Raise your hand if you enjoy tough times.
Yeah, I didn’t think any of you would respond in the affirmative to that question. And you know what? I think that’s okay. I mean, trials are tough. Difficult. That’s part of the meaning of the word. If trials were easy experiences to go through, then they wouldn’t be trying, would they?
But I think that in my life as a Christ follower, I am deeply desiring within my soul to go to the next level. I feel like over the past few years I’ve been stagnated spiritually, as if I’ve hit a wall. I want to go further. Deeper. I want to love God as much as a human being possibly can. So in order to do that, I’ve been praying consistently for God to grow me. I prayed for God to look inside my heart and help me deal with my stuff; the stuff that I know is probably in there stopping me from growing, but also know that I need to deal with and overcome in order to deepen my relationship with Jesus.
And through that, you know what I’m discovering? It’s the unpleasant truth that the greatest cultivator of our relationship with Jesus is trial.
If you were here for one of our Easter weekend services, you heard Greg allude to it early on in the day. In order to experience deeper joy, deeper satisfaction, deeper fulfillment, we oftentimes need to go through valley experiences that can be difficult. I think that I always knew that, but it’s one thing to know something and another to really know it. Experience it. Live it.
Yesterday, I read in Luke 21:12-13 and came across this verse where Jesus talks to His disciples about trials that are to come in their lives after He is gone:
But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.
If you couldn’t tell by my awesome underlining skills, that last phrase is the one that really stood out to me and struck me. Jesus is essentially telling His disciples that in the midst of difficulty, trial, despair, tough times… that is their opportunity to bear witness to the God that lives inside of them. That is the time when they will have an opportunity to talk about and demonstrate the work of God that is happening in their hearts, minds, and souls.
I think the same is true for us. I don’t necessarily grow or change or even get a chance to always see the work that God is doing in me when things are great, easy, whatever. Instead, it is in the dirt, grime, and messiness of life that I get a chance to bear witness to what God is doing in me, and to even get an opportunity to grow in that process.
So no matter where you are today reading this, if you are in a tough time, I humbly pray that you will use it as a chance to cultivate your relationship with Jesus. It certainly isn’t easy. But then again, true growth never is.