Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: sanctification

Trust the Process

Although in recent years the phrase Trust the Process has become a rallying cry for Philadelphia 76ers, I certainly remember hearing it said much earlier in my lifetime.  Typically it’s said by a coach attempting to win over a player’s confidence that the work put in today will reap benefits down the road.

It takes a lot of work to progress from a high school freshman to a college-ready athlete.  And it will take even more work if that college freshman wants to make it to the Pros.  And again, if you want to be among the best and have a long pro career – you better be ready to put in the work.  Few can ascend the ranks on natural talent, and those that do are forever remembered as someone who “never reached their full potential”.

Even if you have the motivation to work hard, you will need guidance.  You need that coach, that mentor, and their system – developed and refined over time to produce results in you that you may not even believe are possible.  You need someone who isn’t swayed by your emotional inner monologue.  You need a plan that takes all areas of your development into account.

However, the full list of what we need to develop is typically a blind spot.  Sure, we know our big weaknesses and a few of the little ones, for good measure.  But then the coach gives you a tough workout today after doing yesterday’s tough workout.  And then you are drilling – yet again – on the fundamentals.  You want to move on to other types of training, but coach won’t let up.  Sometimes, the drills just seem odd or unconnected to what we imagine as what’s best for us.  And it’s frustrating.

It’s in those moments you hear the phrase – Trust the Process.

Did you know that God has a development plan for believers? 

Becoming a Christian is simple enough, even a child can do it – we believe that Jesus will give us eternal life.  His death on the cross paid the penalty for all sin and His resurrection from the dead proved that He can fulfill His offer of eternal life.  Believing means we are persuaded that Jesus can do what He claims He can do; we are taking Him at His word, and we have faith in who He is.

When Paul was writing to the believers in Rome, he started his letter discussing how we are separated from God by sin and the only way to reconcile is by faith – not promises to do better, not dedicating our lives, not by effort, but by faith alone in Jesus.  At the end of this section, he says:

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

But then Paul transitions his letter from how our relationship starts with God to what God has in mind for this relationship.  He spends chapters 5-8 discussing what this new life in Christ looks like; however, take a look at what idea Paul leads this next discussion topic with:

Romans 5:3-4
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.

Do you see The Process which God has in mind?  We all want to have hope as we go through this life, looking forward to when God will set everything right…but developing that kind of solid hope has some prerequisites.     

Rather than wondering “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” we need to Trust the Process God has laid out for His children.  Afflictions are hard, but they are worth rejoicing over because we know what’s on the other side and Who is with us the whole time.

Coaches often push us out of our comfort zone, in unexpected ways, in order to develop us further.  John Wooden spent time at the beginning of each season teaching his players how to put on their socks.  Mr. Miyagi gave Daniel-san the wax-on-wax-off chore.  I had a baseball coach insist that I learn how to juggle two baseballs.  None of these situations make sense to the athlete at the time, but they were all intentionally designed by the coach – John Wooden didn’t want his players dealing with foot blisters, Mr. Miyagi was teaching muscle memory, and my coach needed me to improve my hand-eye coordination.

God never promised Christians that life would be easy.  Jesus was quite clear that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33).  However, our afflictions aren’t meaningless.  God has a purpose for us in them.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Finding our purpose

A few years ago, I was having a “parental discussion” with one of my sons.  As he was struggling with the situation at hand, I pointed him toward what God had to say about the subject…to which he snapped in frustration, “Does everything have to be about God?

I honestly can’t blame him for asking.  In fact, he verbalized something we all struggle with, but are typically too scared to say out-loud.  We don’t want to think about the bigger, God-sized perspective when we’re angry about our current circumstances.  We secretly don’t want to admit that we are not the main character in our life’s story.  We’re afraid that if we’re not in control of the situation, everything will fall apart…or at least not turn out the way we think would be best for us.

These kinds of questions and struggles are not new.  It is part of the sanctification process, part of us growing closer to God after we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior.  Even believers in the first century dealt with the same struggles we face.  In his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul’s solution to these kinds of doubts is to have an accurate view of who Jesus truly is.

Speaking about Jesus, Paul states:

Colossians 1:15-16
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation;
because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities –
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

The fact that Jesus is the One who created everything is explored in these verses.  The last line says it clearly – all things have been created through Him.  However, I don’t think that any of us believers have a problem accepting that.  We look at the magnificent world around us, and understand that it was created.  The design and detail we find as we explore creation points us toward an intelligent purpose rather than suggesting the world “happened” by some “random chance”.

However, it’s the last two words of the sentence that give us pause:

all things have been created…for Him

Did anything inside you bristle or pull back, even just a little bit?
With that slight recoil, we’re internally asking, “Does everything have to be about God?

Because if those two words are true, if all things have really been created for Him, then our perspective on all things will have to change, won’t it?  When I’m honest with myself, I worry that I won’t have any say over what happens next if I’m not the most important person in my life-story.   I’m not sure of where this new understanding of life will take me.  In a word, accepting that all of creation – including my life – was created for Jesus…it scares me.

But let’s take a breath and think through this a moment…

The one who creates is the one who knows the full purpose of his or her creation.  Ask any artist, architect, or teacher, and they will tell you how both the design and purpose of their music, their building, or their lessons are intertwined.  Each one of them knows the detailed reasons for their creation.  Each of them has a specific design and purpose for their creation to fulfill. 

Likewise, since we know that we have been created by Jesus – we should also recognize that He knows our purpose.

So don’t bristle, don’t pull back.  Even though we may not fully understand, even if the future looks murky…the One who designed us is with us, and He perfectly knows what to do with us.  And we can take comfort in the very next verse:

Colossians 1:17
He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.

We don’t have to be the one to hold all things together, that’s not our job.  Instead, we just need to trust the One who created us, the One who created our purpose.

Are we willing to let go and trust that we were created for Him?

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Set apart by truth

As Jesus continued to petition the Father during His ‘High Priestly Prayer’, the disciples discovered a central truth of how they were going to maintain their oneness with the Father.

John 17:16-19 They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.

Because they believed in Jesus for eternal life, the disciples were no longer of the world, meaning that they no longer represented the world’s values and the world’s values no longer represented them.  They were, in fact, separated out from the world.  From this, Jesus requests that the Father would sanctify them.  To be sanctified means to be set apart for a Holy purpose.  Jesus will be sending His disciples into the world, into a realm that no longer represents them.  In this way, their mission will be just like Jesus’ mission – enter into hostile territory in order to proclaim the good news of salvation and Christ’s offer of eternal life for all who believe.

However, the part that blows me away is verse 17 – Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.

Jesus asks the Father to set apart the disciples for a Holy purpose, and He requests that the Father accomplishes the sanctification by the truth…which sounds all well and good, and would be a wonderful request if Jesus had stopped His sentence right there.  But He didn’t stop…instead, in His request to the Father, Jesus revealed one of the most rock-bottom, foundational, and practical realities for anyone who follows Jesus:

Your word is truth.

It is only in the Father’s statements that the truth of life is found.  The Father proclaims truth, and it is by that truth the disciples will be set apart.  As the Father’s truth enters their lives and they become more like Jesus, they will be made ready to participate in God’s Holy purposes – both in this life and in eternity.

And it gets better as Jesus continues…

John 20-21 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.
May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.
May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

Jesus prayed SPECIFICALLY for us.  We are the ones who have believed in Jesus through the disciples’ message.  Jesus asked the Father that we would also experience the same intimately connected “oneness” with the Father that Jesus was praying for His disciples.

At the end of verse 21, Jesus revels our purpose in being so intimately connected with each other and with God: so the world may believe You sent Me.  Just like the disciples, we too are set apart, for God’s Holy purpose of showing the world that the Father sent Jesus to be our Savior and that eternal life is available for those who trust in Him for it.

Our “oneness” with the Father is what spreads this message.  Being one with the Father, as Jesus was, will sanctify us…and our relationship with the Father is maintained by focusing on the truth of God’s word. 

God has spoken His word to humanity in two distinct ways – through the Bible (which we commonly refer to as ‘God’s Word’) and through His son Jesus (who is referred to as ‘the Word’). 

If we are going to participate in God’s Holy purpose and share the good news in the world, then our next step is both straightforward and practical – we must spend time in God’s Word and with Jesus, the Word.

Keep Pressing,
Ken