Spiritual growth through trials

This Saturday, I’m presenting a short message to one of theĀ  women’s ministry gatherings at my church.

Here is the gist of it: In times of trials, don’t walk away from your relationship with the Lord.

It was challenging to narrow down my texts. I had several more than I ended up incorporating specifically, but the ones that have been included are a good representation of what I hope to impart.

These are the specific recommendations I make:

Hold fast to Him. Hold fast to the Word. Hold fast to your faith. (Lk. 8:15, Mt. 13:23)

Remember our example in Christ. He can use the broken places, disappointments, and failures in a mighty way. Stay connected and involved in the body of Christ. (Jn. 12:24)

Recognize that spiritual growth is a process. (Ro. 5:1-5, Jas. 1:2-4, 12)

Choose life in the path that you take. This involves what we do with our minds, bodies, and hearts. (Isa. 26:3, 1 Cor. 13:7, Col. 1:10)

Look for God’s character, commands, and promises as you delve into scripture. (We’re collectively reading through the Bible in a year at my church.)

Keep in mind that our time is not truly ours, but His. Yet, maintain this balance with a sense of urgency to obey. (Ps. 90:12, Rev. 3:11)

Keep on praying; He changes us in these efforts. (Ro. 12:12)

Agree to wait on the Lord for His reply. Ask for discernment about what steps to take and what issues to surrender. (Hab. 2:1)

Live out the principles you already know. Start small and aim to become consistent. (2 Pet. 1:5-8, 10)

Look to Him with expectation/anticipation. (Lk. 11:9-10, Jas. 5:7-8)

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Overflow & emptiness

There is plenty that could be said about leadership, but the last post for this series will address the fluctuation in personal experience during the course of leadership. There will be seasons where you’ll be joyful, blooming, and serving out the the abundant overflow of gladness that the Lord has been sending your way. Relish these times. Record them somewhere. Be as generous as possible with the overflow in your cup in these times. God will surely bring people across your path who can benefit from this rich, lavish gift you’ve been given. Remember to give thanks for it and keep pointing people back to the God, your God, who has given you all this so graciously. Be on your guard against pride, which sometimes begins to rear its ugly head during such an otherwise wonderful time of life. Pray for humility and a constant reminder that all the things you’ve been afforded are really the Lord’s after all.

There will also be seasons where you are sifted, where you are emptied, where you are pruned. Heh, I doubt that you’d need to record these to ‘remember’ them, but I’m sure that faithful journaling about where the Lord is taking you is profitable. In these times, I would encourage you to keep on obeying God and spending time in His presence. Read and recite God’s character and His promises to believers who persevere. Keep in mind that despite what it looks and feels like, this is only for a season and the Lord won’t abandon you here. If He is sifting you, there is something that He detects that needs to be separated from you in order to equip you for the future work He has for you. If you are emptied of the things that seemed good and flourishing, it is likely that He is permitting the emptiness so that you have sufficient room to be filled with Himself. That knowledge doesn’t diminish the pain of it, but it is necessary to recount that you aren’t being emptied just to be left desolate, but rather that you could be filled with the best things God intends. If He is pruning you, He prunes that you will be positioned to bloom again in His time and in His way. I really (really) hope that none of this simplifies the process or the thoughts and feelings that surround it. It isn’t simple. I know that.

In my own leadership story, I very abruptly went from a season of abundance (last fall) to a season of emptiness (December and following). This past week, the Lord gave me these verses to grip while I ask Him to keep me very close to Him and enable me to obey when I feel doubtful that restoration will come.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12