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October 14, 2014, 8:00 PM

Laying The Groundwork For Change - Part 2


 

How Bad Do You Want Change?


"The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all his innermost parts. Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king, and by steadfast love his throne is upheld. The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts."    Proverbs 20:27-30
 

In the late 1990’s, I hit a wall; A mental wall and a spiritual one. I didn’t know what had happened.

I was used to the physical obstacles. Mentally, I had hardened my own heart to where bad things wouldn’t affect me. I stayed cold and distant, only opening myself up to a very few people, and even then in only a limited manner.

Jesus Christ changed all of that. I had a new heart. I was excited. Old habits began to fade away. I couldn’t do the physical job in operations engineering where I was trained, and all of my backup skills were in construction. So I began to rethink my life and how I could best serve Christ. I embraced, as best I could, Ephesians 4:24,

 
and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

 

As I began to look around, people wanted to hear my testimony…a lot. I started speaking and before I knew it, I was on the local TBN station sharing my story and before I knew it, they broadcast it in different spots around the nation. That led to some calls from churches and other venues such as business groups. I hated writing even though I had been editor in chief of a college newspaper. But I began to enjoy it. I had a working website that would sometimes get around 100,000 unique hits a month. I was excited. I had a plan. It wasn't Moses' Exodus or anything; but it was a start. God was blessing it or at least it seemed that way from what I understood.

But over time, something began to happen. People began to write me and come to where I was speaking and they had questions; hard questions. They were suffering. They had problems similar to mine as well as other issues and they wanted answers, Biblical answers. Answers I didn’t have. I would share my own experiences and try to refer them to proper sources of help, but many times they wouldn’t listen. And I had problems; big problems with my health resurfacing.

I didn’t understand. I knew I was a young Christian but I was on fire for God. I knew I needed to follow this path. I began to pray. I prayed and prayed some more, for months. God was silent in this area.  I knew I was in over my head and wanted the Lord to take over because I wanted to do His work right.  I just couldn’t understand.

God finally answered my prayer. He told me I wasn’t in the right place in my life to pursue what I was doing. I wasn’t ready. He knew my heart. A small part of me was enjoying the glory of being the latest local religious flavor too much. Many people liked the story. It was a full-fledged drama. But they weren’t seeing God, at least not the way they should have been. I wasn’t helping. And I was not a mature enough Christian or educated enough in theology or counseling. I couldn’t offer them what they wanted. They knew it and I knew it.

To get to the next level of my life in Christ, I had to learn more humility and love for the people around me and I needed to have a more mature relationship with God and his Word. I wasn’t giving my whole heart to God. I was still holding back.

When He pointed that out in prayer my response was, “I have lost everything! I just want to be left alone in peace,” which in itself, was an understandable, but selfish response.  I had lost everything. I had suffered. He was asking for the only thing that I hadn’t lost in the accident; my will. Why me? It seemed so much more than people around me.

His response to me was simple and cut straight to the point.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
20  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We belong to God; body, soul and spirit. We are practically useless to Him if we are holding anything back.

I was quickly coming to a hard truth. It is a lot harder to commit 100% to God and make Him look glorious than it is to give, say, 80% and share the glory with God or even just give 20% of yourself and take most of the glory. That causes us to depend on Him, completely.

 It was true. I chose when and where I would pray and if I wanted to take the day off. I would study according to my own principles, not God’s. Growth was at my own pace. After all, who was going to question a disabled veteran with a testimony like mine? And, why should I listen to them? I was receiving good discipleship at my church and I had some good role models, but in my mind, they hadn’t been where I have so a little selective hearing was okay. I wasn’t openly rebelling. It was much more subtle. It was carefully woven into excuses and distractions and prayer requests. Prayer meetings, for those who desired it, were our social media then. But my subtle rebellion was intentional.

It was different with God. Jesus knew exactly what it felt like to be me. He knew exactly where I needed to be and how I needed to get there. He knew my limits. My real limits.

John 10:14  
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me..

But I wasn’t ready to hear that. I had quite the stubborn streak that needed to be dealt with.

I had to do the work and I had to do it His way. I had to go all in. It had to be His decision what changed about me and what didn’t. It was His choice about where every dollar I had went. I had to be prepared to give everything if He called for it. After the price Jesus had paid for me, if I spent the rest of my life suffering for Christ I had to be okay with that. Another word for it would be joy.

I’d like to say it was a one day lesson but it was many, many months of wrestling with God as well as my own self.

Sometimes we do that. The circumstances may be different, but it is the same issues, emotions and character flaws. We rationalize failure. We celebrate mediocrity. Sometimes, I am truly afraid if I hear the phrase, “well, we are all just sinners” used out of context as an excuse to be spiritually lazy one more time that I will have a stroke. But the fact remains that we do fail.

Sometimes it is not our fault. Maybe we obtain a victim label, sometimes deservedly, and we are afraid to let it go.  It’s not because we want to rebel against God. We are human. We worry about ourselves. Sometimes, you are like me and are also scared. If it was easy to trust God, everyone would. We even need His help for the ability to depend on Him. And that must be dealt with if you want real change and growth in God through Christ.

For many of us, we debate on whether to give some cash to a guy on the corner with a sign, to go help serve some meals or work at a shelter, maybe even go on a mission trip or two if we feel especially giving. Fulfilling the religious triad; church, Bible study and prayer, tells us we have done our Christian duty and the rest can be “me time.”

But unless, in your heart, you are striving for that 100% commitment to God and you are ready to put everything on the line for His purpose spiritually, you are going to fall short eventually. Most of us probably won’t have to sell everything we have for the cause, at this point, and God is always gracious in giving us plenty of “me time.” But you need to be committed to do it if God asks. He knows your heart. When you begin to do it, you will find that the fullness and joy are almost beyond comprehension as Paul writes in Ephesians;

Ephesians 3:14-19  
14  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
16  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What do you value more than anything: time, possessions, self-worth? Would you give it up?

We, as people in general, will do many things to try and shortcut and give up for God as little as possible. It’s our sin nature.

This weekend, I watched a well-known conservative television station showing one of their weekend programs on health and fitness. The host was touting the benefits of yoga and how it can heal emotional trauma.  I have nothing against yoga, itself. You can meditate on God while you do the exercises. Our family X-box even has a “yoga challenge” that my daughter loves to play and that I could probably use a few thousand hours on. I figure, Christians hijacked  theChristmas holiday from the pagans so we can hijack one of their forms of stretching and exercise too.  

But, the television host’s point was, you could receive all of this healing, on your own, without God. A few probably can receive some healing. But the yoga itself is powerless to fix anything. If it could, the failure rate (people who quit) wouldn’t be around 85%. Coincidentally, that is about the same rate for other forms of exercise programs, diet programs, substance abuse programs, and all other financial and physical self- help systems.  We spend billions on all of those things every year. Then we quit. It doesn’t mean the products or treatments are necessarily bad. But the people who seek them aren’t 100% committed. So they fail, because change is hard. It takes more than feeling bad about yourself or even hitting rock bottom. Some do it, but the majority do not.

I had to embrace the fact that I am not a self-sufficient person. I am a God-sufficient person...completely, or I need to be. Those of you who know me also know; illnesses, drama and all, that I would not trade it for anything. I love where I am and what I do. If having the privilege of working with smaller groups is my calling, I am excited. If it is more, I am much better prepared. God was perfectly right. I am so blessed and so full of joy. Experiencing God, in any condition, is like a warehouse full of gold. I am lacking nothing.

That is the difference between being religious and having a personal relationship with the all-powerful God who loves you enough to send His son to die for you. That doesn’t necessarily make trials easier, but I am learning to approach them from a better place.

Change is hard. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. Instead, I am going to go enjoy a hot cup of Brazilian coffee with excessively high sugar content. It’s been a long week and I have some change and growth to contemplate. I’m still a work in progress. Don’t judge me.   : )

Blessings


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