3 Steps to Renewal
Psalm 119: 25Step #1: In the Dust
Step #2: Rising in Hope
Step #3: Calling for Revival
Many of us don't realize the great work God desires to do in our lives nor how He accomplishes His work. Many of us whether Christian or not, have not thought through our real purpose and goals in life, nor have we thought through the steps we need to take to get there.
We more often think of God as a gasoline attender who starts us off but has nothing or little to do with where we go or what we do. But God indeed is our partner in life. He is more than our life giver. He also protects and leads us. He Himself empowers us. But more often than not we have spent more time and money on movies than serious thinking on how to have God work most efficiently in our lives.
I have a friend who recently shared with me some reflections about a garden. Last year he bought and planted a number of plants. He had recently moved into a new home. On one side he planted the annuals. He explained how they grow one year in a burst of energy and color. Where he planted the annuals, they just bloomed ever so nicely. However, when the winter comes, they die, and one has to plant the annuals all over again the following year. He also planted perennials. They live year after year. This first year they did not do so well however. They were straggly and not so nice looking. But that, in his experience, the second and following years they would do really well. When the harsh winter comes, they survive. The key point about the perennials is that they do more than grow each year. Like my irises, after a few years they multiply their roots. One has to dig them up and divide them. But as you divide them, then you have new plants that you can plant elsewhere. I have done this with my Irises. I have used the extra plants to cover up a barrel in our yard, plant down by the garage and in two other places in my yard.
What does this mean? In our Christian lives, we can spurt up real quickly and look like we are being very effective. These are the 'yes' people. They say yes, but they never stay steady. They are not reliable for long. Their interest holds on only so long until something else distracts them. But in the end, their contribution is very limited. Or as in the illustration, the hard winter elements take a toll on what the person can give, and they give up. I have seen many of you grow up from being young singles to married and even with a number of children. Once a carefree college student is now responsible at work or at home. There might be other pursuits in life. It is easy to think back during those days when you did this and that for the Lord. You had all that ambition. But the Lord never wants us to be just like an annual. His work in us is always more like how the Father worked in the Life of Jesus Christ - it was more like a perennial.
The Lord wants us to grow up like perennials where we can stand the harsh winter climate and grow at the roots and keep doubling our ministry power. We are faithful. We are steady. We are mobilizers. We are trainers. We are mentors. We want others to come to do what we can so that we set a stronger foundation with a greater breadth and depth for a long lasting and effective ministry. 2 Timothy 2:1- 2 says,
Perennial plants ...
When we catch a vision of Gods great work, then we are able to stay steady through difficult times. We might need to loosen up through times of crisis, but that is fine. For when our strength comes back, when the spring time brings the sun, warmth and rain, we spring up year after year in service to the Lord and others. With our goals in clear light, we are able to keep from being distracted. Empty minds often are filled with foolish thoughts, but keep your mind filled with Gods Word, then your heart will be impassioned with His purpose.
You might ask, What happens when we grow?
Growing burdened and experienced workers does not mean that when someone else can do it, then I no longer need to do anything. As the foundation of ministry grows, whether at home, work or at church, we will see other even more gifted people come up right beside us. We need not be jealous. This is the blessing! We encourage them to persevere in the ministry. Meanwhile, we find that with a greater foundation, we can more effectively focus on different ministries. God has His intention of multiplying ministry rather than just adding to it. I don't know about you, but I don't think I have ever seen a plant that had only one seed or fruit. It is true that someone might come along and take all the small apples off ones tree and leave only one to grow to maturity - I have seen this happen! Small apples are fun for small hands to pick. But God hasn't designed an orange tree or tomato plant or grape vine or maple tree to focus only on one fruit. In Mark 4:8 Jesus is recorded saying,
His work is to have more people excelling in an area rather than just one. Once we have several people doing it, we can advance still further. It is when we have the luxury of several workers, that we can excel and specialize in different areas. I remember general practice doctors when I was small, but now with the opportunity and knowledge, we have many doctors specializing in different areas. With a greater number of people coming and going, we need to be a bit more flexible understanding that as our people come and go, our foundation and even ministries might need to change their shape and focus.
But I believe we need to ask not only what is our goal, but how does God accomplish this goal of making us like perennial plants - steady and multipliers? How does God implant those goals that He has in mind in our lives? Psalm 119:25 holds some key insights into these questions.
In particular I would like to share three common steps God uses to develop our lives so that we are not those flirtatious annuals but the steady and reliable people we love to have around us. The more we realize Gods means of developing us, the easier it is to cooperate with God in His life-building purposes through our lives
The first few verses of this verse tells us that the man and woman of God are not ones to escape trials and tribulations. The best way to cultivate a strong Christian is not to remove him from the harsh winter. A Christian must understand the hard responsibilities of life are there to make us strong. The Spirit of God inspired this song writer and expressed the Word of God through him in these verses. His life like the many others throughout the scriptures, were not free from troubles but grew through the difficulties of life, much like: Abraham, Isaac, David, Rahab, Jesus, Peter, Ruth, Paul, Mary or Stephen.
You are not the only one who has felt like your path on earth is like walking along a dusty road with very little water. You feel barren. Survival is on your mind, not fruitfulness. You are struggling with life rather than rejoicing in life. Many are the causes: sometimes we are grieving over a loss one; sometimes our youngest child has left home; sometimes because we don't forgive another; or we just get too distracted with life and put Gods concern second. Things look dark. You don't even understand what hope is anymore. You would want to be anywhere but where you are. You perhaps feel vicious and angry, or just plain confused. We understand why one should want to escape such horrible situations. And we will speak about this in a moment. But before we do anything, we need to recognize that God is working through all the circumstances in life to our good. And that some of these circumstances are downright difficult. This Psalmist was gripping onto dust, the apostle Paul was lost at sea for 3 days, Job was scraping his skin with broken pottery.
If we are to grow, we need to see that God can use circumstances like a slow driver, a crazy driver or a drunken driver to shape our lives. We might be late, irritated or hurt, but the point is whatever brings us to the dust, it is something that God is at work in our lives. It is not because we are good or bad. There is a deeper purpose. If we are hedonistic, then we will be seeking pleasure and comfort in life. This does not mean that it is wrong to have pleasure or comfort. But those who seek such things, will never be able to grow. They will have a block in their mind. They will think God is opposing them in their life purposes rather than trying to help them. This doubt never brings the learning that is needed.
I believe these cleaving to the dust situations are more common than we would openly admit. We should not feel embarrassed, shy or awkward about thinking through our own experiences. This Psalmist did what was right in this case. He observed his barrenness and because of his acceptance of it, he could be navigated through it.
Are you now walking through a time of trial? Is your life crumbling away? Have you been able to stand still and see that without Gods hope, you are utterly helpless and hopeless? When the world gets hit hard, they run for liquor and distraction. They have no one there for them. But when the Christian gets hit hard, he is willing to stand still and see his emptiness because the Lord who loves him is right beside him. When we observe our situation, we are humbled. But it is in this humility, we get to really see Gods amazing love.
Now by saying that cleaving to the dust is common, it doesn't mean that we should be satisfied to stay there. In some circumstances, some people are asked to stay in such situations for long periods of time. God gives extra grace for them. Joni Erickson Tada is one quadriplegic who testifies to this.
However, there are other kinds of problems that can find healing. These pains are caused earlier in life and still hurt late in life. Their pain has never left them. We are not suggesting that the event can be erased. History is history. During one of my wife's miscarriages, we heard a person sharing about her miscarriage -trying to comfort my wife. But she herself was still suffering; the emotional pain still went on and on - even 18 years later. Some doctor made a mistake bringing her unborn child to death. She could not forgive him; she still says she cannot. We grieve with her. We understand the pain of the past. But the man and woman of God must not stay there in the dust. The trials most of us go through were meant to be temporary times. When we react wrongly to them, then we make it last longer.
Part of understanding the barrenness of our soul is to understand that the dryness of the soul is not normal. It is not to be accepted. The wound is not to be superficially covered up and ignored so that the pain continues on and on. Whether it is a spiritual difficulty of running from the Lord or disobedience in the way He leads, it matters not. What matters is that we say enough with this poverty of life like this Psalmist. Although he could face his misery, he also realized this is not where he would be long term. The hard path he was now traveling would soon turn into another path of life.
Do you remember how the Sermon on the Mount begins with the first beatitude in Matthew 5:3 saying,
Being a beggar in our hearts is okay. It is here the is the important beginning of renewal takes place in our lives, or even salvation if one does not know the Lord. It is the beginning of knowing the Lord. The brokenness is like the plowing of the fields. One is opening up the hard ground underneath so that new seeds of hope and life can be planted and grown. The heart is funny. Before it can prosper, it must realize its lost. Before it can triumph, it must weep in defeat. We must understand that in most cases these trials are but transitional periods when the Lord is leading us on to bigger and better things.
The Psalmist discovered his barren life, but knew that he didn't have to stay in that condition because of Gods greater power and purposes. If you know the scriptures, you will commonly hear the phrase, Rejoice in the Lord, always. If you only look at your circumstances are, you will say, Me, rejoice? But if you understand your situation like this Psalmist, you will say, That is me. I am barren. I am dry. I am walking in the desert alone. But God has something else for me. God is wanting to walk with me. God is desiring to pour our the living waters to my soul. Then you know the joy in the Lord.
If we just know our circumstances but lack Gods overall perspective, then we are no different than the world. They don't know God nor His promises. As Gods people, however, we know God has made the stomach to be filled, the dry mouth to be watered, the empty womb to be filled. With Gods wisdom, we can see that our cleaving to the dust was designed to draw us closer to the Lord rather than a reason to keep us from the Lord. Listen to our Lords words in Matthew 11:28-30,
Like the Psalmist, we need to find that our deepest needs are met from the Lord. We should not get upset with our mate, boyfriend, or Gods people because they didn't come through as you thought they should. Through the Lords words, we know He wants us to come to Him when we discover difficult times. Don't give your burden to man unless you want to be discouraged. The Psalmist turned to God in prayer. The place of the counselor is never to take the place of God but to lead the person to the person, purpose and promises of God. Nor should we think that we can bear the load on our own. You say, I can handle it on my own - Thank you! This spirit of independence has turned into a lot of sour faces. Or if we say, Easy for you to say, you never .... If think like this, then we should realize we are still proud in spirit. We are not broken. Pained, yes, but not broken. We are not looking yet for the savior. What makes Psalm 119 so special is not the Psalmists sinlessness or lack of painful circumstances. He faced many a rough situation. The difference is that he saw these trials as a step to God. He saw that the very things that made life hard and even miserable were the very things that led him to experience Gods glorious peace and joy.
Have you any hidden old struggles down deep in your heart? Have you been nursing a wound and so been held back from experiencing the fullness of life? Can you now say that God wants to bring a richness to your soul from your impoverished situation? Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1 said that those who have suffered can begin to be used by God to bring comfort to others.
Step 1# is to admit the difficulty.
Examples of Revival
Water Gate Revival
Call to Revival - Zephaniah
The Process of Revival
Understanding Revival's Cycles
Reviving Our Personal Devotions
From Revival to Despair
Revival and the Fear of God in Society
Exhortation to be Revived
Solomon's prayer which initiated the Promise for Revival
God's willingness to promise revival
Revival: God's Promise (Part I).
Revival: God's Action Plan (Part II).
Revival: God's Reward (Part III).
But now for a Brief Moment
Three Steps to Renewal
Living by the Spirit
Another View of Christ's Passion
What is a revival? Is the term biblical or manmade?
How do revivals happen? Explain the process.
Is spiritual decline the opposite of a revival? How so?
What are three signs of revival in the Water Gate revival of Nehemiah?
Share a few great changes from the 1905 Welsh Revival.