the only solution would be prevention of the sicknesses that killed them.
The Bureau made a new division for prevention, and made Dr. Baker the chief of this division.
She chose to experiment in the Lower East Side populated by Italians newly arrived in New York.
It had one of the highest infant death rates.
She used all of the city school nurses who were off for the summer to go and teach parents of all the newborns the principles of child hygiene.
At the end of the summer there were 1200 fewer deaths than the summer before, and all other areas of the city had as many deaths as ever.
All of the medical skeptics were convinced that it was not inevitable that masses of babies die each summer.
35 year old Sara Baker became the head of the first government bureau in the world concerned with child hygiene.
She was the first person to act on the idea that preventative medicine was a function of government.
She had enormous battles with the medical profession, the New York City school board, the psychologist, and basically all professional people.
Nevertheless she pressed on, and her programs saved tens of thousands of babies.
The paradox is that it was among the poor that the death rate was drastically reduced.
She was never able to achieve this reduction among the wealthy because they refused to believe her.
In pride they had to see their babies die at a greater rate than was the case among the poor.