“I know we have to persevere and not give up on what we sense God wants us to do,” S. shared at Bible study. “And from the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others in the Bible, I know God rarely smooths the path perfectly and makes every door open without me even turning the knob. But what I want to know is how to proceed. I’d like steps to follow!”
Heads nodded around the table, mine included. Wouldn’t it be nice if God laid out step one, step two, and so on toward his perfect plan?
That idea has been circulating in my brain for nearly a week now. Here are some observations.
1. God values our growth in faith more than our comfort in a predetermined plan.
If it was best for us to know his plan in advance, then that’s what God would provide. Instead, he allows our faith to be tested, in order to build our character. That is important to him:
“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20).
2. God values the process of spiritual growth, not just the final outcome of a purpose fulfilled.
Times of challenge give us opportunity to develop maturity more readily than times of ease. What might that development include?
- Self-discipline–when we tackle difficult tasks. Granted, the Holy Spirit empowers us (Galatians 5:22-23), but we must give ourselves over to him. How? Through frequent prayer, offered throughout the day, consistently asking for his guidance and help.
- Self-denial–by doing without. However, the attentive person will soon discover much to celebrate that may have been missed otherwise: the stunning display of God’s creation, the joy of love and laughter with family and friends, the peace and strength from frequent communion with God. Suddenly, gratitude flourishes in the heart, and what has been given up doesn’t seem so important anymore.
- The full meaning of love–when given opportunity to respond in kind ways to difficult people.
None of these valuable traits of discipline, selflessness, and love would fully develop without lessons of experience.
3. God values the development of our prayer lives–not for his benefit, but for ours.
Jean Nicolas Grou, a Jesuit priest of the 1700s, described healthy prayer as humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering. As we practice those traits in our prayer lives, surely they will overflow into our character, in our actions and reactions.
Patient pursuit, then, is best applied to God’s ways, and then to God’s plan.
(photo credit: http://www.st-tims-church.org )