The goal of God is maturity!

The most powerful things

A topic that often isn't dealt with in churches, is the topic of doubt. No one in the Bible, outside of Jesus, has received higher praise than John the Baptist -and yet John the Baptist struggled, questioned and doubted. And maybe if God affirmed him in his struggle, maybe today God has something to say to you!

John the Baptist had had an amazing effective ministry preaching the coming of the Messiah out in the wilderness, and people had flocked from Jerusalem to hear this prophet speak the truth of God. And for speaking the truth, John was arrested by Herod and thrown into prison and John knew that his day of death was near. Matthew 11:1-3 "After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee." So John sent his disciples when he saw that Christ was near to ask him "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" 

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” 

This is an important detail to the conversation at this point because Jesus has something to say about John that He says intentionally after John's disciples have left so that this message does not get back immediately to John. As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:7-11)

What I want to share with you today is 'what it means to trust' and how we deal with doubt and fear and questions. The truth is, that I believe with all of my heart, that struggling through doubt is the heart of trusting! It's the heart of what it means to trust God! Not that we live in the absence of, but in the presence of doubt and questions, struggling through those toward Jesus Christ, we are expressing the highest heart of faith!

Believers throughout the centuries, from the early church fathers have talked about something called 'The Dark Night of the Soul.' - The Dark Night of the Soul is that time when God seems to be in eclipse! When the promises of God seem so far away from the realities of the moment. When God seems so distance and so absent, it is as though you were living in a God eclipse and in that dark, it is cold and it is death dealing and you feel alone and you feel flawed and you're wondering is it God? Is there a God? Is it you? What's wrong with me? But certainly this can't be right!

I want to share with you that everyone experiences a 'Dark night of the Soul'. Hear me, all you who are committed followers of Christ, you need to know that doubt is a normal part of the Christian life! It's an inevitable part of broken people discovering and entering into eternal life while passing through a very broken world! 

Sometimes the experiences in life just seem so much more real than the promises of Jesus and in cultural Christianity, we learn to be dishonest and pretty unreal quickly in our lives but the God of scripture is a God that never leads us to pretend! One of the things that just makes me convinced of the reality of the scripture is just how the people in scripture are revealed. 

I mean Noah after landing in the ark, gets drunk and is lying naked in his tent - well my hero is not like that! King David is committing adultery with a woman and then murders her husband! Well if I'm writing the Bible, I'm kind of editing those parts! And Jesus, my superhero, when He's on the cross, He's not gonna ask any questions! He's God, He has all the answers, He's not gonna cry out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" The very fact that the Bible is so real and so raw and so human and so true, is one of the things that convinces me that this is the revelation of God - this is truth!

So how is it that we've become 'plastic' in gathering as a church? We have this idea that to be a real Christian means that I've got it all together! That I'm not hurting, that I have answers and that life is good because God loving me means that everything is OK - it's not a struggle! 

Guys, I just want to be honest with you and tell you that I've been in many seasons where my soul felt in total eclipse of God.

Chuck DeGroat talks about 'Dark Nights' and he says "Dark nights provoke deep questions." Guys, as followers of Christ in the example of scripture, don't walk away from your questions! Read the book of Job if you want to see how questioning is handled with God...God can handle your questions and He will answer! 

Deep questions deserve deep answers and so often we throw shallow answers into the face of the deep. Don't give shallow answers to deep pain! I know we all want to do that, we all want to fill in the pain, but sometimes the deepest answers are found in a holy silence - in seasons of brokenness and just listening in the presence of God!

Dark nights are both spiritual and psychological. They are spiritual and you have an enemy who is out to destroy you! He feeds off your pain, your tears are his drink! He is intelligent, he is strategic, he watches. He is not all powerful so there's no reason to be afraid of him, I'm just saying let's not be naive, we have an enemy who is actively at work to trip us up, bring us down, to literally destroy us and laugh at us! 

Have you ever been tempted to do something and then after you do it...what's the voice that comes back in? "You idiot! How dumb can you be? You worthless person!" And you're like "you just told me that this would be great and awesome and it's not!" That's your enemy- that's who he is.

There is a profound spiritual basis for the 'Dark Nights of the Soul' for those seasons of struggling and times for questioning where we don't have all the perfect evidence and we're looking through the glass darkly and there is a very spiritual game being played out here. The reality is there are also psychological elements to that and you can't deny that!

The simple truth is, that you will come to a place, or have been in a place, or are in a place where the pain and the dark and the apparent distance of God are so deep that you will struggle and you will question and you will doubt - God does not condemn you for that! 

Jesus said "Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist..." John the Baptist was mature, he knew and yet he still said "are you the one?

Faith is letting Jesus be bigger than your pain. Jesus being more real than the darkness that you feel. It's allowing Jesus Christ to be the light in your darkness! We think sometimes faith means having no darkness, having no struggle, having no pain. No, real faith is struggling through doubt toward Jesus; that is the heart of trusting! You just gotta keep going! Keep moving towards Jesus, because the reality is there is a doubting that is a dialing back and turning away from Jesus and then there is a doubt that is a coming alive and fighting forward and struggling to see Jesus and to move toward him! 

You see the goal of God is maturity - a faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone! That's God's goal for your life - that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

trust in the lord

Proverbs 3:4-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." You and I cannot understand the scope and scale of all that is around us, "But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Trusting Him will change your life and your destiny! If you're following Him and you're struggling away from Jesus, I want to challenge you to struggle and walk toward Jesus because He will change your destiny.  That's the miracle of God's love given in Jesus!

You see the goal of God is maturity - A faith that is not trapped in broken emotions locked in one moment of time. A faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone, that's God's goal for your life that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting!

When you make Jesus - and not your pain - the issue, something happens in the presence of the glory of God and the imagination of the restoration! Our pain begins to shrink down to the size of a marble and it is not our pain that is so big and overwhelming - it is our savior! The hope of Jesus will change your life! It will give you new perspective and give you hope.  And you will be able to struggle through just as Jesus did on the cross, on to the resurrection and on to glory! -Dr. Drew Shofner

It's our weakness that reveals the strength and power of God!

God doesn't ask us to do the impossible

All those reasons why we can't do this or we can't do that, the truth is, every single one of us who are believers in Jesus Christ can live the message and God can beautifully reveal Himself to the world in ways that are life changing because it is God Himself speaking through us - all you have to do is let it happen!

The Kingdom has come, but it's still in the process and we still live in a broken world, and so you will be opposed, but the truth is that you will also be blessed with the clarity to reveal the message.

In Matthew 10:19-20, Jesus went on to say "When they arrest you , don't worry about what you will say or how you will say it, at that time it will be given to you what to say" and I love verse 20 of Matthew 10, "For it will not be you speaking but the spirit of your Father living and speaking through you."

If you think you're all that and you've got all that, then there's no room for God in you!

But, if you're broken and your on your knees and you say "God I'm empty," then you're in a perfect place to live all of your life with God filling you up with living water and you'll be splashing life on people for the rest of your life! We as the body of Christ are called to live the message of Jesus at any cost and we are to live the whole message!

Here's what I want you to do, to live the message creatively given all you've been given no matter how small it seems to you! You may think you've got nothing and that there's no way you can make a radical difference in this world and I'm just telling you you're wrong! It's our weakness that reveals the strength and power of God! -Dr. Drew Shofner

It's time for us to trust God and to believe the impossible again!

Severn Run Wooden cross

Seventeen and a half years ago when God let me have the privilege of becoming the lead pastor at The Church at Severn Run, we had a real decision to make. The decision to make was to stay where we are and ignore the need of the world around us and pretend like somebody else will reach those people, or continue the tradition of this amazing church and attempt the impossible for God. We wanted to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel, so we began a journey to say, "We believe that nothing is impossible with God!" We believe that God's supply will always meet our need and we are going to give our all to trust God!

It really is a big decision to decide whether you're going to trust God with the impossible or whether you're going to pull back and just exist. I can't tell you all the times that we stood in places of great need and made the decision--do we trust the supply of God or do we not? When we stood at places perhaps where we got a little comfortable and then looked around at our world and said, "Are we going to answer the need of the broken world and take the gospel to it, or are we going to act like it's not there and somebody else would do it?" This (church) property was somebody else's property and we had looked for land for years. Our own realtor quit and would not look at this property because they already had a two million dollar contract on it. The truth was, there was no hope of us buying this property...but we know God!

After he left, I went back to my desk and I wrote a letter casting a vision of a church that could change the world in this area. Of a church having a generational impact on the lives of men and women and boys and girls. Of a church that would take the gospel message of Jesus that answers the brokenness of the world, that puts marriages back together, that gives the hopeless hope, that helps young people in middle school and high school find a reason to live, and journey toward their purpose instead of deeper brokenness! And casting the vision of a church that could do that, the owners of this property said, "We want to talk to you!"

So we gathered and we prayed. The only thing that was on this property at one point was a wooden cross and we gathered and prayed and saw something where there was NOTHING! It's time for us to trust God and to believe the impossible again! -Dr. Drew Shofner

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