The only thing consistent about life is change. From the moment of conception, change is a consistent quality of the journey we call life. Everything about life breathes and exudes change, from the four seasons to the march from newborn to adulthood—all of life involves change.
So, what about spiritual life? Should we expect spiritual life to be totally unlike everything else we know about life? Shouldn’t we expect spiritual progression to involve movement, growth, and change? In what way is one spiritually mature who has never ventured beyond the initial steps of faith?
The truth is simple: Spiritual growth does indeed involve movement, progression, and change. But change for change’s sake is not the point. God’s plan for spiritual growth is growth with purpose. The Lord has designed the spiritual life as a journey. Simply stated, this journey is a purposeful progression toward a destination. Let’s call that destination “glory.” I will define glory in this context as God’s ultimate desire for your life. The Lord intends your walk of faith to be a Spirit-directed journey toward His ultimate purpose for your life. Living for the Lord is a march toward glory.
This view of life in Christ begs many questions. Isn’t the true destination of the spiritual life eternity in the presence of the Lord? How does the Lord encourage change in our life that will further His purpose? What will “glory” look like for me, and how will I know when I get there? Let’s take these questions in order.
Isn’t the Destination of a Walk of Faith Heaven?
In the long term, yes. Beyond this earthly existence, God’s goal for all His people is heaven. But between here and there is often a whole lot of living. God has a purpose for your life on earth other than His desire to convey you to heaven. God’s ultimate design for your life on earth is a position of blessing and fruitfulness. It is the position of maximum benefit for His kingdom. God wants to bless you and for you to be a blessing to His work and His people. This place of maximum benefit to God, yourself, and others is God’s ultimate for you. This indeed is a land flowing with milk and honey, and it is found on earth at the apex of your spiritual progression.
This position of blessing, however, will not be obtained if you are unwilling to follow God’s direction along the path of change. God’s ultimates for you do not come cheaply, and His glory will not be entered by accident. We must follow His purposeful direction and be willing to change and grow along the way.
How Does the Lord Encourage Change That Will Bring Me Closer to Glory?
Quite often God shaves with a hired razor (Isa. 7:20). God takes that which the enemy means for our harm and uses it to fashion us and prepare us for glory. When we understand this, we can see that how we respond to adverse circumstance is much more relevant to our progression than what kind of circumstance we encounter. Stated another way, trials come to all, but how we respond to our trials is more important than the trials themselves.
God prepares those whom He uses. He qualifies those whom He leads to glory. The process of preparation and qualification involves trials. Go ahead, take a deep breath, and say that word to yourself. Trials! Your trials are just proving grounds to develop the character of Christ in you. As
Christ’s character is fashioned in you, you are receiving the tools needed to fulfill and claim God’s ultimate for your life. If you will be ready to enter God’s ultimate for you when the time comes, you must endure and pass the tests designed to prepare you. Our tests are designed to encourage personal growth (otherwise known as change) and to prepare us for glory.
The moment you encounter a trial, you face a choice. You can surrender yourself to the will of God, humble yourself, and seek His grace. Or you can “buck yourself up” and harden yourself against the trial. The first is the response God desires, for His grace or His divine enablement flows to the humble (James 4:6). The other response of hardening yourself against the trial effectively slams the door against God’s help, and you are left to face the trial on your own.
Many do exactly that. They face their trials with a clenched jaw and stoic determination. Before long their attitude toward the trial evolves, and they begin to believe the trial was brought about by God because “He hates my stinkin’ guts!” or some such foolishness. This is the problem with a hardened heart. It rejects God’s grace and ends up blaming God for what should have been a benefit to man. The problem is not the trial; it is man’s attitude toward the trial.
“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness…” (Heb. 3:8).
“While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Heb. 3:15).
The topic of this book is the method whereby God prepares His people to claim the perfect place of blessing for their lives. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews dealt with the subject of trials that the New Testament Hebrew believers were facing. The writer pointed these beleaguered saints back to their forefathers’ experiences in the wilderness journey. This group of liberated slaves in the Old Testament experienced ten tests during their journey out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The Israelites’ tests in the wilderness were designed to prepare them for God’s ultimate plan for them. Instead of humbling themselves and seeking the will of God, they became hard and rebelled against what God was doing. This is one of the central truths exposed and explained in the epistle to the Hebrews. It was used to help New Testament believers accept and benefit from the trials they were currently experiencing. The trials God allows into our lives will either be stepping stones to greatness or stumbling blocks of destruction.
As we begin our study of the ten tests in the wilderness, please understand the implications for you and me today. How do you react to the tests God designs to prepare you for His ultimate? Will you humble yourself and seek His will during your trial? Or will you harden your heart and blame your problems on God? We aren’t allowed to choose our trials, but we do choose how we react to them. How we choose to react will determine whether we grow from the trial and ultimately if we are ready when the time comes to enter the position of blessing that God has prepared for us—which brings us to the last question.
What Will “Glory” Look Like for Me, and How Will I Know When I Get There?
Perhaps I can answer that question in this way: Glory is the position of blessing the enemy tries to keep you from entering. Once you enter the land of blessing, the enemy must change tactics. Now he must try to alter your character in order to keep you from claiming all God has for you. On the wilderness side of Jordan, the enemy tried to keep Israel out. Once the Israelites entered the land, the enemy tried to keep them from claiming the blessing before them. On the wilderness side, God shaped and prepared Israel to enter in. Once in the land, God encouraged Israel to take full possession. Is the Spirit preparing you to come in or to take possession where you are? Look at the landscape around you. Is it barren and dry, or is it fruitful and blessed? Is the Lord preparing weapons for you or encouraging you to use the weapons He has provided? Is the enemy trying to keep you out or drive you out? Is the primary work of God at this phase of your life presently developing you or using you? The frank and honest answer to these questions will reveal which side of the Jordan River you are on at present.
I offer a word of advice to those on the wilderness side of God’s promises. Don’t be satisfied to live on the edge of God’s best. Two and a half tribes of the twelve tribes of Israel did exactly that. They decided that living close to the Promised Land yet on the wilderness side of Jordan was good enough for them. And thus, they were always on the outside of what God was doing. Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh passed by the opportunity for greatness and instead lived in obscurity. They began their separation from the rest of Israel with controversy (see Joshua 23), and thus the uncommitted and unconsecrated are always misjudged and misunderstood. But can you blame their brothers who lived on the hallelujah side of the river? The river that should have been a line of separation between Israel and others was now a barrier between a certain part of Israel and the majority who dwelt in the Land of Promise. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh chose to remain on the wilderness side of the Jordan. Their exile from God’s perfect will in the Promised Land was self-imposed. Such is the life of the uncommitted and unconsecrated. They are content to live on the fringe and are the first to fall in an open conflict with the enemy. They are forever misunderstood by their brothers and live in a no man’s land between God’s promises and the Wilderness of Sin. My advice to those on the outside bank of Jordan is to take the plunge and come on over to the land of the blessed!
Click the link below to purchase the book Stepping Stones: Ten Tests to Prepare You For Glory by Nevin Bass