Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I remember the date February 26, 2011. On this date, a small group of adults from our congregation departed for Costa Rica. Seven days after the sudden death of our senior pastor, this group left with grieving hearts and questioning minds about the definition of “Costa Rica Village.” I imagine that as this team prepared to leave, their tasks ahead resembled a puzzle. I also imagine their shock and disbelief that they had to begin solving this puzzle without one piece. The tragic loss of Ken Diehm and the news that this team would persevere in their mission meant one thing: Our congregation would pray for them without ceasing.
This past March, I had the blessed opportunity to go on the junior and senior high school mission trip to Costa Rica. Six years later, this is what I found:
I am filled with overwhelming pride and gratitude for the Costa Rica team of 2011. They planted seeds. They persevered. Perhaps, more importantly, this team taught me a valuable life lesson. We all have our own puzzles. Sometimes, those puzzles are missing a piece or two, and we question if the puzzles are even worth keeping. I believe we need to keep them. As we journey through life with these different puzzles, we need to trust that everything will be okay. God is big enough to fill those empty spaces. He will complete the puzzle in His perfect timing. Our faith in Him means we should never give up.
In growing our spiritual character we try to establish a daily rule or way of life which includes practicing the spiritual disciplines throughout our day. A central part of this is going to God in various methods of prayer and in the study of scripture, and asking for His help and guidance. As much as this guidance helps us to live spirit-filled lives, and as rewarding as we find this deeper relationship with the Lord to be, many of us find it difficult to maintain our daily rule on a consistent basis.
There can seem to be a number of reasons for this, such as letting people or events distract us or feeling that we just don’t have enough time in our day. Sometimes, we are uncomfortable sharing something with the Lord, even though we know that He wants to be close to us regardless of what is going on in our lives. Often, however, the real problem is that we are just unwilling to surrender to God. We resist, whether out of fear, pride or preoccupation with worldly things.
Surrender is hard. We fear that it may mean giving up control over our time and our possessions and our independence, as we trust the Lord to determine our priorities and our actions. We worry that He will ask us to do something that we don’t really want to do. We resist admitting to ourselves that we are insufficient and need help, which goes against our prideful and self-centered nature.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. (James 4: 7-8)
We cannot become the person that God wants us to be solely through our own efforts, whether it be self-discipline or working harder or trying to make better decisions. God has to be the driver. We need to submit our lives to Him and allow Him to take them over so that He can do whatever is necessary to shape our spiritual character in a way that pleases Him.
As we become more receptive to God, we will see our desires gradually changing, as the Lord helps us to discern our true desire. Our desire to please Him slowly becomes more important to us than our desire for other things that please us.
Discerning our true desires will shape our spiritual formation. As Ruth Haley Barton said in Sacred Rhythms: “It is not until after we have settled into our desires and named them in God’s presence that we are ready to be guided into the spiritual practices that will open us to receive what our heart is longing for.”