Growing up on a small farm in Central Indiana, I recall the conversations my Dad had with farmers in the area. Almost every year there was some challenge to be addressed.
Some years there is too much rain in the Spring, causing the crops to be planted later than was ideal. Other years it may be a drought. Or bugs and insects. Of course there is always the problem with weeds.
In addition to the elements of nature, the price of grain, fertilizer, pesticide, and insecticide all add to production costs. Then, of course, there are market fluctuations and unforeseen economic conditions. Today’s farmers deal with all of that plus more governmental regulations (or interference), supply chain issues, energy costs, and trade agreements with other countries.
Yet, farmers who love the land accept the challenges and may feel as did George Washington who once said, “I would rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”
By comparison when we consider sowing seeds for spiritual growth, we ought to expect challenges along the way. Not everything will go as planned. Not everyone will cooperate with our spiritual goals. Obstacles, stumbling blocks, and life’s difficulties will seek to impede our progress.
It’s also important to remember there is someone who doesn’t want you to grow–the devil. When Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, he offered this warning. “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you like wheat” (Lk. 22:31). Like the chaff separated from the grain, Satan seeks to separate us from Christ.
The Devil will attack an area of weakness in your life. He may tempt you with the pleasures of the world, the pride of life, the lure of possessions, the lust of the flesh, or the inordinate desire for money. Satan doesn’t want you to grow spiritually. He shutters when he sees a Christian growing closer to God, developing his spiritual gifts, and engaging in ministry. He knows the deeper your commitment and the greater your growth, the less likely you are to fall away.
Of course, the devil uses agency to throw challenges in our way. It may be the form of family who fail to accept our spiritual priorities. It may be friends who turn their backs on us. It may be co-workers who ridicule our faith. Jesus said, “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household” Then he added this challenge.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:37-40).
All of this reminds us that our commitment to Christ and our desire to grow spiritually, will not be easy. We should expect challenges. Sometimes from places we wouldn’t expect them.
I have known of the sad condition of churches that lacked Shepherds who really watched for the souls and whose focus was more on the material and physical than the spiritual. Where members were cliquish. Where new converts weren’t easily accepted and not discipled. This is a huge challenge. Because the very place where you ought to find an environment for spiritual development may be lacking. Yet, it’s still possible to remain faithful, stay focused and grow spiritually.
To the church in Sardis that had a name in the brotherhood, yet were dead, John said there were some in the church who had not “defiled their garments.” Jesus said those who persevered in spite of the challenges within the church would “walk with me in white.” While the ideal is to be a part of an encouraging fellowship that promotes spiritual maturity, it’s possible to individually grow in spite of the shortcomings of the church.
Remember this. Spiritual growth doesn’t mean life gets easier. Instead the challenges get bigger. However, the rewards are greater.
Finally, it’s important to remember that we all experience times of “spiritual dryness.” Where we feel drained spiritually. And find ourselves running on empty. In times like these it’s necessary to find ways to reconnect with God, recharge our spiritual batteries and seek renewal. Turning to God in prayer, meditating more on His Word, and finding encouragement from stronger Christians will help us navigate through those dry periods. I would also suggest to find your “happy place” where you can relax and rejuvenate.
Expect challenges on your spiritual journey. Use them as opportunities to fortify your faith, deepen your resolve, and strengthen your spirit.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
One response to “Expect Challenges”
Thank you so much. I feel challenged with this post. There was a handful of people who helped start a structure of “disipleship” at my church but not a lot of people joined hands. Over the years, the push for discipleship from leadership has kinda died down and the number of people being discipled reverted back to the number we had in the beginning – only a handful.
I feel guilty of being a person who wants to disciple a girl at youth but not really seeing how it can fit in the existing ministry I already have whether at church or spending time with family. I don’t want to fall into the “doing” so much for ministry that it prevents me from “being” with God.
I understand discipleship doesn’t have to be very structured and it can be very simple. But there is a huuuge need for young girls to be discipled and I feel like there is another woman other than myself who is willing. I think I should talk to the girl’s moms and mention that their daughters need to be spiritually fed at home and not relying on people at church (but I’m younger than them who am I to talk haha). Let me know what your thoughts are if you have any. I know God will help and I pray he changes the desires of the youth to seek His name. I’ll be praying for your ministry as well.