Paul's Ponderings

Spiritual Formation. Discipleship. Christian Living.

Tag: Erwin McManus (page 1 of 4)

Spiritual Formation Through Trials


All of us would like life to be smooth, without bumps or surprises, yet we have lived long enough to know that is not the case. Life is difficult and full of unexpected problems.

We can react to these problems in one of two ways. The first way we can react is to allow these hardships and trials to make our lives miserable. The second way is to see them as opportunities for God to strengthen our faith.

In Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus wrote; “It becomes more than obvious the longer you walk with God that His teaching environment for us really is life. And allowing us to fail is not a punishment from God, but a part of God’s process for shaping who we are.”

Spiritual formation is not easy. It requires more than reading books, singing songs, listening to sermons, and giving a few dollars. For spiritual formation to happen we have to follow Jesus. This requires knowing God’s word and applying that truth to our lives.

We have to be aware that Satan, our great enemy, will try to confuse us when it comes to trials. He will try to create fear in our hearts by telling us that God has abandoned us. Satan will try to shame us by telling us these trials are the result of our sin. He will try to distract us with temptation so our focus will be off of Jesus. Satan will do whatever he can to prevent spiritual maturity from happening in our lives.

The good news is that God even 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 recognize the good that can come out of our hardsGod is so powerful that He can even turn evil into good!

The heart of Christian spiritual formation is obedience. God’s Word does us no good if we don’t do what it says. Our faith needs to move from belief to action. I believe that the reason many of us are stunted in our spiritual formation is because we have failed to act. This means the best thing we can do to grow spiritually is to do what God has already revealed to us. We need to obey, even when things are difficult.

James wrote:

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)

Our approach to trials is to be one of joy. This joy is not a product of enjoying hardship, but from the knowledge that God uses trials for our maturity.

God loves us, and that means He will not waste our painful experiences, our failures, or our troubles. God will use the trials and hardships of life to make us stronger. In many cases He will even use them to benefit the lives of others.

When trials, troubles, and failures come our way we shouldn’t get discouraged or wonder where God is. Rather our response should be one of faith, knowing that God can redeem the most horrible of circumstances by using them to make us little more like Jesus.


It Begins With Us

The one person we are responsible for is ourselves. On the one hand this is frustrating, because it means we cannot make choices for other people. We cannot bend other people to our will.

On the other hand this is good news because it means that as we submit to Jesus and pursue his call on our lives, he will use us to influence the world around us. We have the power to surrender to the Jesus to have our hearts healed and our spirits restored.

We will have more influence with people through living a life surrendered to Jesus than having a life of power where we can demand that people live a certain way.

The beginning point is always ourselves. We must submit our lives to Jesus Christ, let him change our hearts and character, become servants, and model a life of humility and sacrifice. Then our spiritual density will make us magnetic. The more Christ reigns in our lives, the more people will be drawn to the Jesus in us.

Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force, p. 78

If we hope to bring change to the lives of people, then we have concentrate on our lives. The Gospel that we preach is tied to the way we live. When our hearts are not surrendered to Jesus and our lives are not submitted to his will, then our message has no authenticity. One piece of evidence for the truthfulness of the Gospel is the way we live our lives.

The more we are surrendered to Jesus, the more people will be drawn to him. They will be able to see the difference he makes by watching the way we live. The hope, peace, forgiveness, and purpose they long to have will be seen in our lives.

Bring Honor to Jesus

I am not very good at following Jesus. That is why I am an imperfect disciple. I hesitate and question, which means I am not living with courage and faith. It is frustrating because I know I am not maturing my faith, but it is comfortable since don't have face my fears. When I don’t live by faith, then I don’t have to do the hard things that push me outside of my comfort zone. I confess that I am afraid to truly follow Jesus.

Take a moment and consider what Erwin McManus wrote:

Just do whatever Jesus calls you to do the moment it is clear to you. Do not procrastinate; do not hesitate, do not deviate from whatever course of action He calls you to. But I want to warn you, the closer you walk with Christ, the greater the faith required. The more you trust Him, the more you’ll risk on His behalf. The more you love Him, the more you will love others. If you genuinely embrace His sacrifice, you will joyfully embrace a sacrificial life. Your expectations of Jesus will change as your intimacy with Him deepens. (The Barbarian Way, p. 53)

Spiritual formation requires faithfully following Jesus. Not only does faithfully following Jesus change our lives, but it is also the best way for us to honor God. We honor God through our obedience. It isn’t enough that we stop doing wrong; we must also seek to do what is right. This means we avoid doing things that will bring us shame. This was one of the motivations for the apostle Paul.

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. (Philippians 1:20; NLT)

Paul lived in a culture where honor was bound to fulfilling his responsibilities and fighting with courage. When Paul says that he has nothing to be ashamed of, he is not talking about doing something that might be embarrassing or making a simple mistake. What he meant is that he lived a life of courage (boldness) which, in turn, brought honor to his master, Christ Jesus.

It would have been shameful for Paul to have quit preaching the gospel because he feared prison and death. The court trials, the imprisonments, and the beatings were badges of honor that Paul wore with pride, because he bravely followed Jesus.

We don't live in an honor/shame culture. Yet, I believe it is essential for us to understand that if we are going to follow Jesus, we must seek to bring him honor. Our lives aren’t our own, they belong to Jesus. Our honor is tied to our obedience to him. We can live a life of perfect morality, but if we fail to live boldly then we will not bring the honor to Jesus that he deserves. No matter the obstacles or the risk, we must follow Jesus.

Grant us the strength, Father, to live honorably for Your Son, Jesus.

A Quote to Ponder: A Life of Good

{Galatians 6:9-10; ESV}

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

One of the most-asked questions among sincere followers of Jesus Christ is, “What is God's will for my life?” We want a detailed map or plan. We want God to spell it out so we can follow the instructions. Too often we want it clear and uncomplicated, but God simply does not work like that. For a lot of us the most spiritual thing we can do is to do something—to turn right when we want to turn left. So we must move beyond simply choosing between right and wrong. We must resolve not only to leave the path of doing evil, but also passionately pursue a life of doing good.

Erwin McManus, Seizing Your Divine Moment, p. 43

Questions to consider:

  • When we don't know God's specific will for our lives what should we concentrate on doing?
  • Why is stop doing not enough in God's Kingdom?
  • What does it look like to do good?


Saturday Video: Make an Impact


Older posts

© 2018 Paul's Ponderings

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑