“I really desire to see my relationship with God get better. I want to feel Him deeply; to pray till the earth shakes; die to self more and more each of the 365 days and be filled with more of Him and the precious Holy Spirit.”
It’s 23:38 pm, 23rd November, 2017. I’m just from reading from James 1:2-4 and the latter bits of a beautiful moment with God have led me to take a look at the first few pages of one of my many journals. I jotted the above words down on the 17th of December 2016, as the first of many (very many) other sincere goals and prayers I had for the year that was going to set in in the next couple of days. Well, the earth hasn’t shaken yet. LOL. Figure of speech. But my life….oh my life has been shaken up. Glory to God – I feel Him deeper, I’ve immersed deeper by His grace and a lot of mySELF has died this year. I mean, as of the 17th of December, 2016, I thought I was content as a single 21st Century girl, but now…many months after, I truly am content as I believe God would have me be. It’s an everyday thing, a day at a time, that’s how it is with these things. That’s just one of the several areas I’ve matured in. Story for another day. Probably.
“Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith (through experience) produces endurance (leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace). And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed (in your faith), lacking in nothing.”
James 1:2-4 (AMP)
I have read this verses many times before but this time the Spirit poured such great insight in a very unique way and it was very timely too. I was led to reflect on the details of the year that is soon to end, and most profoundly, the far that I have come in my faith. If I may lose my “churchy” for a second, I’d say it was tough and rough but really, it was all necessary and part of the story that I’m beginning to tell. A story of growth and elevation. A story of a storm with Jesus on the boat. A story of a pot on the wheel. A story of PROCESS. Looking at it from the end of the tunnel, it was a worthy ride through. Glory to God.
Spiritual maturity is the goal.
There are two principle stages of kingdom living: accepting Christ and receiving His Spirit and then walking in the Spirit. The second one is as vital as the initial, and unfortunately, the enemy has deceived many to be ignorant of its importance. As I’ve come to see in my own life, it is walking in the Spirit that inspires and imparts growth because as the Spirit convicts you, you desire to delve deeper and know better. Of course, keeping in mind, the opposite of walking in the Spirit is walking in the flesh. Spiritual life is likened to walking upstream. If you’re not progressing forward, you are most likely going backwards.
The Word says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness should rejoice for they shall be filled. God delights in showing Himself to us more and more as we desire. He loves a hungry Spirit. He loves to fill it. For all of us walking in the Spirit, spiritual maturity ought to be a goal because it doesn’t end at receiving Christ. The wonders, miracles, lessons and testimonies all lie in the in between of saying “I receive” and actual eternity, while we walk daily in the Spirit. Like newborn babies, we should long for pure milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2). Just as we love to see babies in our families grow from breastfeeding to weaning, crawling to walking..God desires to see us move from level to level. As the days are fleeting, so should we be growing.
In a nutshell, the marks of a maturing Christian are:
- Continual growth in LOVE. Living in abounding love for God, for people and for the Truth. As you grow in faith, love increases. He said, “They will know that you are my disciples by the way that you love one another.” John 13:5
- Growing KNOWLEDGE in Scripture and in the nature of God. Ignorance is a powerful tool in the hands of the enemy. It’s different from innocence and many times, ignorance is confused for innocence. His Word is a lamp to our feet and it lights our path (Ps 119:105). A mature Christian is not stagnant in their knowledge of the Word. They always seek to understand it, obey it, abound in it and teach it more. Growth in the knowledge of God, besides through His Word, is experiential. As you walk with Him each day, you get to grow a personal relationship with Him and be more enlightened on His nature.
- Spiritual Discernment. This is the ability to examine which helps us to make sound decisions in our lives that will glorify God. It is ability to tell apart godly and edifying things from those of evil.
- Integrity/ Sincerity. A child of God is genuine and free from hypocrisy. Sincerity does not mean perfection, but rather a heart fully sold out to Christ and His will, knowing full well how undeserving we all are and the power of His grace.
- Good works. God prepared good works in advance for all of us to do (Ephesians 2:10). As we mature in Christ, we bear more and more fruits out of these good works as we operate more and more under the power of His hand and the breath of His Spirit. Remember, fruits always bear the mark of the tree where it came from.
- Glorifying God. The mature Christian will glorify God while on earth and ultimately through eternity. Praise is one of the fruits of righteousness. As we go along, growing in God, we see more of His power through the details of our lives and give Him the glory rather than taking it.
- Decreasing severity and frequency of sin. The more in Christ we grow, the more the power of sin is suppressed – chains are broken, addictions are suffocated and voids are filled.
(inspired by the words of Paul in Phillipians 1:9-11)
“..so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”
Trials are the building blocks.
Quite a number of the pieces in the puzzle of spiritual maturity are marked “trial”. That’s just the way it is. It’s a unique beauty of life that what’s bitter often makes better, especially when it involves process. Trials reveal our faith and also build our character.
In the ladder of life, you’d best want to keep going up – progress. Progress involves process. The truth about process is that it involves sorrow, pain, stress and upheaval at times. Our first reaction to this is often anger, despair, bitterness; anxiety like it was for me – not joy and thankfulness as James is putting across. For our faith life to be sturdy, we need to get to a place where our endurance is strongly founded in the hope we have in Him such that we pass through our valleys better; making the best of every moment as we learn and draw closer to God.
When difficult times come in our lives and we find ourselves unable to comprehend, the enemy is quick to throw darts of doubt. I remember doubting if I ever really had a purpose in music or I was mistaken all along. Hate to even think about the fact that he had me doubting to that point. We can even find ourselves questioning God’s goodness on the basis of why He would allow certain things to happen. God reminds us that He knows and He understands. There’s a song my Mum taught me growing up:
Each doubt and fear, He understands
Each bitter tear, He understands
Place every sorrow and pain in His Hands
No one like Jesus so well understands
It’s one of the songs that sees me through my lows. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Not a single trial. He loves to use our trials to mold us and mature us. Sometimes, He will bring us to a place where we have nothing but Him so our character may be molded.
The story of Hannah in the Bible amazes me and I related so much to her in this season. The Word says that God. closed. her. womb. He didn’t do it because He is unjust. Side yet crucial note: do not allow the enemy to distort your view of God, ever. God shut the doorway to the one thing Hannah wanted to have the most that He may draw her close to Him and for the purpose of the testimony when He would eventually bring into her hands the wonderful child, Samuel.
Endurance is a powerful thing to build. It prepares us to handle the blessings God wants to pour out on us. Hebrews 10:36 says, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” While enduring: rejoice, pray without ceasing and remember that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you and you can do all things by His strength.
Count it all joy.
It’s easier to ‘count it all joy’ when we are looking at all we have been through from the front looking back. But I believe what God would have us do is to count it joy even while we are in the midst of trials. There is something about praise and thankfulness that ignites open heavens and brings a unique peace in the middle of the valley.
Over Subway sandwich some time ago, a good friend told me, “Laura, God doesn’t always promise outcome, but He promises His presence ALWAYS.” To be honest, this concept is not even easy to teach or share, it can only be experienced.
I’d just like to share as I pen down, what these interesting bit of facing trials means to me – “counting it all joy”:
- It means bearing an attitude of thanksgiving AT ALL TIMES. Just taking note of what you thank God for even after a most gruesome day. It stirs up a powerful and unique kind of peace.
- It means keeping the PROMISE of God etched boldly in my heart even when trials make my way so foggy and I lose sight of what God holds out for me. It’s almost like seeing the end from the beginning; seeing the goal at the start line. There lies great blessings and outpouring on the other side of trial. In the face of trial, it gets harder to see it and you might even doubt He ever said anything. He promised Abraham that He would give Him a son of His own. On the way to Mt. Moriah, I can imagine how bleak this promise was to Abraham whose promise was now seemingly being ruthlessly withdrawn. But this was a test of His faith and one thing I believe so strongly about the Lord is that He is a PROMISE KEEPER. He never goes back on His Word. So, do not forget the promise. The promise motivates you to tread on, regardless.
- It means seeing the testimony in my test. We can only do this by the Spirit. The Spirit enables us to understand heavenly language and discern heavenly process.
- It means clinging strongly to the hand of God. He will not let you fall over the cliff. For a while, I envisioned my life as one walking in a pitch-dark room filled with so many obstacles and the only way I could make it through is by holding on firmly to the very warm Hands leading me. He leadeth meeee….. Hold on tight. Soak in the Word. Pray hard.
Let me paraphrase James’ words if I may: “Be glad, Child of God, when you face challenges. They will make you a better person and they will take you to another level in your faith after you have persevered through it all. This is your reason to be glad – that you will come out better.”
I’m so glad you read this.
Thank you for always keeping it with me.
Love and blessings,