Friday, July 28, 2017

Resisting Growth

I'm back!  Summer is coming to an end and as much as I have loved having all of my sweet kids at home as we enjoy the carefree days of summer together, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I have missed those quiet times where I can just sit and listen to what the Lord is speaking to me.  These past several weeks, those moments have been very few and far between and the longer I go without them, the more desperate I get to hear His voice!  There have been many moments where I just pray and cry out to Him, desperately wanting to feel Him and hear Him, but in that rare moment of silence that I have to wait on the Lord, it quickly fades and I find myself once again in the middle of structured chaos with four kids running around joyfully (and other times not so much) and enjoying the whims and wonders of summer!  I have had these seasons in my life before where although I know God is near, He feels so far away because He’s quiet.  Truthfully, it may not be that He’s quiet, as much as I haven’t had the time to devote to listening.  As a mom of four, there’s not a whole lot I can do about those seasons other than making sure I’m not overcommitting my time and making my time with the Lord a priority by setting time aside reading His Word and praying often.  I have served the Lord long enough to know to not let my feelings fail me in these seasons.  Growth can still occur in your quiet spiritual seasons, so don’t ever be discouraged when you don’t feel God’s closeness or hear His voice.  He’s still there.  He’s still good.  He’s still pleased.  He's still working on your behalf.  And He’s always faithful. 

Last year, when I felt the Lord prompting me to start a blog, I already had a full schedule so I didn’t just need another thing to do.  I remember asking The Lord what in the world will I even write about and He so clearly told me that He would give me the words.  As the weeks went by this summer and knowing I hadn’t made a post lately, there were several times I sat at my computer wanting to write a quick post because that’s what bloggers are supposed to do…keep their readers engaged at least once a week…or at least that’s what I always thought I was supposed to do!  Well, no matter how many times I have asked the Lord what I need to write about, the words didn’t come and with four kids always around and lots of interruptions, there just hasn’t been enough mental energy for me to sit and compose my thoughts into complete sentences!  Every time I tried to think of something to post, I always felt the Lord gently reminding me that there are plenty of blogs out there with people’s opinions and funny stories to keep my friends and readers entertained, so I didn’t need to let the pressure to post lead me to write about anything that The Lord didn’t speak to me about first.  Therefore…my silence.  I have been waiting.  I have been seeking Him.  Silence…until this week. God has really been speaking to me this week about growth and the dangers that ensue when the church resists it! 

This past year has been a year of spiritual growth for me.  As I reflected upon the growth that has occurred in my life recently, I couldn't help but acknowledge what I had to give up in order to see that growth!  It has been a pruning season in my life for sure…a bit painful but necessary.  As I felt The Lord give me direction for this post, I had this vision of a gardener pruning away the unpleasant parts of a plant so that it was healthy again.  Afterwards, I looked up the definition of pruning and this is what I read, “to trim by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.”  Did you catch that?  When I read that this week, I cried.  This past year the Holy Spirit has prompted me to prune some of the unpleasant things out of my life...things that were preventing fruitfulness and growth such as wrong attitudes, impure entertainment, and wrong motives.  It has been painful and a bit humbling to have these areas exposed by God's Word.  John 1:5 tells us "God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all."  When we use God's Word and God's character to test the things in our lives as right or wrong, trust me there are NO gray areas.  God is light. Sin is darkness.  His light exposes every dark area in our life and we can either run farther from His light in hopes that others won't see what has been exposed (resist) or we can repent and allow God's light to shine brightly in our lives.  

Earlier this year, I read John Bevere’s book called “Good or God” and this summer I have been reading his book, “Driven by Eternity”.  I believe The Lord spoke a powerful message through John Bevere that the church so desperately needs and I am thankful for his obedience in writing these two books.  They have caused me to ask God to search my heart and expose anything that isn’t pleasing to Him.  I wanted to cut every unpleasant thing out of my life because I truly desired to be fruitful and be more like Jesus.  Can I tell you something?  God's goodness overwhelms me friends.  I don't understand it and I sure don't deserve it, but His goodness is simply overwhelming.  I can't talk about His goodness or write about His goodness without tears filling my eyes because I have experienced His peace, His presence, His direction, His provision, His healing, His love, His comfort, His power, His deliverance, and I know Him as my Savior.  His goodness has no ends.  I know there is nothing I can do to make The Lord love me anymore than He already does, but friends if there is anything I can do to show my love for Him, I want to do that.  I love Him more than anything in this world and I so deeply desire to honor Him with my life.  He's been so good to me...I feel like that is the very least I could do in return.  As I prayed for God to expose those dark areas, He did.  The Holy Spirit began to convict me of those areas in my life that were unpleasing to the Lord.  As I repented and cut those things out of my life, it hasn't always been easy and I was resistant to some changes at first.  That pruning process has been painful, difficult, and at times lonely.  However, I was at a place in my life that I truly desired to “increase fruitfulness and growth” more than satisfy any temporary and earthly desire.  As I read these books and heard the scriptures that backed up what John Bevere was teaching, there were some awkward moments where I thought he must have been a fly on the wall in my home because he was talking directly to me!  Have you ever been in a church service where you felt like the Pastor is talking only to you?  That’s how I felt!  That’s the power of the Holy Spirit!  He has a way of personalizing the gospel!  The more I read, the more the Holy Spirit pricked me about certain areas in my life.  Instead of closing the book and saying “how dare you step on my toes and tell me what God’s Word says about that”, I chose to ask God to rid me of anything that was preventing fruitfulness and growth in my life and that wasn’t pleasing Him.  Little did I know how much junk I was still holding onto!  The more He exposed, the more I surrendered and laid down at His feet.  I am still a work in progress and He is still shining a light into those darkened areas of my heart and life.  He desires my motives to be pure, my attitude to be right, and my heart to be clean.  I fail daily, but with the help of God’s Word teaching me, the Holy Spirit leading me, and good teachers challenging me, I am growing and getting closer to becoming the woman that I know God created me to be.

Here’s what I have learned through my pruning season and this is possibly the most painful part for me.  When the Lord prunes something in your life, it makes others uncomfortable because when God's light is shining in your life, His light in you is used to expose the darkness.  When others are uncomfortable, they will either distance themselves from you or try to make you feel like you are in the wrong.  No one wants you shining a light on all their junk!  Listen, I get it!  We all have our junk drawers or that closet that people aren’t supposed to see!  But it’s a very real thing in our hearts too…in each and every one of us!  We ALL have areas in our lives that when God begins to expose to us that He wants more for us or from us, it’s a little embarrassing and a lot challenging because it usually means we have to change or give up something that we enjoy or desire.  It reminds me of that time I went to the doctor and the doctor told me I was obese.  I was embarrassed, ashamed, and it honestly made me mad.  I knew I was overweight, but to hear someone tell me I was clinically obese, it felt like the doctor took a flashlight…shoot, more like a spotlight…and shined it right towards the number on the scale for all to see my shortcoming!  Of course, she didn’t!  She said it in the privacy of a small patient’s room there in her office, but the awkwardness I felt at hearing her words, she might as well of been holding a spotlight on me yelling it aloud for all to see and hear!  Now, at the moment I heard her words, as painful as it was, I knew she was right.  I left there challenged and my journey to a healthier me began.  God used the words of my doctor to expose something in me that I already knew was there, but it needed to be exposed in a way to bring change.  I could have gone home mad and upset and decided to never go back to the doctor again because I didn’t ever want to hear her tell me that again.  But we all know that’s dangerous.  Well, it’s just as dangerous to do that spiritually, but Christians do it all the time!  In my case, none of what The Lord exposed was a salvation issue, but because it didn’t bring honor to Him and because it was not pleasing to Him, it was stunting my growth and fruitfulness.  Gods ways are higher than our ways.  He wants so much more for us friends!  Although life was good a year ago, God wanted more for me!  He needed to prune some areas in my life so that I kept growing and producing new fruit!  When we come to a place of contentment in our spiritual walks, that’s when growth stops.  There is a lost and dying world out there, and I don’t ever want anything in my life to prevent God from using me to reach others.  Period.  So my prayer will continue to be for God to expose any area in my life that is not in any way bringing honor to Him and I would hope that I will always allow Him to prune those areas.  I am grateful for God's Word and the Holy Spirit who exposes those areas in our lives, but I am also thankful for my friends, family members, teachers, and preachers that God has placed in my life to challenge me to examine my heart, my motives, and my actions.  They are the ones that God uses to bring growth in our lives, but what we choose to do when we are challenged will ultimately determine how much fruit and growth we experience in our own lives.  If we choose to resist the challenge and refuse to makes changes, our choices could ultimately lead us to opening a door of compromise in our lives that allows the enemy to come right in and wreak havoc in our lives!  I trust the Lord enough that if He convicts me about an area in my life, I don’t care if it’s a salvation issue or a holiness issue…I’m going to trust Him and make some changes.  He knows our tomorrow.  He knows what is waiting around the corner and my resistance to give something up today, may just lead to a stronghold tomorrow, which could result in a salvation issue down the road and that is dangerous!  If you don’t have people in your life that challenge you to be more like Jesus, you may be resisting growth!  Surround yourself with people that challenge you to be better and do better and don’t let the awkward moments of exposure keep you from embracing the challenge to improve.    

As a mom, I want to be surrounded by other wonderful moms who challenge me to become better!  I need those who have successfully raised their children to become adults who love and serve the Lord in my life because they can offer me wisdom and encouragement along the way!  As a wife, I am always watching those who have successful marriages because I want to surround myself with women that make me better!  How can I serve my husband better?  God often uses the words or actions of a friend or mentor to show me!  As a follower of Christ, I have surrounded myself with mentors who I admire and desire to become more like because I see something in them that looks like Jesus and I want others to see that in me.  I want to be challenged.  I want to be sharpened.  I don’t ever want to stop growing and being fruitful.  Lord, place these people into my life and bring these good teachers across my path so that when I see them and hear them, I’m challenged to examine my life and see areas that you still desire to prune so that I can be more like you!  Don’t ever let me feel intimidated by those who are one step or one hundred steps farther than me in my journey.  Instead, help me learn from them.  Help me to trust your ways more than my own.  Help me to never make excuses for my shortcomings, but help me to be quick to repent and let go of those ungodly attitudes, actions, thoughts, and motives that become exposed along my journey.  Surround me with those who challenge me to be more like you and help me lead a life that challenges others to become the person you desire for them to be.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)”

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