So life isn’t exactly what you envisioned it to be. Somewhere in your mind you had this rosy picture of a much more blissful existence. Instead you found out life is messy. What now?
Admit you are ticked off and start moving forward. Life was messy for Jesus too, but for different reasons. Talk about unfair – the only begotten Son of God, perfect in all His ways, was flogged, beaten, spit upon, and nailed to a cross for our sin. If that’s not unfair I don’t know what is. Do we really have any reason to complain? There is only one way I know of to keep our hearts stayed on Jesus – we must learn to go deep with Him.
Death and Resurrection
In 2012, three years into planting Journey Church, life got really dark. Rent was due but we had no money, the church we planted wasn’t going as planned, and life was smothering out every bit of joy. I was drowning. It felt as if someone had dug a six-foot hole and dumped me in it. There I was lying on my back, looking up out of the grave life had dug. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. In desperation I cried, Lord, I don’t know what’s going on all around me, and You won’t seem to tell me, but can You please tell me what you are trying to do inside of me? A passage from the gospel of John immediately flooded my heart,
24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. (John 12:24-25 NLT)
God wanted me dead, not literally, but dead to my own dreams, ambitions, ministry prowess, and thoughts on how things should be done. He wanted me dead to what I thought I deserved and dead to my own insecurities. It seemed every insecurity I’ve ever had (and a lot I never knew were there) was exposed during that time. My flesh had to die because God can’t build a work of His kingdom on my flesh. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit (John 3:6). In order to produce a spiritual and eternal harvest, we must die to our flesh, and this will continue until the day we meet Him face to face.
I know what you’re thinking – that this passage in John was referring to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Well, you would be right, but don’t forget, we are co-heirs with Christ – both in His glory and His suffering (see Romans 8:17).
Though “death” was not what I had wished to hear at the time, it clarified things a lot. I stopped struggling and started connecting. It released me from the pressure to try to make something happen and escape my present circumstances. It didn’t get better overnight and in some ways, four years later, I’m still dying, but there is also resurrection life. Things in God can’t stay dead forever. “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11).
Seeing the Son Through the Clouds
During that time, life felt burdensome – like when the rain clouds are so thick, low, and dark they completely block out the sun and feel like they are smothering you. I had to learn to press into God or I was going under. The only thing that helped me, and really the thing that has always been my hope and stay, was going deep with Jesus through worship, prayer and the Scriptures. When I would take time to worship, it would take a while, but it was as if my head would pop through the low-lying clouds and I could see the Son shining in all His brightness. As I gazed into His eyes, He gave me fresh hope and strength to make it through the day. There was no future vision, only one step at a time, one breath at a time, one day at a time. It was frustrating because I am a visionary person, but it was what I needed. God gave me manna for that day and it was enough.
Christ the Solid Rock
When there is nothing solid to bank your life on, you go back to the things that matter. For all of us, it’s His presence and His Word. Those are the anchors that hold us, the foundations that will not crumble – Christ the solid rock on which we stand (see Matt. 7:24-27). A daily practice of feeding on His Word and experiencing His presence is what we need more than anything, and when everything around us crumbles, that and that alone will hold.
Abiding in the Vine
John 15:1-8 is probably my favorite passage of Scripture, and it reveals the keys to a vibrant and deep relationship with Jesus. As we walk with Him we discover life is more about knowing God and less about doing for God. Any eternal fruit that comes from our lives (and God desires lots of it) is going to come as a result of a passionate love relationship with Jesus. I once heard a preacher say it this way: “We live from God not for God.” When we know Him, He shares His will or desires with us. As He loves us and we love Him, His desires become ours and we want to do His will and follow His ways. It’s not a burden, it’s a joy. When we act on His will, it produces eternal fruit. What is fruit? In the words of author Bruce Wilkinson, “Fruit represents good works – a thought, attitude, or action of ours that God values because it glorifies Him.”[i] His book, Secrets of the Vine, is one of the best books I have ever read on this subject of abiding in Christ. I highly recommend it.
Moving Forward >>>
If you ever want to move from dissatisfaction to contentment, learning to go deep with Jesus is a non-negotiable. It’s here that you will experience more of the Father’s love, know and become more like Christ, and learn to live from your constant companion, Holy Spirit. It’s here, as you get to know God deeply, that you become more and more comfortable with who you are and who God wants you to be.
Going Deep with Jesus…
Not sure where to start? Try this.
- Worshiping in spirit and truth is about coming before Him concealing nothing and being led by Holy Spirit.
- Spend some time adoring God, thanking Him, loving Him and receiving His love. The psalms are a great place to start.
Read and Meditate on Scripture—Psalm 119:11 and Colossians 3:16
- Reading, praying and applying your Bible consistently is one of the primary ways we abide and grow in Christ. I would suggest a daily Bible reading plan at www.bible.com
- I also suggest using the S.O.A.P. Method – www.soapstudy.com
Pray and Talk to God – Matthew 6:7-13
- There are many different types of prayer. Jesus gave us a model for prayer in Matthew 6:7-13 (the Lord’s prayer).
Be Quiet and Meditate- Psalm 46:10
- Listening is a skill to be developed. If God has all the wisdom, power and answers, we should probably spend more time listening than talking!
- Keep a journal to document your journey
- Remember, this is a starting point to help us grow in intimacy with Christ. Don’t leave God in your devoted time. Learn to fellowship with Him throughout the day with simple reminders.
- Morning is the preferred time (Psalm 5:3), but if that doesn’t work, spend time with God when you are at your best!
- Do each one of the disciplines outlined above for an equal amount of time, unless God is moving you to stay in one for your whole devotion time.
- Be deliberate, expectant, and spontaneous. Be willing to drop everything if Jesus calls!
Enjoy your time with Jesus, and remember – life is about the journey not the destination so enjoy the journey!