Are You Running from God in The Valley of Transformation?

running from dangerDuring the 1996 Superbowl, Nissan launched its now famous “Life is A Journey, Enjoy the Ride” advertising campaign. In the two-minute spot, a young boy finds himself in an underground garage, where a mysterious man shows him some old cars. As the boy begins to leave, the old man offers him a parting word of sage advice: (You have to say this with a thick Japanese accent for the full effect) “Remember….Life is a journey. Enjoy…..the ride.”

Of course the commercial was designed to sell Nissan’s, so people could “enjoy the ride” in a nice car! It had a different impact on one young pastor who was watching.

I paused to reflect on my life and the journey I was on with Christ. How far I had come, how much I had changed since I knelt down before the Savior that first time. I was not the person I wanted to be, but I was definitely not the person I had been! Like my brothers and sisters who had lived before me, I was indeed on a journey. A journey that was taking me down an ancient path, sometimes through stops I did not want to make, often through places I did not understand, but always towards a destination.

…That is the purpose of Christianity and to that end, He guides us along the journey…”

It is the same destination for every Christian: to be formed into the image of Christ. God is quite serious about His promise to “conform (us) to the likeness of his Son…” (Rom 8:29), to enable us to “participate in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4) and to see us “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2). That is the purpose of Christianity and to that end, He guides us along the journey, overseeing the process in our lives.

Like all who have followed Christ before you , there have been many things that have conspired against you to side track you along the way. We’ve all had families, classmates, schools, peers, work associates and the ever-present media, who have helped shape our character. Sadly, these influences have often mis-shaped us. Rather than forging us into the image of divine fullness, we were conformed into the image of human brokeness. Much of that brokeness, we carry around with us.

We don’t like pain or hardship…but God mercifuly uses difficulties in our lives to shape us

The call of Christ to follow him, to embrace his life transforming Gospel, has the power to change our course! I have learned that this journey to become like the Savior will often take us kicking and screaming into places we do not want to go! But go we must, for it is only through those doors that we learn the transformative lessons we need to learn.

We don’t like pain or hardship. We want everything to be smooth, easy and trouble-free. Often, Christianity is portrayed as a way to make all our problems disappear. The problem with this is that it just isn’t true. God mercifully uses difficulties in our lives to 1) get our attention when we get off track and 2) as a tool to lead us further on the journey to become like His Son. These are just two of the reasons that James could say:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV
 
There is something very important in this passage that we often miss and it warps our view of Christianity in the process. You don’t see this clearly in the NIV translation, but most other translations include the three-letter word “Let”, which is in the greek. We are commanded to “let” this perseverance complete its work in our lives. We are urged to “let it” finish its work.” That word means “to hold onto, seize, possess, be affected by, subjected to, to retain, to wear (like clothing), to embrace” what God may be doing through the trials. In other words, when we are going through God-ordained trials, we are not to fear them, or run from them. Instead, we are called to seize them. God wants us to embrace our trials because He can use them to shape our lives for the better, if we “let” Him.

When God invites you into the valley of transformation, choose to enter it with faith and hope!

How counter-culture is that? My normal response when things are going wrong is to find the quickest way out it. The opposite of the “Let” command is “to drop, to dispossess, to be unaffected by, to not be subject to, to reject, to take off. Isn’t that how we naturally react to difficult circumstances in our lives? We get rid of them as fast as we possibly can. I wonder if that is why some of us keep going through the same trials over and over again. Could it be because each time God brings us to the valleys of transformation, we refuse to enter them? It is clear that God give us the freedom to make that choice. I think it is also clear that, because He is sovereign, God can bring us back to the same trial over and over again until we submit to His will. Often times, I think he does just that.

If you are going through hard times right now, perhaps it would be beneficial to consider what God is doing. Is God trying to get your attention because you have gotten off course? If that is the case, you can look at your trials as God’s merciful gift to you. Is God working in your circumstances to make you more like Christ? Rejoice! If you find yourself praying and praying for your circumstances to change, and they aren’t, perhaps it is time to ask God why He allows them to continue and what it is you are being taught? Often times we can look at the trials in our lives and feel that God is picking on us. Actually, He may have picked us out for a special work of His transformative grace.

Life is a journey! We can enjoy the ride even in the midst of difficulties. We just have to “Let” God accomplish his goal for our lives.

Now it is your turn to share your thoughts.

Would you agree or disagree with this statement: Some of the most important changes in my life were birthed out of adversity?

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on April 2, 2013, in Christianity, The Christian Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. It seems as it gets harder and harder, then now i want to run! Just being honest. It seems my life with Christ started out somewhat hard, because of the hardship I was in … most of my life, but yet, I have grown so intensely. To whom much is given, much is required, has been my mainstay. The Lord has given me much for such a short period of time to learn, have enjoyed the learning, but, oh, the experiences! And now have gotten so weary. It’s a different time and area for me at this stage in my life, don’t like it! But, who is to say. God is God. I know where HE is taking me, yet, I want to revert into a little child and say/yell No!, fold my arms, and sit down!!! Yeah, I can be stubborn, but in all reality refuse to do so, because I know HE has His best for me. So I continue on. 🙂 😦 {That’s me.)

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    • As I look back on my own life journey with Christ, I can say, without hesitation, that it has been the dark, uncertain and difficult times where I have come to know Him more, and have grown most as a disciple. Conversely, it has been the easy times where I have stayed the same, or grown less.

      I find it odd and refreshing at the same time that this is so. I wonder how many other brothers and sisters in Christ would say the same thing?

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  2. I agree with your statement…

    Before I was proven in the furnace of affliction, I knew of God. But, now I have experienced God’s faithfulness and can say from my heart that I know Him in a more intimate way. To find the purpose in my suffering I had to learn to become selfless. Some people can not be reached and pull out of their situation if you haven’t been pulled out yourself. Some people need to know that you understand what they are going through because you have gone through it too. The question I had to honestly answer was: Am I willing to suffer in order to help someone else? I am so grateful that Jesus answered yes to that question and with God’s grace I will be able to answer yes too.

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  3. Very appropriate and revealing title Jim. I think it describes well what spend much of our time in Christ doing… running from what we need the most. I think I’m praying sincerely when I ask God to bring me to a point where my entire trust and confidence is in Him alone, but then do everything humanly possible to steer clear of the pain. Someone from the past (it escapes me who) said we spend a lot of time praying for God to take His will away, and to bring Satan’s instead. That’s pretty scary stuff. Blessings good friend.

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