144. Stepping Stones To Change

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

While we are building up our spirit by opening that first love gate inside us, praying continually, and waiting on the Lord, we also need to allow God to work on our soul so that it comes into proper submission to our spirit.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I (Christ in me) now live in the flesh, I (Christ in me) live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal 2:20).

The whole relationship changes when I recognise that I have been crucified, and when I die to self, because God is then able to join Himself to me in manifesting Himself to the world around me.

Search me, try me

Search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
(Ps 139:23-24).

When we pray a prayer like that, God takes us at our word: He takes us up on what we have prayed. If we are willing to pray that prayer, He will search our heart. And He will also enable us to know what is going on in our heart. This is part of the process of change: we have to be prepared to allow God to search our hearts and show us what is there. We have to be willing to look at ourselves and see what is going on on the inside.

For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Cor 11:31 NKJV)

In judging ourselves, though, we do not compare ourselves to anyone but Jesus. God wants us to be transformed into the image of Jesus, and if we compare ourselves to Him we can see how far we have come, and how much more God still has to do in our hearts.

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil… (Matt 13:18-23)

The word of the kingdom gets sown into our heart. There are four kinds of soil mentioned here. Because of the past there may be areas in our hearts which are trampled down, compacted and hard, like a path, and the seed cannot grow there. Or it may be the rocks and stones in our heart, the things that have happened to us, that make it hard for the word to take root. We may get distracted by allowing our flesh to direct our thinking and our behaviour. Our hearts need to be changed, transformed into good soil, so that the word of the kingdom of God can grow in us and flourish, and bear fruit.

Consider it joy

But there is a process we need to go through in order to deal with the things that are in our hearts.

…strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, – this sounds really good so far – and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22).

How is that ‘encouraging’? Because when we are in the middle of the troubles, trials, or tribulations, we need to know that it is all part of the process of God bringing transformation. I am not talking about sickness or things like that (God does not bring any sickness on us) but about situations and circumstances in our lives that highlight for us the condition of our heart in a particular area.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

How many of us actually consider our trials as joy? But it is the attitude we have to the trials that will determine their outcome. And if we consider that God uses trials to transform us, then we will have a different approach to the situations we face. We can allow those trials to be stepping stones to change, transformation and growth; or we can resist those trials and then nothing in us will change. We have to welcome them with thanksgiving and joy. We can thank God for the trials He brings, because we know that we are being perfected, becoming complete, and will lack in nothing – just like Jesus.

If that is the outcome we are looking for, then we have to be willing to look within our lives so that we can learn, overcome, grow; so that we can see what is on the inside transformed.

Exult in tribulations

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom 5:3-5).

Exulting in tribulations is exactly the opposite of what our flesh wants to do. Gifts are given, but fruit grows. We want to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, and be more like Jesus. It is great to receive things as a gift; but we do not get character that way: it is a fruit of dealing with the trials and troubles in our lives. How we deal with them is what shapes our character and causes us to act like Jesus.

And everything operates through love. The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and it enables us to deal with every situation, every trial, every trouble that we face. The love of God is in us.

It is not that He is disciplining us because He does not love us. Quite the opposite: He disciplines us because He does love us, He cares for us, and He wants us to be transformed and changed. Then He can reveal us on the earth as the manifest sons of God, shining with His light, displaying His character and the fruit that comes from a life transformed by the situations that we have faced.

He Won’t Relent

The process itself may not sound too pleasant. But it will be less painful if we surrender to the process rather than struggling against it. Jesus said:

And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder (Matt 21:44 NKJV).

Our soul can be broken, and then restored; or it can be crushed. Which would you rather? As I allow brokenness in my soul, the fragrance of God’s presence comes from me. The other way fragrance can be released from something is by grinding it to powder. God wants us to be changed. He won’t relent (as we have been singing again recently) until He has it all, all of us.

God loves us too much to let us go. Time and time again He will give us opportunities to grow and be transformed. We can give Him our heart, and surrender to the process, and be filled with joy, peace and love; or we can fight, struggle, and resist what He is wanting to do. Then all that happens is that we get to go around the mountain one more time, until He gives us another opportunity to deal with the same issue. I am sure there have been times when most of us have been around the same mountain more than once, until we learnt this truth.

He wants us to look at the mountain and say, ‘This is not going to stop me. I am going to deal with this and overcome it. I am going to climb this mountain’.

When we do, that mountain is going to elevate us higher into the purposes of God for our lives.

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