In 2006, my wife Debi and I made a decision to further complicate our lives by launching Search for Me Ministries, Inc. as a 501(c)(3) religious nonprofit organization. Our vision was not complicated; we wanted to help other Christians influence this broken world by drawing nearer to God, growing in His grace, and serving others with wisdom. The challenges associated with this seemingly simple vision created so much unrest in my life that I sometimes contemplated giving up the quest.
Our heavenly Father wants to do great things in and through each of us. He has purposes for our lives that involve touching eternity. If those purposes are to be fulfilled, the Lord must grow us into spiritual champions.
Unlikely Sources of Growth
Surprisingly to some, our God often uses an unlikely and unwelcome source of growth—the spiritual forces of darkness. The devil and his lackeys study our weaknesses and plan their attacks to destroy us. But God is with His children and will turn every evil scheme for good.
To illustrate, plants do not grow hardy and resilient in the comfortable conditions of a greenhouse. They grow strong in the field as they suffer through cold rain, windy days, and near freezing nights. In a similar way, comfortable people cannot grow to be hardy warriors for the kingdom of God.
I often find solace and strength in the story of Abraham (aka, Abram):
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3(ESV)
The Lord called Abraham to step out of all that was familiar and into the unknown. He also promised the man greatness—something we have no record of Abraham requesting. As Abraham blessed others, he himself would be blessed beyond measure. And finally, the Lord declared that He would have Abraham’s back. If someone so much as dishonored the Lord’s covenant friend, He would bring painful curses upon that person’s head.
In the following years, Abraham faced unnerving challenges of all kinds, but the Lord was with him every step of the way. In the end, God’s promises were fulfilled, and the once-childless man became the father of a mighty multitude. Abraham’s story matters to every Christian because in his life we see a pattern for each of our lives.
Stepping Out of the Familiar
As tempted as we might be to seek comfort and familiarity in an effort to avoid all unrest, we must obey God by stepping out of the familiar and into His plans and purposes. Obedient steps will lead us toward both difficult circumstances and demonic attacks, but as we respond to difficult situations with faith, love, and humility, will He restore our brokenness to wholeness.
I would like to say that becoming emotionally whole is an instantaneous process, but that has not been my experience. Instead, the Lord has used trials and difficulties to bring the broken areas to the surface. This is especially true of Christian service. The challenges I have faced through fulfilling my purposes in God have revealed seemingly every fear, insecurity, and weakness in my life.
We are naturally inclined to blame our circumstances or the people around us, but more often than not, something inside of us needs heaven’s touch. It is not adversity that creates unrest, it is our response to it.
When I stew in bitterness over mistreatment by another Christian leader, I am revealing that something is broken in me. I might be right in principle and have just reason to be offended, but blaming the person does not solve the problem. Bitterness in me is never another person’s fault. Until we humble ourselves and allow the Lord to do a work within us, the likelihood of our circumstances improving is slim.
Becoming a Spiritual Champion
Rest comes from cultivating faith in God, not from avoiding difficult situations. And peace is not merely the absence of conflict or difficulty, it is the virtue of God permeating every area of our hearts. The external circumstances rarely change until we change. Don’t expect a difference in what happens around you. Seek out the difference that happens within you. The internal change comes first.
Yes, the enemy’s attacks will cause discomfort and even unrest at times. They will knock you off kilter and disturb your peace. But the Lord will use all these things to grow you stronger, to instill greatness within you. And though you might find yourself struggling with fears of all kinds, be certain that it is the spiritual forces of wickedness that are trembling with fear. They are terrified of what you will become and the havoc that you will wreak upon their dark designs. And though they release hell’s fury upon you, the Lord will sustain you as you learn to trust and rest in Him in the midst of the storm.
The Lord of all creation seeks to display His greatness through you. Regardless of whether you feel mighty or weak, He wants to make you a spiritual champion of life. And of that, the forces of hell are terrified!
*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.