Last week I spent a day Mountain Biking around Fontana Lake, in Swain County, NC, right next to the Smoky Mountains. I was spending some time alone with the Lord, there was no one else on the trail the whole day. It was just me and God. I remember at one time during my trip, I had planned to just sit and listen to God when the time was right. Well, that time came at just the right moment. I was on top of a great hill, having climbed it for hours on my bike, and wow... what a view. God began talking to me right away. His creation and beauty were speaking in such a loud voice I could not help but sit and listen.
My muscles were speaking loudly as well, and grateful for the break. I began to think and pray about the many assignments that were in my hands and I wanted to listen to what God had to say about them. While my assignments have been many these past months, I was kinda thinking that I was capable of something a bit more, something a little more challenging, and kinda expecting God to begin to lay some things out before me to start working on.
Well, I should have seen it coming. As my muscles were still doing some talkin', I began to sense that God was letting me in on something even bigger than any assignment He might have for me. He has been at work on me. If God based my assignments on my walk with Him, and I wanted something more than I had in hand, I realized that he needed to work on my faith and character even more. One thing I realized is that there is really no one particular way God helps me grow, but one thing I did realize, as the sweat dripped off my cheeks, there will be growing pains.
The times that Christians mature the most in their life is when things are up hill, facing hardship or crisis. Inevitably people say it's through their suffering that they grow the most spiritually. If that is true, what should I expect when I ask God to increase my faith and to make me more like Christ? Yet, here is the typical pattern: 1. we pray and ask God to make us more like Christ. 2. God allows stretching circumstances into our lives so we can grow. 3. We call our church prayer ministry and frantically enlist everyone to pray that the latest difficulty in our life be immediately removed! I believe that many of the items found on our church prayer lists are actually circumstances God allowed in order to mature His people.
The reality, we must decide whether we want comfort or Christ-likeness. We often can not have both. I have come to enjoy (somewhat) the trying times. God let's me see that He is still working on me. At first, the hill is difficult and quitting is a lingering thought. But as I approach the summit, the more enthusiasm I experience and the view... the view is just something else. That, is really an incredible thought. God still considers me worthy of a deeper, more mature growth experience, and the end result is breath taking... sometimes literally.
So the call remains in my heart. I am NOT satisfied with my present state of service to God. And I am open to the necessary growth, even when it is painful. Stretch me more, and Lord, I am thankful that you have given me just enough strength to endure the hill that awaits ahead, for it is only through the pain of that climb will I have the growth experience that will in turn equip me for the greater assignment.