Trusting God to develop character.
Lately I’ve been having a hard time with the journey that Jesus has me on. Sometimes it seems so much harder than is really necessary. Why do I keep having to make such hard choices? Why is it taking such a long time for me to find healing from my past? Why am I often so uncomfortable? I recognize that I’m going through a season of discipline, a fairly long season in my opinion, and I understand (having recently read Hebrews 12) that by disciplining me, God is treating me like a daughter. Great! But how about a season of joy, life, and fluffy bunnies popping up in untouched, flower-strewn meadows for a change? Surely God’s daughters get to be simply happy and content sometimes? Why this endless, stretching, groaning, inch-by-inch battle? I really could settle for having a little less character and a little more fun.
“The vision He has is of someone incredible.”
But God won’t settle. That’s the thing. And I’m beginning to see why. My problem is that I’m unable to see the big picture. I’m incapable of fully understanding the work that Jesus is doing in me. I can’t see the end point, the finished person that He is in the middle of creating, so the urgency of this continual, uncomfortable process of refinement doesn’t make sense. I’m imagining a slightly better version of me, and hoping we get there soon so that I can have some breathing space. But that isn’t actually the deal I made when I first gave my life over to Jesus. The vision He has is of someone incredible. A piece of heaven on earth. A Sarah-shaped version of Himself. I don’t understand who I am to become.
Something amazing happened inside me when I gave my life to Jesus. In Romans 8 we are given a window into what took place:
“But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”(Romans 8:10-11 NIV)
So, with the most Holy God living inside of me, rather unsurprisingly, my old self didn’t survive long. In fact, it was dead from the moment I was saved. I now have a different kind of life, a life sustained by the Holy Spirit because of the righteousness of Jesus. But the story doesn’t end there:
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13 NIV)
“Once we are of an age to determine our own destiny, life is always challenging.”
It turns out I have a responsibility, an obligation, and I also have a choice. Now that Jesus lives inside me, He is constantly calling me further up and further in, getting rid of the old, cultivating the new, enthusiastically pointing out the way I should go at every fork in the road. Now that the Spirit lives inside me, I can choose life! The way is prepared for me. The journey is already laid out ahead of me. I have Someone perfectly, faultlessly trustworthy to follow, and the life He is leading me to is beyond any hope or expectation I could ever have. But it is still my choice which way I go. I can choose to either follow His lead, or instead go back to the life I used to know. This process isn’t automatic or magic, the choices can be hard, and the results are guaranteed either way. Paul makes a similar point to the Galatians:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7-9 NIV)
Haven’t we all discovered this for ourselves? I really don’t enjoy the results of my poor choices. I’ve also begun to realize that, once we are of an age to determine our own destiny, life is always challenging. It is either difficult because of the wrong choices we make and the chaos we reap from them, or because of the discipline we have to go through in order to make the right choices. But I have to keep going, because God will not allow me to hold onto anything with the flavor of that old, lost, dead person. He has the blueprints to the most ambitious design for Sarah ever conceived, and day by day, choice by choice, he is bringing her to life.
Having given the both the Romans and the Galatians something to think about, Paul was thoughtful enough not to leave out those fortunate Corinthians. What follows makes uncomfortable reading:
“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! …
But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-3, 6-7 NIV)
“If we could just catch a glimpse of the master plan, of the life we are destined for and the people we have been called to be, then surely we would have the courage for one more step?”
God obviously isn’t content for members of His Church to take each other to court. But notice why! Not only because we are supposed to imitate Jesus, who taught us to go to any lengths to live at peace with each other, but also because we are in training to stand in judgement over the whole world. We will one day judge angels! I really don’t remember reading that before! And if that is who we are to be, then why do we need to defend our rights to those around us? Especially when we understand that how we act determines how the world sees God. Wouldn’t it be better to lose out, to suffer hardship or injustice, rather than to present a poor image of the One we follow? What Paul is basically saying is, don’t you realize who you are becoming?
“I’ve seen the end of the story, and going back is not an option.”
We have an obligation to the One who lives inside us: to represent Him to the world. The Jesus they get to see is simply the Jesus we choose to be. We can’t get there by our own efforts, but we do walk according to our own choices. The gate is small, the road is narrow and the way is both difficult and dangerous, but the results are astounding. If we could just catch a glimpse of the master plan, of the life we are destined for and the people we have been called to be, then surely we would have the courage for one more step?
I really don’t enjoy being disciplined. I would very much like to have an easy life. But I’ve seen the end of the story, and going back is not an option. Whatever it takes, regardless of cost or lost, I’m staying on this path. I know who lives inside me and I understand, in some small part, who I am to become. Who are you becoming?
by Sarah Burnham on Oct 21st, 2013