By Shelly Esser
The biblical landscape is littered with men and women who let go of their expectations in exchange for a life of trust and faith. Joseph, who was given a specific dream, watched it go up in smoke. Instead, he was sold into slavery, ended up in prison, and journeyed for years with unmet expectations. Abraham was promised a son. Years went by and there was no son. The Apostle Paul’s ministry life included long stints in prison, of all places. Remarkably, these people, despite their unfulfilled expectations and dreams, continued to minister in the circumstances God ordained for them, and they continued to trust Him with what didn’t make sense at the time. The encouragement for us is that God uses the disappointments in our lives to press us forward in our faith. Managing expectations in those times of dashed dreams can lead us into deeper intimacy with Christ.
In the end, we were never intended to find our fulfillment in people, our circumstances, or even ministries. We were intended to find fulfillment in God alone. There will always be disappointments and broken dreams. Thankfully, though, we can hold on to the truth in Hebrews 13:8 which says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He will never fail us. Even in the midst of our broken dreams, we can start over, managing our expectations and serving God with a deep joy and passion. It’s often in the letting go, in the loss of our dreams, that we gain our heart’s deepest longing and treasure: Christ Himself.
By Jill Briscoe
How does the Spirit work His art of Christlikeness into our lives? Not without our cooperation. The Spirit’s part is to help us be obedient to do His work, and ours is to order our lives and practice the spiritual disciplines. But how?
Feeding on the Word.
As it is in the physical realm, so it is in the spiritual: we cannot grow unless we eat. As we absorb, read, highlight, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures, we become mature believers and good examples to others. Read a little from the Bible every day—twice a day if you can, morning and evening. Begin to study the Bible more than you do now. Go deeper. Use a commentary to study a book or an epistle. Take notes. Apply the lessons you’ve learned from it. Is your life worth imitating when it comes to Bible knowledge? Do people ask you to show them how to know their Bible like you do? Are you getting your life instructions from God’s Word and being obedient?
Handling Differences like Big People.
One of the most significant signs of the spiritual art of maturity is how well we handle our differences. Do we handle our differences Christianly? Is there a spirit of competition in our church, and are we caught up in it? Are you growing to love people—with a love that transcends all barriers, a love that loves those you don’t even like? And even a love for the lost.
Caring Deeply About Lost People.
Paul is in tears as he talks about these people (3:18). His heart is broken over the lost people. Is ours? He loves the sinner and hates the sin. Do we? Or do we rebuke the sinner and separate our hearts and ourselves from their dilemmas? Do we care--really care—about lost people? If we really love people with the love of Christ, we will care about people who live like the devil and think that they will get away with it. We know that isn’t true. “Their destiny is destruction,” says Paul (3:19). Jesus wept over people who rejected Him. A broken heart for the lost only happens to mature people. To cry for the lost as well as the found is the Spirit’s Heart.
By Jill Briscoe
Pride always has to take the credit for a job well done, a victory achieved, a soul saved, a Christian helped. Pride always has to take the credit and never the blame. If something goes wrong, it is always someone else’s fault. Pride would rather choke than say, “I’m sorry.” Yet, we can achieve so much more as long as we don’t have to take the credit!
So how can we deal with our tendency toward pride and arrogance? How can we learn to let agape love rule our service and relationships in the church? How do we learn the art of humility?
1. Spend Lots of Time in Worship
Isaiah looked through the doorway of heaven one day and saw the Lord high and lifted up, sitting on a throne. “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isa. 6:5). The best way for us to stop saying, “Wow is me!” is to spend lots of time seeing the Lord who is high and holy. Then we will find ourselves saying, “Woe is me.”
I was intrigued to hear Isaiah talk about his lips as his being “unclean.” To me, he is the golden-lipped prophet! Yet as he worshipped, he felt dirty and in need of cleansing.
Spend time with God. See the Lord high and lifted up, glorious and holy. If that doesn’t cure your pride, nothing will!
2. Listen to Yourself, Look at Yourself
Listen to yourself talk, and then stop talking when it’s all about you. Ask lots of questions about other people. Stop talking about your kids and ask about theirs. If there are single people in the group, remember that they have a family too! Ask them to share their photos.
Use the Bible as a mirror of your soul. James says, “For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like” (James 1:23-24). Look into God’s Word and see yourself clearly. See the blemishes, but don’t walk away and forget. Try to improve things you see in “the mirror.”
If we can allow God to show us our pride and arrogance, our rudeness and selfishness, and ask Him to change us into His image, then the mirror will have done its good work in our hearts. So listen to yourself and look at yourself! Then fix the blemishes you notice!
3. Humble Yourself
If we don’t humble ourselves, then God will humble us! So dare to invite God to keep you humble - to help you learn humility. Now let me tell you, this is an exceedingly dangerous prayer to pray! I have learned from experience what it’s like to have God humble me—and it’s not always a pretty picture! Yet I still dare to ask God to do what it takes to keep my head the size it should be, and He still delights to oblige. The Bible says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God” (1 Peter 5:6), and I would add, “You had better do it, or God will do it for you!”
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