19 May 2015

made and being made

Several years ago Loretta Lynn was known for singing Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die. While it appears as a simple country song, the message below the surface is quite compelling. It speaks to the human condition that we often want the rewards without enduring the work or suffering. There are many aspects of life – especially the spiritual journey – that can be described with this sentiment.

Recently I had a friend who was being challenged greatly through his work. One particular day was incredibly difficult, and his leadership was being put to the test. Seeking to encourage him I said, "Hang in there. These are the days that make you."

Probably he needed to hear that, although in that particular moment he might not have wanted to hear it. This is because it is sometimes difficult to hear this type of encouragement in the midst of struggle. But it is also because there is an internal struggle within us that We all want to be Made, but we don't want the process of Being Made. Just like the man who wishes himself to be physically built, but who refuses to train and exercise because it is too hard, it is commonplace for us to desire strong character without ever having to be challenged in such a way that grows that character. My friend was going to be stronger if he strove to get through that particular day, but he wasn't enjoying the process of growing in his leadership character.

It is not that we must enjoy the difficult experiences that make us grow – in fact, it is often the most painful moments that grow us the most. Rather, it is for us to embrace the challenges with the presence of the Spirit that will shape us into the person God desires.

This is the growth of character, and it is becoming lost on a generation of Christians who too often shrink at the first moments of trial. Here we have an example of social culture overriding church culture, where the message of the cross is relegated to the back while we take the more convenient route of instant gratification. If believers no longer wish to engage the difficult days then how will we develop as people of the gospel? Without working through the moments that allow us to be shaped by the Spirit, how will we carry the truth that is able to transform the world because it has been forged by the presence of Christ Jesus in our lives?

Instantaneous character development doesn't happen. It isn't a thing. We might wish that we could swing through some drive-thru on the way home and pick up a little bit of character from the value menu, still making it in time for our favorite show, but it simply doesn't happen like that. This is one way in which we die so that we might participate in heaven. It is possible. In fact, it is what God desires from us, as he has given us the ability to embrace a life more abundant. To be made we must endure the process of being made, often referred to as sanctification ... if we're doing it right.

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