Imagine, you’re about to go a long journey. You’ve known about the trip for months, maybe even years now and you’ve been preparing ever since.You have the finances for the trip and your bags packed. You’ve told all the people you need to tell goodbye, so you’re off. You begin your journey and a couple days in, you realize that though it looks like you got everything checked off on your list, down at the bottom one thing is left unchecked; you failed to prepare spiritually. Last week, we published an article about the deep desire we have to go out and do the Lord’s work. Whether it be missions, becoming a pastor in a church or a leader in ministry, we have such an eager heart to go that we never rest in the reality that God wanted to prepare not only the resources, but our spiritual life in order to be ready for the journey ahead.
In the Christian life, about 80% of our walk is about the preparation and growing stages in our life, while the other 20% is the application of what we’ve learned (don’t quote me on this). However, we love to run and be “ready” for the 20% while we’ve only cultivated about 30% of the process. God calls us to embrace the process so much more because it’s during this time that we’ll learn, growth, be challenged, and become what we need to be when it’s time to pursue our purpose.
So cheers to the process.
Is Your Heart Prepared?
Before we can even be ready for the journey ahead of us, we have to make sure that our hearts are prepared for what God is going to do. Jesus dropped one of his famous parables, which of course no one understood at the time, but said:
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
While God is preparing and ripening us for the harvest, He plants little seeds of faith along the journey in efforts to grow and strengthen our spiritual life to grow and to learn His heart. Although when we are in the process, things aren’t always easy. We face trials of many kind. If we’re not careful, our hearts can become hardened to what God wants to do. As Jesus mentions, the soil in which He is sowing into is our hearts, and often times when we are not careful, and we let the things we face during the process distract us, the Word that God is trying to get into our hearts are choked up or tossed away in the wind.
How is your heart? Are you focused on ensuring it is “good soil?” Making sure that you are taking heed to the Word and allowing it to flourish in your life? In other words, when a trial comes, do you run to God to seek peace or do you go to complaining about life? When a circumstance doesn’t look like how YOU wanted it do, do you run and hide in our own coping mechanisms, or do you chose to trust in God. In the process, your heart is the most important part of the process because that is where God’s Words for encouragement, peace, faith, and wisdom are all stored, but if you are constantly being tossed to and fro by the circumstances of life, your heart will never truly be ready to be “good soil.” Just as a farmer cultivates his land for the sowing season, you must also cultivate and prepare your heart for what God is going to bring to you.
Which leads me to my next point….
Are You Ready to Be Challenged?
Have you ever prayed an OC prayer and thought, “Dang, it’s about to get real?”
We so often pray things like “God use me for your glory,” “My life is not my own, I will do anything and everything for your kingdom” or “God, I’m ready; mold me into the person you’ve called me to be.” You know God is faithful to answer our prayers right? And that you just literally asked the most realest, challenging prayers of all.
I just want to say one thing: GET READY.
Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Oh wait….I’m not done..
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Wait, one more….
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
1 Peter 4:12-14
I promise I’m not trying to scare you, but what I want you to do is look back at these verses. We’ve all seen them before, but we do not really grasp what it actually means. Paul and Peter were writing these letters in chains in jail about to be killed for the name of Christ. In this process of God cultivating and preparing us for our purpose, God is ensuring that our faith to be made strong because contrary to what the world and some bible teachers tell us, there is no question that we will go through trials of various kinds. Whether you are rejected by your family members, fired from your job, or persecuted for the sake of Christ, this is no small thing. God wants to prepare us for the reckless, boundless faith that comes in serving Him so He takes His time to prepare us because, as mentioned, things will get hard. But the beautiful thing about these verses is that in the same breathe, each of them speak of the glory that is to come. No, our trials will not last forever because on the other side, we will reap eternal rewards, like peace, joy, strength, character, and perseverance. Those are the rewards and fruit that we need in order to be prepared for the journey ahead and no one knew this more than Christ. He spent His whole life preparing for the cross and He still asked God to take away His own purpose, so how much more will we need ensure we are ready for what is to come?
Do not get me wrong, God loves when we pray those powerful prayers because it means that we are completely willing to forsake ourselves and live for Him, but He also does not want to sell you a dream. You will be rejected by others, you will face spiritual hardships, and you will feel the pressure from others. Jesus says:
Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
The life we are called to live is not an easy one, but the surpassing joy that comes in following the will of God is irreplaceable. So yes, it will be hard, but it will be completely worth it.
Are You Connected?
I am the true vine…..Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
John 15: 1-4
As we live in the process of growing, being prepared for our destiny and more, Jesus practically calls us ineffective without him. Sometimes in the making, we become so wrapped up in the different things that are happening, especially the trials, that we begin to think it’s by our own works and deeds that we will reach the end. As seen in John 15, it says we cannot bear any fruit unless we abide in Him. The fruits that we bear in the process, the small moments, the moments that we encounter victories it is only possible if and when we stay connected to Christ’s calling for our lives. You already know what it looks like when we try to do things on our own, and the bible tells us stories all the. Sarai was impatient and had her husband sleep with a whole other woman (ladies how many of you would even think “oh heck no,”), the Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness when they were only meant to spend two weeks, and Peter took his eyes off of Christ during the storm and almost drowned.
What do all these stories have in common? They all left the presence of God and began to rely on their own works and they ended up failing and completely deterring their destiny because they did not abide in the vision that God set before them. In verse 5, Jesus says:
“For apart from me you can do nothing”
You thought He was kidding? Think back to all the times when you tried to do things apart from God. How did that go?......exactly. God is the one who creates the vision for us and leads us to the blessing, but when we take the process into our own hands, we’re saying, “God thanks for the vision, but I got it from here.” Then we go, mess up, and then run back to Him. Let me save you the trouble by saying, trust Him because He’s a trustworthy God and He’s proven Himself to be before. Remember when He saved you? That’s a big one, but remember,
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
When people hear the word “process,” we never really think about all that is about to come or what it entails and often we flee from being in that season. We just know that it takes a long time and that at the end of it, something is produced, but I want to encourage you to embrace the process. Feel every moment of excitement, triumph in your victories, and the things you learn as well as the hard trials, the moments of doubt, and the times you could do nothing but lean on God. Those moments, the good and the bad, is the “stuff” we rarely think about but are the things we actually need in order to fulfill the purpose, calling, or next season that God has called you to. Wherever you are in the process, I want to encourage you that God sees you, is with you, and is working all things your for your good. Remember this:
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-9