A Testimony of 8 Years

Now that I’m finally on the other side of a major transition, I’d like to briefly describe it. The transition I’m about to describe is the reason I haven’t written much in a while. We decided to take a hiatus from certain activities until the dust settled.

This is going to have alot of “I” and “Me” and “We” in it. Not at all to try to make everything about us, but just wanting to describe the testimony from our vantage point as we ultimately remember Who is in charge and Who is sovereign.

On to the story…

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When I was serving as a worship pastor in Ohio, I attended a promise keeper’s rally in Columbus. This was about 8 years ago now. It was the only one I had ever attended; I haven’t attended one since (for no particular reason). But I do remember how amazing the worship was and how strong the Spirit moved. The Katina’s did what I consider the most God-reflecting music set I’ve ever seen or heard by a “major Christian artist.” And then a speaker got up to speak.

This speaker – and I couldn’t tell you his name, though I remember his face and his voice, which I shall not describe here – this speaker was the man through which I felt the call to pastor. Not just lead music, but pastor – get in peoples’ lives, declare the Word, under-shepherd the flock – pastor! This speaker weaved music into his message in a way that I had never seen before; it was as if God was telling me that music would be a part of who I was, not a limitation.

I sat down with my pastor at the time and shared my heart. Over the years that followed in Ohio, I was given plenty of chances to “train” in the pastorate. Sermons, weddings, funerals, hospital visits. I was able to attend deacon’s meetings, stewardship meetings, etc. It was a time in which I felt I was obviously being prepared to enter the senior pastoral ministry.

In 2009, God did something we didn’t expect. He pulled us out of that situation. I honestly expected to remain in Ohio for years, if not my career. But His ways are not ours. We were presented with an opportunity to go to Florida, and felt very strongly in our Spirit that this opportunity was afforded to us from above. Isaiah 55.

We spent just over 3 years in Florida. It was a very music-heavy position, when compared to my position on Ohio. I honestly at many points questioned whether I had really been called back at the promise keeper’s rally or not. I think the world of those folks in Florida. They were delightful people – they really were! My impact there was smaller than I was hoping for, at least in my field of vision. My job was music moreso than pastoring, even though I tried to figure out the balance between the two for the duration of my tenure there. Sometimes I felt that I wasn’t free to pursue my passion on a scale that I would’ve wished for – getting in the lives of people. I didn’t understand why God suddenly and seemingly put me on the sideline of where I thought I was going. Isaiah 55 again. In hindsight, we were learning lessons. We were just learning different lessons, in a different way.

In and around January of 2012, Sarah and I began fervently praying about where God was leading, and why did we seem tasked to be musicians when we felt called to be something different. We began asking people outside of our local church to pray with us in this regards.

We talked to a number of church planters, at the advice of some of those people. This would’ve been in the early spring of 2012. One church planter in particular seemed desperate for us to be a part of a work in the northern part of the country. We were invited to come up and look at possible locations for a church. We thought that was a possibility, but God made it pretty obvious that it wasn’t what he wanted.

Over the summer, I found a small group of pastors who began praying for me and giving me counsel from time to time – one in Ohio, one in Tennessee, two in Alabama, and one in Kentucky. These were in addition to the pastors in my family (both sides). These folks weren’t holding copies of a resume and trying to find something for me – they were just supporting with their encouragement and their kindness and their prayers.

Time continued to march on. The rift in my personal spirit became more pronounced. I felt like a person who speaks English in the middle of another country. I was a worship pastor, and doing my best to be one, but I also felt like I wasn’t in “my world” anymore. My soul and my life yearned to migrate towards what I felt God was calling me to do – to love on people as their pastor without a dual commitment that would prevent me from doing so (for example, being a music minister, and the hours required to be one).

We had much advice from many folks. Tears were shed, prayers were said, counsel was sought, scripture was read (oh, I just rhymed!).

Fast forward to October. I was contacted by a church in Robertsdale, Alabama of all places.

You see, I thought for sure the Lord would call us back up north – to a place where snow falls in abundance, and people speak funny. Where many people have never attended a church, unlike the south, when most Christians simply hops to or starts another church when someone upsets them. We loved it up there, and 2 of our children were born in Cinci. The north needs churches badly. Surely the Lord would bring us back, right? Isaiah 55.

But here I was, talking to a church in Robertsdale – mere minutes from my original hometown. In the south, where it is hot in the winter and mosquitos carry off small children in the summer. The 4 seasons are 1. hot, 2. still hot, 3. Christmas, and 4. about to get hot again. Where there are many churches, and many churches being started, sometimes because the churches that exist just can’t get along. And guess what.

On December 30, following a process in which God was in from beginning to end, Bethel Baptist Church of Robertsdale, Alabama recognized that God was calling us to be their senior pastor by a vote of the membership. Given the confirmation afforded to us by the vote and the inward confirmation of the Holy Spirit, we accepted this calling the same day and agreed to become the Pastor of this church.

So tomorrow, February 10, is my 2nd Sunday as pastor of the church and my first opportunity to preach in the morning service (we had a concert last week!). It has been a blessing and a blast so far, and these are wonderful people that we are just blessed to be able to serve and serve with. I look forward to growing with them and seeing my family grow with them.

Hindsight reveals God’s moving so much clearer than present-sight or foresight. He doesn’t promise a taxi ride to our destination. Sometimes it is a long process, filled with questions and struggles and tears. But now, at the end of one part of our journey and only at the beginning of the next part of it, we are filled with joy at his sovereignty, which has afforded us this season to reflect on it as we begin the new work at Bethel.

More tears will come again, and struggles, and questions, but also joy, and happiness, and reward.

None of us are even close to perfect, but consider the encouragement of Paul in the 3rd chapter of the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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Big Changes

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks because of the enormous changes that have happened to our family in the last few weeks. In answer to questions received, I will begin blogging again (likely weekly) after the transition concludes in February.

Not only is this coming Sunday my last as worship pastor at FBC Mary Esther, but it is my last as a worship pastor. It is a significant day, bittersweet, but bathed in the peace provided to us by the Holy Spirit.

In case you are wondering, “What transition?” – here’s a copy of what I read on Sunday morning, January 6:

 

January 6, 2013

Staff, Worship Ministry, and Members of First Baptist Church of Mary Esther, FL,

God is amazing. He is always working. His will is perfect.

The Earls family must follow God once again in full surrender. We can do no less, we can do no more. God has implanted within my own life an overwhelmingly strong desire for the pastoral side of the ministry. Now, He has provided our first opportunity to engage this desire on a full-time basis.

This previous Sunday, we accepted the position and calling to be the shepherd and senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Robertsdale, Alabama. My last Sunday as FBC Mary Esther’s Worship Pastor will be on Sunday, January 27. (Editor’s note – that date is now January 20, to coincide with the going-away festivities and is at my request). My first Sunday in the new pastorate will be on Sunday, February 3.

FBC Mary Esther has a long history of raising, training, and sending out men who would become pastors. I know I didn’t grow up here, but I consider it an honor to have engaged in pastoral training in your midst, and I humbly request that you send the Earls family with your love, your prayers, and your blessing to this new adventure. Having led music since the age of 18, this is a new leap of faith for us, and we desire your prayers as we follow Him.

I cannot give enough thanks for your kindness and generosity during our short tenure as your worship pastor. Thank you for your generosity over these 3 years. Thank you for your generosity over the Christmas season. Thank you to this wonderful church staff for the many blessings of serving God together. Thank you to Pastor Byron, Pastor Tom, and Tammy for your heart, your service, and your relationship with I and my family. It has been a true honor and a true blessing to have served you all as a minister. I wish I had the opportunity to sit down with each of you and explain to you how you’ve been a blessing to us. I will seize those opportunities in the coming weeks as much as I am able.

I have full confidence in God, who is leading us in this transition. I believe with every fiber of my being that God has led and is leading us down this path. Now I remind you that God, who is infinitely faithful, will too provide for the people of FBC Mary Esther. There is no debate on this matter. God already knows what is going to happen, and desires that you rely on Him. I want to encourage you concerning God’s future for you , God’s grace provided to you, the supremacy of Christ displayed to you, and the sufficiency of His Word given to you. He is enough. It is enough. God is good.

Separations are temporary. Soon enough, we’ll spend eternity together. Until then, it has been an honor.

 

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Grace which trains us

Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Grace is freely offered, it is poured out in love, it is all-sufficient for our every need.

Titus offers another descriptive quality of that grace to which we are so indebted to:

Grace is a trainer!

This sentence in Titus gives us three areas in which grace is constantly training us for.

1. To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,

2. to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

3. to live as waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

1. To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions…

This invokes to me those of Christianity who have been asked to renounce Christ or face punishment, torture, or even death. Do we also realize that as Christians, the opposite demand has been made upon us? To renounce what we were? To execute and to put to death our past selves?

This isn’t something we can do on our own, as Paul tells us:

Romans 7:23-25

but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

But look what God did!

Romans 8:2-5

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Therefore,

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Let us let grace continually train us to renounce that which we were, on a daily basis!

Part 2 – Grace training us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age coming in a day or two.

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What to do about December?

Hebrews 11: 7 –By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Do we have a faith that “condemns the world?” Do we even have a faith that is in such sharp contrast to the world around us, that it stands out like a light on a hilltop?

Lights aren’t meant to be hidden. Matthew 5:14-16:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

So why do we so often hide what we have? Why is it that we look so much like the world around us, that it is hard to draw a line of distinction between where the world ends and where our faith begins?

If this is difficult for those in full-time ministry sometimes, I can only imagine the greater challenge that a secular or military career would have in this area.

I’m challenging myself in December to live December differently this year. It seems every December, a new perspective is openly sought, making it sort of cliché in and of itself to “do it differently this year.” So I’m not really sure what December is going to hold, or how I’m going to do what I’m challenging myself to do. And that’s the point. I want to work on the “controlling me.” The “me” in charge of my day, my plans, my agendas, and my self. I want to feed that “me” a little less (ok, a lot less), during a month of the year in which that selfish “me” has the biggest appetite – and I’m not just talking about food here!

No matter the number of December’s lived through, family gatherings endured, or Christmas’ that have blended together, his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3).

No plan, no agenda, and no self-help book to help me accomplish. Just eyes wide open. Follow Him. With every fiber of my being, seeking to keep the flame fanned.

This post was not well-thought out, nor deeply researched. But it is borne of a passion to fearfully pursue Him, and faithfully serve Him, and fearfully worship Him; a passion in which I hope you share with me!

So, think about it. Will you join me?

The basis of our belief – Part 1 – Nathanael’s Condition

Have you ever had God do something wonderful and amazing in your life? An answer to prayer? An unexpected blessing? Has he given you comfort during your grief? Has he protected you during your storms? Has he provided to you when provision was needed?

God has answered many prayers for us. I could go on and on about the prayers God has answered. We have a prayer in our life right now we are emphatically praying that God will answer. Perhaps one of the bigger “requests” we have ever made known to God. The fact is, God knows what is best for us. His perfect plan exceeds our best plan, as I’ve mentioned before. Whether or whether not we understand His ways, they are greater than our ways.

Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In the first chapter of John, Jesus Christ begins the calling of the disciples. I stopped at the calling of Nathanael near the end of the chapter, in verses 45-51:

45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

As Nathanael is not mentioned by name in the other Gospels, scholars have mostly landed that this is in fact the disciple Bartholomew.  Jesus refers to him as “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” This is in contrast to the first “Israel,” that is, Jacob, who was indeed deceitful (Genesis 27:35-36). Jesus here is commenting that Nathanael is ready to consider whether or not Jesus is the Christ, and is operating without duplicity or deceit, motive or agenda.

Are we ready to consider whether or not He is Lord? Specifically, Lord of our lives? We have to come to a place in which we are able to make this determination. We cannot acknowledge Jesus as Lord while still maintaining citizenship in the world. James 4:3 says, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Dual citizenship cannot occur within the kingdom of Heaven. For example, concerning finances, Christ himself says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

A commitment for and a live lived for Christ should not and cannot be simultaneously committed to things contrary to the kingdom (what we refer to exhaustively as “the world”). It is not a convenient lifestyle. It is “all in.” We can know about Christ, and even believe He exists, all without having a personal walk and intimacy with Him.

So, what does your life look like? Is it a life lived in acknowledgment that a “big guy” might exist out there in heaven for you to tip your hat to every now and then, or is it lived as a full-fledged act of worship to God, whom has orchestrated your life from the very beginning?

I’m respectful that my friends believe there is a God, but I’m also obliged to tell them that such a simple belief statement isn’t enough. Read on…

It’s either a complete yes, or a complete no. I think “halfway” answers are even worse – maybe this is what is being talked about to the church of Laodicea in the 15th chapter of Revelation (v 15-16):

“’I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Live for Him! Completely! Without keeping any of “you” to yourself!

-Pastor Harvey – Part 2 coming soon – “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

 

Are you a Friend of God?

There’s a song entitled “Friend of God” that goes like this:

Who am I that You are mindful of me

That You hear me

When I call

Is it true that You are thinking of me

How You love me

It’s amazing

 

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

He calls me friend

 

God Almighty

Lord of glory

You have called me friend

 

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

You call me friend

Now there’s a good bit of scripture being quoted here:

Hebrews 2:6 – It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?”

 

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

 

And most noticeably to me, Abraham is called a “Friend of God” in James 2:23 – “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness–and he was called a friend of God.”

The song is a rather catchy song but I fear the concept is sometimes difficult to grasp. Considering who God is (sovereign, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Everlasting, Eternal), and what He has done (create, sacrifice, send, redeem, call), doesn’t it seem a bit ludicrous to think that I or you, individuals as we are, can adapt such a cozy title as “friend of God?”

I’m reminded of a Point of Grace song from 15 or 20 years ago entitled “God Forbid” that goes like this:

The more I know Your power

Lord the more I’m mindful

How casually we speak and

And sing Your name

How often we have come to You

With no fear or wonder

And called upon You only

For what we stand to gain

 

God forbid that I

Find You so familiar

That I think of You

As less than who You are

God forbid that I should

Speak of You at all

Without a humble

Rev’rence in my heart

God forbid

 

Lord I often talk about

Your love and mercy

How it seems to me

Your goodness has no end

It frightens me to think

That I could take You for granted

Though You’re closer than a brother

You are more than just my friend

 

God forbid that I

Find You so familiar

That I think of You

As less than who You are

God forbid that I should

Speak of You at all

Without a humble

Rev’rence in my heart

God forbid

 

You are Father God Almighty

Lord of lords

You’re King of kings

Beyond my understanding

No less than ev’rything

How can we contrast these two songs, these two thoughts, these two apparent differences on whether we can say we have a “friendship” with God or not?

Well, of course, we can quibble over wording and perception. After all, I have a much more rigid definition of what I consider a friend than many do. There are people in my life that claim having dozens if not hundreds of friends. Going by my facebook account alone, I must have hundreds as well! But that is not the case. I count my friends as less than 10. But, that’s a different post (and if I recall, I’ve ranted on it in past posts as well!).

But let’s take an examination of Abraham’s title in James, “Friend of God.” Is there a qualifier? A pre-existing condition? A reason that Abraham was called a Friend of God? And is that something we can achieve?

James 2:14-23

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God.

You see, Abraham being called a “friend of God” is inseperably linked to the scriptural passage, “faith without works is dead.”

Abraham had faith – he believed in God. But it didn’t stop there. His faith gave birth to works – he didn’t just believe God. Need a reminder? Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes:

Hebrews 11:8-10

 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Abraham, living near modern day Kuwait, obeyed and began a long journey, not knowing where he was even going. He took his family, servants, herds, and belongings. By contrast, I hesitate to drive a few hours because of all the preparation. Abraham’s journey wasn’t just a short vacation – it was a complete relocation, without a destination. Wow!

Then there’s the issue with Isaac. Some of you know the story. Abraham is called to sacrifice his son on top of the mountain. He obeys. At the last moment, an angel stays his hand, and a ram appears to be the sacrifice. Abraham passes the test. God’s call to Abraham was the call of obedience.

“Lord, the answer is yes, now what’s the question?” Do we have that attitude?

So the last part of the passage in James reads,

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God.”

You see, we all have various degrees of faith. Many Americans claim to believe in God. We may have a couple of visible reminders of our faith – a bumper sticker, a gold chain, a picture in our living room. I have reminders as well. These aren’t bad things. But our faith cannot stop with a convenient demonstration.

A particularly mis-used scripture of the Bible is Romans 10:9, which is a wonderful verse – it reads as such –

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

This scripture is NOT saying that if we believe that God exists, then we will have good standing with him, and it will all pan out in the end.

A convenient, occasional confession or demonstration that we believe in God simply won’t do. Our faith must be accompanied by works. Our belief must be accompanied by fruits. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our works and is not work centered. But our salvation WILL result in a changed life that will not resemble the life we once lived – and in that sense, our belief and our faith will result in a visible quantifiable change. If a believing state of mind was the only entrance for Christianity, then we’d all be in a theological boat without a paddle because,

James 2:19b – “Even the demons believe–and shudder!”

“Believing” isn’t enough if we’re just referring to a state of mind that doesn’t require action. Our belief should be a life-permeating belief with results at the end – not simply a “Yes Lord, I believe in You,” but maybe more like Abraham’s response – “Yes Lord, I believe in You, and I’m willing to move my family, possessions, herds, and belongings from Ur to wherever the promised land is, no matter the pain, sacrifice, or persecution that may occur – can I start now?”

I’d like to end this post with a quote that I put in a recent newsletter from Kyle Idleman’s book, “Not a Fan.”

““My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.”

Friends, please don’t engage in that kind of “Christianity.” It isn’t what we’re called to do, where we’re called to go, or who we’re called to be.

-Pastor Harvey

Our Christian Pilgrimage

There’s a pretty decent documentary on Netflix on the pilgrimages that muslims make. It’s a pretty huge thing. The documentary followed several people, one from the U.S., as they traveled to Mecca and participated in the occasion and formality of what is the “Hajj,” one of the largest pilgrimages in the world. There are entire companies set up to take care of pilgrims as they travel to Saudi Arabia, and house them, feed them, give them traveling arrangements, and help them stay within the laws and customs of Islam as they are on the pilgrimage.

The Hajj

It really is a pretty fascinating documentary, providing an insight into the mind of the Muslim, explaining in part why they do some of the things they do, and act in certain ways.

In contrast, Christians have no prescribed physical pilgrimage. We don’t have to travel to London, or to Rome, or to Jerusalem (though all three would make fascinating and spiritually enriching journeys!). However, the scripture says that we do have trials and tests, and gives us directions, wisdom, and insight not only to recognize the trials, but to pass them joyfully, with the result being that our spiritual maturity and faith increases. We are even promised the “crown of life.”

James 1:2-4 tells us to:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

It is conceivable that on a pilgrimage, the life of comfort is forsaken and trials occur. Take one of the most famous (even if fictional) Christian pilgrims, “Christian” in “Pilgrim’s Progress.” As he is journeying from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, his way is interspersed with grave trials and conditions. He is captured in the city of Vanity. He is diverted by deceivers. He is captured by a giant in Doubting Castle. They have all sorts of trouble on their pilgrimage.

Christian in “Pilgrim’s Progress”

Dictionary.com defines a pilgrimage as “a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.”

It is safe to say we cannot make such a pilgrimage without acting, and moving. We will experience opposition, trials, and troubles. If we do not, then there is no sacrifice, there is no process of refining, there is no growth, and there is no need to exhibit faith.

I’m amazed at how we Christians sometimes avoid and attempt to avert trials, when James clearly points out that these are a good thing. We would sooner rebuke trouble from ever occurring than grow as a result of experiencing it. The storm on the boat in the Sea of Galilee was not a bad thing! It produced faith in the disciples as they observed Jesus’ command of the storm. And storms in our life aren’t necessarily bad either. They provide unique opportunities in our life to see God glorified. They provide circumstances in which we cannot rely upon ourselves, our goodness, or our ability to cope and move on. We have to reach outside of ourselves to find resolution and redemption. If my life is made controllable by my own efforts, then what need do I have to reach outside of it for help? If the disciples could’ve calmed the storm, then what need would there have been to call upon Jesus?

We are all born into a condition in which none of us can do anything about…the condition of sin, thrust upon us by our humanity, absolved only by the sacrifice of an unblemished Lamb, which was provided by the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on behalf of all who would receive.

Brothers and sisters, let us be wise enough to recognize the benefit of storms. James 1 continues in verses 5-6:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

As we are on the pilgrimage of the Christian life, encountering obstacles in our life just as “Christian” did in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” let us not get boggled down by every single obstacle. How easy it is for me to default to the lowest common denominator and react as “Harvey” would react instead of being the person God has intended for me to be and to become. God has intended that as we walk, we grow, and as we grow, we remain steadfast in the storm, displaying faith in Him.

James 1:12 –

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.