In a book entitled Experiencing God, the authors state, “when you offer yourself to God as His servant, He first expects to shape you into the instrument of His choosing. He will always work in you before He works through you. As you obey, He is the One who completes the work.” This work that God must do, is the work that is required to make us more Christ-like, to prepare us to walk in God’s holy, omnipotent presence, in His brilliant light and to ensure that we are invited to sit at God’s table in His glorious Kingdom. When we allow God to mold and shape us into the Christians that we long to be, we must realize that this is a life-long process. It is not something that will happen quickly and it is not something that will happen quietly. Unfortunately for some, we must go through God’s refining fire first; passing over smoldering, hot embers until we become soft and malleable and begin to take the shape of the image of Christ.
During these times if we ever feel ourselves falling away from Christ, falling short of God’s glory, we must remember that Jesus went ahead of us, in order to prepare us for times such as these. He has seen the Father and he agreed ahead of time to lay his life out on the cross, so that in our times of wilderness and desolation we may use him as our source of strength. Jesus has been tempted by the devil, he has been falsely accused, he has been mocked, ridiculed, and cursed at. Jesus has cried out to our Father in excruciating pain, asking Him “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And then he was horrendously and maliciously crucified, all the while maintaining the gracious and graceful manner that we’ve all come to associate with the precious name of Jesus Christ.
And when Jesus died, he died for the sins of all of God’s children, and then he was miraculously resurrected, and ascended up to heaven to sit at the right hand of God, to become our Lord and Savior, our intercessor, for all eternity. Jesus did this so that we may be reconciled to God, reconciled to His Spirit, and so that we may seek His kingdom in everything we do. When we are reconciled to God, we are able to turn our heart, our mind and our soul over to Our Creator, to allow Him to make us over into the Christians that He needs us to be. And I ask you, who better to turn to as our supreme example of how to walk in God’s light than the one who did it first?
Hebrews 4:14-16 says “Therefore, since we have a high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
But Jesus not only went ahead of us as our source of strength, he also went ahead of us so that one day he may prepare us for our spiritual journeys. Jesus knows ahead of time what we will encounter along the way, and he has already prepared for our arrival – our arrival to a place called Galilee.
Some of us have been on our journeys to Galilee for a long time. I’ve been on my journey for over 40 years. At one point I even thought I had arrived, and I’m sure there are others who have thought the same thing. I was going to church semi-regularly, reading the Bible occasionally, and praying very sporadically. And I had the nerve to think that that was enough. But after being there a while I realized that I hadn’t arrived – I was only at a rest stop. I was stuck, thinking that I knew everything there was to know, and that I did everything there was to do. But I thank God that He didn’t leave me there. I thank God that He beckoned to me, called my name and let me know when it was time to resume my journey. Once I was ready to continue, I knew that this time I needed to be much better prepared.
This time I made sure to get a roadmap and my GPS, which were my prayers for guidance, so that I would be certain that I was headed in the right direction. Then I made sure to join God’s On-Star system, which is Elmwood United Presbyterian Church, just in case I took a wrong turn and somehow managed to veer off the road, I knew someone would be there to check up on me and help me get back on track. I stocked up on plenty of food and drink, which is God’s Word, our nourishment for the soul, to make sure that I’d have the energy for the long drive ahead of me. I gassed up my car with premium gasoline, which are discipleship classes and Bible study, so that I’d have enough gas to make it all the way through to the other side. I also put a flashlight in my glove compartment, which is God’s Holy Spirit in my heart, so that when the road got dark and confusing, I could just shine my light and see the path that was laid out before me. And with this, I set out to continue my journey.
Initially, things were going smoothly for me, but as I got closer and closer to my destination, I got blinded by violent storms that seemed to come out of nowhere. These storms were called temptation, unforgiveness, low self-esteem, and depression, and unbeknownst to me they had been building up strength for years. When the storms hit I completely lost my way. I got knocked around so much that I ended up stuck in a ditch with an engine that died on me. My GPS fell and broke, my roadmap got all wet, and the storms even knocked out all the satellite dishes in the area, so even the On-Star system couldn’t reach me. I was stuck for what seemed like an eternity. I ran out of food, I had nothing left to drink; I was freezing cold, exhausted, terrified, and utterly alone. I thought I would be lost forever, and I didn’t know what else to do, so I just fell to my knees and cried.
Amidst the tears, I did the one thing that I could think to do while in a dire situation like this. In the middle of all these storms – I got down on my knees and I prayed, “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
And when I finished that prayer, on that fateful night, I heard a voice say to me, “Linda, I heard your cry. I’ve been here waiting for you. You’re right on time. Now let’s begin.” And Jesus took my hand, lifted me up, and began leading me on the most beautiful, peaceful, spiritual journey that I could ever imagine. And this was the beginning of my spiritual transformation. Thank you Jesus!! Amen.