There have been key times in my life when I have grown in my spiritual walk with Jesus. I’ve been thinking about these when reflecting and preparing for our current preaching series at Calvary. Click here to see an overview
As I thought about it, there were key times in my life where I really had to lean in God’s grace and ask him to help me in a situation where I didn’t have the means to see clearly what I was to do or how I had to react.
A few examples come to mind…
The first time was I when I was serving at a camp. I was 16 years old and hired to lead a cabin of 8 guys ages 6-8. It was tough, I was inexperienced, and I was feeling the weight of trying to keep the group together and, in some way, show them the love of the Saviour and help them take the next steps in saying yes to God. They were unruly, rude, and there was a pack mentality where the strong would devour the weak. Through that trial I realized that I didn’t have the resources to survive the summer. I remember sitting on the swing set with my Bible in my lap, reading the Psalms and praying them out loud for God to move. I saw God grow me through that situation as I had to depend on Him for my strength and I saw Him use me in the kids’ lives over the course of the summer.
I remember the first year I was away from home at University. For a most of High School I was looking forward to going to Western University (London, ON). I couldn’t wait to launch and start life on my own. But in the first semester I questioned what I had done: I was on my own. I had no roommates and knew only a few people. School was busy and I had to do all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and learning. I was lonely and really feeling like I might have made a mistake with my life. It was then that God provided some people to reach into my life and challenge me to go deeper with my faith in Jesus. They pushed me to make my relationship with Jesus mean something in my life. They pushed me through the trial to grow. It was through that trial that I grew and God changed my heart more into what He needed me to be.
These are just a couple of examples but the truth is that when the tough stuff comes in life, we have a choice on how to respond. We can either choose to lean into God and grow, or we can lean out and become stagnant in our walk with Him. I could go on and tell other stories of waiting on God to provide a child when we were longing to be parents, when we weren’t sure we would or could be. I could tell you stories about watching God provide for us when we were stretched thin after getting married. We leaned into Him through the trial and through it we grew.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 5:3-5
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
See what Paul is saying – he is saying that when the tough stuff comes, know that God is still working and wants to do something in your life as you respond to the challenges. This is something that we don’t always think about at the time, but the reason for me writing this to you is to remind you to always be thinking ahead to what God is doing.
Every Canadian knows who Wayne Gretzky is. Gretzky was an exceptional hockey player because of his ability to always think four or five moves ahead. This can serve as an example of how Scripture encourages us to rejoice in the face of trials: When the tough stuff comes, we need to be thinking about what the next move is and then respond in light of this.
The Apostle Paul says that we can actually rejoice in the tough things of life, not because we take pleasure in suffering (Christians are not masochists) but because, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance [produces] character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–5). When we think several moves ahead, beyond our present suffering, we can live in hope—and hope is cause for rejoicing. This is what spiritual growth looks like.
As we learn about “How to Grow” over the next few weeks I hope that you will be encouraged to see that the tough stuff in life can actually be use by God to help us to grow. Tough teaching but I believe it is Biblical.
Don’t waste the tough stuff – allow God to use it to shape us into the image of His Son Jesus.
Pastor Aaron Groat
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