You can know for certain that if God has a plan and purpose for your life, and He does, that the enemy – Satan, the world system, and your flesh – are out to destroy that plan and purpose. The enemy hates God and those He loves. If you are a child of God, you are a target for the enemy’s lies and schemes.
As Christ followers we can’t escape this ongoing spiritual battle. Rather, God has chosen to allow us the experiences to grow us, to refine us, and to grow our knowledge and understanding of what an awesome and mighty God we serve. As Marc Fey points out in The 210 Project, “We need to be certain that to the same degree life is fraught with danger and violence, it is also saturated with the grace, power, and reality of God’s Kingdom. If we lose this context, we have lost our own personal battle to find significance, to live a holy life, and to find our calling.”
When Christ told His followers, “Take up your cross and follow me,” He was referring to the cost of becoming a committed disciple of Jesus Christ. This was not a reference to salvation, which is a free gift of God’s mercy and grace to those who believe, but his reference was to the life journey of a committed believer, fulfilling God’s calling on their life. The trials of your life and the intensity of the fires will be in direct correlation to your growing intimacy with Jesus. I don’t say this to frighten you or to turn you away from following Christ closely. In fact, I encourage you to run to Jesus and to hold on for the glorious adventure He has planned!
The most intimate moments of my life with Christ, the most joy-filled times of peace and assurance that I truly am a Child of God, have come during the most difficult circumstances and through God’s mercy following my times of weakness and failure. The 210 Project describes the hard times as a kind of “authenticating.” Part of your calling and mission will grow out of the times of weakness that authenticate you. In other words, we are qualified to minister through the suffering we experience. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says it best, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God in no way condones our bad choices that will undoubtedly lead to painful consequences in our lifetime. But, He will never waste the lessons He prepares for us to learn while we are “in the desert” with our backs turned from Him. Once again, when we ourselves have returned to God, those lessons learned in the desert will position us to help others who are wandering, if we are willing to love and serve them with grace, as God requires.
I often think of Christ’s words to Peter before His arrest. Knowing Peter was going to betray Him, He said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Christ, in his wisdom and foreknowledge, knew that Peter would fail, but He also knew that Peter would return to Him and that when he did, he would be in a position to serve others as God intended
My husband and I consider our own journeys and God’s amazing grace: The forgiveness, healing, and restoration He has given following abuse, divorce, abortion, financial loss, loss of health, and death of loved ones throughout various seasons of our lives, has now positioned us to reach out to those with unplanned pregnancies, failing marriages, and those struggling with unemployment, disease, and death of loved ones. We don’t consider ourselves experts by any means, but God in us, works through us, to reach out with love and compassion to others. In our weakness, He is made strong.
The warfare will come if you have committed to follow Christ, but you have nothing to fear, “For who is God except the Lord? And who is a rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on high places.”(Psalm 18:31-33) Praise be to God for His marvelous works!
Carmen Pate is a Principal at Alliance Ministries. Learn more about the work of Alliance, including The 210 Project, at www.alliance-ministries.org