Spiritual formation is not a pleasant walk in the park. Maturity of faith and being conformed to the image of Jesus is difficult. It doesn’t magically happen and it isn’t the result of faithful church attendance. Spiritual formation is the result of surrender and discipline. We daily surrender our lives to Jesus and we discipline our lives through study, prayer, fasting, service, community, and worship. Through surrender and discipline we find ourselves on the path of spiritual formation.
Once we are on the path of spiritual formation we discover that numerous obstacles begin to block our way. This makes sense since Satan is opposed to God’s restoration project, and so he will do everything in his power to derail it. That means he will come after you and me.
Satan will throw out the net of fear to keep us from obeying Christ’s call on our lives. Satan will sit the trap of temptation to catch us in sin so we are not free to follow Jesus. Satan will dig the hole of guilt so we will fall in and be overwhelmed with shame rather than living in the grace and forgiveness God has promised in Christ Jesus.
If this is your experience I have good news for you! God uses Satan’s obstacles as opportunities to make us better people! Just as Joseph told his brothers; “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil” (Genesis 50:20; NLT), we can be certain that God will redeem the bad in our lives to bring about good. God is so powerful that He can turn evil into good!
The key for us when we are faced with an obstacle is not to give up. When things aren’t going our way and the weight of the world is on our shoulders it becomes very easy to quit. Satan convinces us that following Jesus isn’t worth the hardships of life.
If we are to endure the trials we need to focus on the promise of God. God’s promise is that He will remain faithful and bring us to completion in Christ. When we remain faithful we will experience God’s faithfulness. Remember what the Lord’s brother wrote in his epistle:
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
(James 1:2-4; NLT)
James says that we should approach trials with joy, because we know God is able to use them to produce in us the character of Jesus. Because God loves us we can be certain that He will not waste our pain, our failures, or our troubles. God will redeem these experiences to make us stronger, to mature our faith, and to grow our compassion. In many cases God will even use our painful experiences to bless other people.
When trials, troubles, and failures come our way we should not get depressed and think God has abandoned us. Rather we should respond with trust, knowing that through even the most horrible of circumstances God will bring about His will and re-create us to be a more like His Son Jesus.