Here in my area of the world there seems to be an unspoken belief that if you are having any real difficulties in your life then you are out of God’s will because God’s will done God’s way should not be filled with trouble and hardship and all your needs will be supplied.
Christian seem to think (although they don’t always put it in words) that because they are on God’s side their life should run smoothly and they get all bent out of shape when things don’t go as planned and they reach a hard place in their lives.
Christian leaders seem surprised that their ministry has issues and that people are not happy with what is happening – resulting in the budget not being met and people leaving. They seem surprized when people do not respond as they hoped they would and their ministry does not appear to be a success (at least in their own eyes). They get discouraged.
We forget, it seems, that Jesus said that we are to expect trouble in this world. The Bible tells us that we will go through trials, tests and even tribulation. Maybe it is the Word-Faith Movement that has taught us that believers should be “victorious” and I believe that ultimately we will be (afterall, we are going to Heaven when it is all over here) but meanwhile we might find ourselves in a struggle or two as we walk in God’s will for our personal lives and our ministry.
Paul the apostle was in God’s will for his life and ministry. When facing King Agrippa he states, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision…” but was doing exactly what God had declared he would be doing on behalf of the King and the Kingdom. Yet, he went from one difficulty and problem to another on both a personal level and in his ministry and calling.
If we are doing what the Lord has called us to do we will face opposition and will not find our lives to be one without trials and tribulations. It will not be easy. Wer will not always have every need met exactly when we think it should be. We will go without and find ourselves having to simply “make do” with what we have while others in the world move ahead and seem to prosper in spite of not walking with the Lord.
If we are walking by faith – and all believers should be – we will be in unfamilar territory and find ourselves seriously challenged and stretched as we reach towards the goal the Lord has set for us. John Wimber use to say that you spell faith – r-i-s-k. I agree with him. To walk by faith means facing difficulties, being stretched emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and mentally. It means facing challenges and meeting them – often at great personal expense and some difficulty. It is not – and was not meant to be – an easy ride from one mountain peak to the next. We will walk through many a valley – but the key is we are to “walk through” and not “camp in”.
Mike Yankoski in his great book “Under the Overpass” writes…
“What if following Him is hard? What if along the way He asks you to accomplish difficult tasks or to overcome intimidating obstacles? What if it requires more of you than you have to give? Listen, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Those places of need are where you and I discover ourselves, our faith, and – best of all – our God. It’s there, in our weakness, that He shows Himself true, faithful, powerful, gracious, and loving. More likely, your journey will lead you toward utter dependence on the King of kings and a resolution to follow Him wherever He may ask you to go. That might be to the streets, to your friends and family, to your neighbor, or to a stranger you haven’t even met yet.” (page 220)
So, maybe, just maybe, Christians and especially Christian leaders should stop complaining. Yes, we live in difficult times. Yes, it is not an easy time or season to be ministering. Yes, people are not responding to the Gospel as they once did. Yes, things are difficult as the three “B’s” are in trouble (buildings, bodies and budgets). Yes, we are entering a difficult season of ministry as we adjust to many changes – both in the world and in the Kingdom. Yes, you are facing challenges and may not have everything go your way and happen exactly when you want it happen. Welcome to walking by faith and not by sight. Welcome to the Kingdom.
I like what Graham Cooke had to say about walking by faith. He likened it to leaving one room that you know and are familiar with and even like and going down the hallway to another room where God is asking you to go – a new area of ministry, a new calling, another level of maturity, new skills and new challenges – and you are still in the hallway having left what is familar and comfortable and not yet reaching where you know the Lord would have you. You are in the hallway between what you know and the destination the Lord has called you to. Graham states that your walk of faith is the “hallway” and that it is often “hell in the hallway”. I agree.
But, listen believer: if God called you to this walk of faith (and He did) then stop complaining and being negative and rise to the challenge the Lord has placed before you – don’t look back – and move forward into the adventure He has called you to…