Every summer we spend time in Hot Springs, Arkansas with my wife Donna’s family. This past summer we began a 23 day weDIGit ministry trip together to lead worship and speak at churches in NW Arkansas and at the Ozark Baptist Encampment in Grove, Oklahoma with our annual trip to Hot Springs. Since I wanted to be consistent and keep running several times a week as we traveled & ministered as a family, I got up early the first morning and headed out on a run.
I don’t know if you are familiar with the terrain in Arkansas, but there is a substantial difference from where we live in the Dallas area. There are trees and beautiful scenery all along the path. By comparison, there aren’t many trees in North Texas and the scenery, well, let’s just say it’s not Arkansas, but it is beautiful in different ways. I love Texas. The other big difference between Texas and Arkansas are the hills you encounter as you run. There are some serious hills in Arkansas. I’m not sure there is a flat spot anywhere as you run. There seems to be some type of steep slope with every stride you take. Texas on the other hand is pretty flat. So, needless to say, I didn’t set any new records when it came to how long it took to run that morning. To be honest, I felt a little frustrated when I heard the voice from my Nike app tell me my time for the first mile. I tend to be somewhat competitive.
As I was running that morning, I was listening to a podcast message by Doug Fox on being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. Doug is our pastor at Cornerstone Church in Rockwall, TX. The Lord used that message to continue to heighten my awareness of the Spirit’s voice and leadership in my life. So, as soon as I felt that twinge of frustration after the voice told me my time for the first mile, the Holy Spirit spoke to me through Doug’s message. The following message came through loud and clear, “Why would you expect your time to be faster or even close to the time that you normally would run? The terrain is much more difficult, and you’re not used to running it. Accept the challenge, be ok with the pace, and enjoy the beauty along the way. Rest in the process! Endurance is not developed completely on the flat terrain. You have to experience the hills and valleys too” The Holy Spirit was giving me a lesson and example of Sanctification.
Sanctification is a word that believers don’t discuss as often as we should. I think it’s because we don’t like it. To sanctify means “to set aside for a sacred purpose; to free from sin; purify.” Sanctification is the process that God uses in each believer to free us from the bondage of sin, so that He can fill us completely with his presence. God wants His thoughts and ways to become our thoughts and ways, so that we can become more and more like Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to fulfill God’s desire in our lives. He does that through Sanctification.
God reminded me on that hot & muggy morning in Hot Springs, Arkansas, that sanctification isn’t easy. In fact, because of our pride and choice to give in to our old way of living, it can be a hard & difficult work. But God knows that we must be sanctified to overcome the pride, arrogance, and selfishness that attempts to hang on to our lives after we believe in Jesus. That’s what Paul encouraged believers to recognize in II Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” That new life has been paid for by Jesus, and we simply have to yield and walk in what has already been done for us.
I’ve thought about making a T-Shirt that on the front says, “Sanctification Stinks!” Then on the back it will say, “But I need every minute of it.” You see, the hills and valleys stunk! They were hard, and I wanted them to be over. But as I look back, I see that God was showing me that while the hills were difficult & caused my time to be slower than normal, the different terrain was actually making me stronger. It was developing endurance in me. When I ran again on the flat terrain in Texas, my mentality was different. The running wasn’t as difficult because of the hills and valleys I had experienced in Arkansas. The hills were necessary in my life to become stronger.
It’s the same way in our lives spiritually. The hills & valleys we experience in life will never be easy, but our Heavenly Father will work through all that we face to develop in us His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The results of His life living through us! His sanctifying work is worth it.
James 1:1-4 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
There will always be hills in life. In John 16:33, Jesus told us troubles would happen. He also told us to be confident because He had already overcome all we will face. That’s why James was able to say we can enter all adversity with confidence and even joy. When we recognize that God’s Spirit within us will always use the “hills and valleys” to develop God’s Character in us, we can have hope in the midst of the journey. The troubles won’t feel joyful at the time, just like the hills in Arkansas, but we can face all the hills and valleys knowing that the end result will produce strength and endurance within us as we become like Jesus.
Finally, check out what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-15…
“continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
Be encouraged today. Whatever hills and valleys you face, you can be confident that God is always in control and is working IN YOU to strengthen your faith and bring glory to Himself. Sanctification is hard work. We will experience fear and trembling during the process. But as Paul said, we can always trust God to work through it all to fulfill a greater purpose. His purpose! By yielding and allowing His Spirit to guide us, we can “shine like stars” as we hold on to Him.
I am so blessed to know people that have traveled over what seemed like mountains in this life. They have shined like stars through what they faced. I have seen Jesus in them. I know it’s the only way they made it, and I am always challenged and encouraged by their faith. When we choose to be people like that too, others will see Jesus in us and find hope themselves.
Be blessed today! It’s a journey, and you’re never alone.
“Now may the God of peace - who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood - may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21
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