Thursday, April 2, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Time (2 of 2)

In this week’s first post, three aspects to our ability to (learn to) persevere were mentioned – the role of the Holy Spirit, the role of fellowship, and the role of struggle. Three enemies and three allies of the Christian were also mentioned. This post will conclude the thoughts on the Discipline of Persevering (and our need to persevere in the Disciplines), and provide a few thoughts on how to proceed.

First, let me mention the passage found in 2 Peter 1.5-8. When reading this, you will notice that steadfastness (or perseverance) is between the virtues of self-control and godliness. So, first one must develop self-control (be disciplined), then with perseverance, one can become godly - and becoming godly is the entire point of this series. Yet, most don’t like the idea of discipline even though it is a necessary component to our lives. Furthermore, persevering in discipline is even more difficult. Is it any wonder that many people never grow and become mature Christians? And yes, I admit I fail in this endeavor far too often, so this is not merely the pot calling the kettle black. The reality is that too many people want to live life completely spontaneously, but without discipline, our spontaneity leads nowhere. Whitney provides the following example through the short story of a farmer, as provided by John Guest in an article in Christianity Today.

            “The spontaneous person who shrugs off the need for discipline is like the farmer who went out to gather eggs. As he walked across the farmyard toward the hen house, he noticed the pump was leaking. So he stopped to fix it. It needed a new washer, so he set off to the barn to get one. But on the way he saw that the hayloft needed straightening, so he went to fetch the pitchfork. Hanging next to the pitchfork was a broom with a broken handle. ‘I must make a not to myself to buy a broom handle the next time I get to town,’ he thought...
            By now it is clear that the farmer is not going to get his eggs gathered, nor is he likely to accomplish anything else he sets out to do. He is utterly, gloriously spontaneous, but he is hardly free. He is, if anything, a prisoner to his unbridled spontaneity. The fact of the matter is that discipline is the only way to freedom; it is the necessary context for spontaneity.”

Spontaneity can be good. But it only brings freedom in the overall context of discipline. Imagine, spontaneously deciding to take a road trip across country. No real plans, just a dream to see God’s great design. Well, that is great, but if being completely spontaneous, you will only get as far as the amount of gas you have in the tank. Spontaneity in this case requires gas, which requires money. So, the larger context of being disciplined allows for the spontaneous person to thrive.

How does this idea of persevering apply to our JOURNEY? Well, it encompasses the entire word this week. The J is for JESUS, and the Y is for YOU. We need to be disciplined in every part of our JOURNEY to properly be connected with Jesus. We need to OBSERVE His commands, UNITE with others, REVERE Him, NURTURE one another for the sake of ministry, and EVOKE the hearts of ourselves and others with the truth of the message of the Gospel. In doing so, we (the YOU) can be fully connected with JESUS, and thus become more like Him.

So what is our next step? Let me tweak our question for this series to make it about persevering:

If your growth in godliness were measured by your perseverance, what would be the result?

So what’s the next step in Becoming Like God?  ENDURE

Again, this series is entitled Becoming Like God. And the example we have in Jesus is one who endured. In fact, Hebrews 12.2 says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. That joy – a restored fellowship with the Father and a possible fellowship with us, if we will receive Him as our Savior, making Him Lord. That is how we endure. We must think beyond our current situation and remember the hope that lies beyond.

So, specifically, what can we do as it relates to persevering? Well, we return to our 4L’s – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, consider where you are in your worship RIGHT NOW. And let the Spirit lead you to what you might next do.

God may be more interested in holding you as you work through your trials than He is in healing or removing you from them.

Stand strong. Remember that the challenges you face are short term – most are short in this life, but especially in the scope of eternity, no struggle will last but for just a brief time.

Recall that God uses each event in our lives to mold us – conform us to the image of His Son. Remember that Jesus endured for you, and in your time of struggle, He is providing you an opportunity to be more like Him (Romans 8.29).

What lies beyond. Remind others of the challenges you have been through and how God has seen you through them. Help others to learn to see beyond the present situation and keep their hope in the future.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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