Just a few days ago I was having lunch in Chick Fil A with my oldest daughter Sara. As we were sitting there I looked up and saw a truck at the intersection. Across the top was written in large letters, "Another delivery is on the way." These words just jumped out at me as if there was something someone wanted me to know. "Could it be you God?" I quietly prayed. I am not one to be asking God for a sign. In fact before I saw these words I was not even thinking about anything that would stir such a question and prayer.
Obviously the Lord wanted to speak something to me because I have been in a season of rapid growth. Yes. I am growing up and so are you. It is a time God is moving quickly. According to J. Oswald Sanders, spiritual maturity is not a position we reach or a goal we achieve. It is a life we find ourselves living. Think sbout your life. Have you been treading through some major changes lately? Then you may very well be experiencing a growth spurt in the spirit.
As a young child I would often have aches and pains in my legs. I would feel the discomfort mostly at night when I would go to bed. The ache sometimes would keep me awake. However, my parents would tell me it was okay, that I was just having growing pains.
Similarly, as we grow and mature in our character, in our faith, and in our relationship with God we are given increased ability with time to digest more of His truth. This means that we not only have a greater understanding, but a deeper acceptance of His truth. This is where the phrase "Another delivery is on the way" enters in. This growth can be very painful at times and even tempt us into unrest and anxiety. Growth is accelerated in times of testing and difficulty. Yes we can obtain growth through knowledge, but the greatest increase comes in times of adversity and pressure.
In Sander's book, "Spiritual Maturity" deliverance of faith is explained. I would like to share some of his thoughts. Many times when we are going through tests and hardship we are on the outlook for the deliverance. In the book of Daniel, chapter 3 Sahdrack, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery pit because they refused to bow down and worship the golden god that Nebuchadnezzar had errected for all of his people to worship.
This controlling King made his demands, but the three young men replied, "Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from the roaring furnace and from anything else you might cook up. But even if he does not rescue us , it would not make a bit of difference. We still would not serve your Gods or worship the gold statue you set up. (Daniel 3: 16-18)
Nebuchadnezzar's face turned purple with anger and he ordered the furnace to be turned up seven times hotter that usual. Strong men bound them up and threw them into the furnace . Because of the heat, the strong men were burned up. However, the three young men were seen walking freely around in the fire. And what is even more exciting was that Jesus was down there walking around with them. Splendid!
The lesson of this story is packed with insight for walking through the trials of life. However, the one thing that really impacted me is that many times we are so focused and wrapped up in finding and coming to our deliverance that we place our hope in it. The three young men who were threated had such a deep rooted trust that they were not even worried should God choose not to deliver them from being tossed into the fire. Sure enough, they were plumeted into the violent flames. God did not deliver them from the furnace, but he delivered them in it. Sanders points out that "we must get away from the idea that deliverance from a trial is the highest form of spiritual blessing".
Jesus said that in this world you will have tribulation. The greater the tribulation the greater the impact we will have as individuals and churches. We are deceived if we think the less problems we have and the more comfort we entail, we are in the best place to reach people.
I thought of Paul whose conditions were never "just right" to do the ministry and to reach others, He was constantly being tested and always faced persecution. Yet he did the work of the ministry with joy and power. Another of Sanders quotes is "we learn more in a few days in the fiery furnace than we would learn in years out of it."
We must be careful not to grumble when the delivery is not made in the way we envisioned it. Many times when we fall into hardship we are faithful to wait but the "tudes" we carry are often not attractive. Things are not going my way and I start to have a bad attitude. There is good news. We have the power to change those negative attitudes by starving them. Yes, starve them until they die. You see, these three men in the fire could have fallen into distress when their lives were threatened. They could have taken on the negative and even turned against the God they proclaimed to trust. However, they gloried in the tribulation because they knew that God had good in mind for them no matter how it all turned out.
We must take heed to this example. We must choose to proclaim, "God will deliver me and even if He chooses not too, I will love Him anyway. I will serve Him anyway. I will love others anyway because my hope is in the DELIVERER, not in the delivery of the deliverance!!
What kind of furnace are do you find yourself in today? How are you handling it? Are you grumbling? Are you stewing inwardly and finding yourself being critical of the way things are being done in your home, work place or church? Maybe you are in place of waiting and things are not going the way you had hoped. We are constantly faced with changes. People change, circumstances change, the weather changes: nothing is constant. However, there is One who never changes. He is the Author and Finisher of your faith. He who began great things in you is faithful to complete that work. Your Father leaves nothing undone and incomplete.
The reason that the three young men in the furnace could stand with confidence in the midst of the trial and the unknown was because they kept their heart fixed upon the Deliverer not the deliverance. They stood on Christ the Solid Rock and did not sink into dispair and distress. May we all be challenged to exercise our faith and learn to lean on the Everlasting Arms of Jesus no matter what the pain. You are growing up and that it good. Yes it hurts. However, we have many promises from the heart of our unchanging God. All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose and plan. He will keep you in perfect peace as you keep your flow of thoughts upon Him.