The fruit of a flourishing spiritual life is marked by a humility and self-restraint borne out of compassion for others, which prompts the question: are we pursuing prosperity for our own sake and glory, or do we perpetuate our blessings outwards in order to bless those around us? It is often in the valleys of life where we grow in our capacity to reciprocate prosperity; for although the painful seasons we endure seem so full of futility and waste, they are actually the very resources God uses to transform our hearts to care about other people and their stories. When God grows our compassion from our brokenness, and that compassion drives us to connect to the people around us, the glory of God truly shines and fills us with real joy, understanding, and love.
In our society and social groups, it has always been the widely accepted norm to be expressive our physical needs with others but when it comes to our struggles and internal world, why do we find it so difficult to share? Many of us live our lives according to a script - resulting in an act that refrains us from an honest account of our vulnerable emotional needs. But what could it look like to disavow the duplicitous behaviors in our relationships and subscribed to vulnerability as a value? There is a rich life in Christ and the reward of real relationships that are in store behind the door of vulnerability and intimacy.
It’s normal for us to feel concerned about the future, but that concern becomes anxiety when we focus most of our energy toward uncontrollable circumstances, causing us to waste our mental strength on hypothetical scenarios. Christians today experience emptiness in their faith because of this anxiety epidemic where they focus more on an illusory problem in the future rather than trusting God and living in the present. It is when we surrender our fears of the future to God and steward the gifts that He has given us in the now that we give our lives to what is truly important to God and ourselves.
There is often more than what meets the eye when it comes to our spiritual lives and inner world. Resistance, discouragement, and shaken confidence are often evaluated as indicators of how we may be mishandling our faith journey. We may be quick to compare ourselves to the exuberant expressions of seemingly confident believers, however the temperature of our spiritual lives cannot be simply reduced to external appearances. Doubt, despair, and faith crises are ubiquitously normal in the life of the believer and it is through these moments that sharing our struggles with brothers and sisters encourages us to finish the race, fight the good fight together, and once again see the heart of the Father.
There is no sugar-coating that the pursuit of holiness is fraught with difficulties, resistance, and heartache. When we accept and follow Christ, we can expect discouragement and loss of confidence during our spiritual walk. However, the resistance that we face, the enemy we battle against, and the fight for our faith provides evidence that the Father's will is at work. It leads to breakthroughs in light of the trials and discouragement. For believers, discouragement through the lens of faith is an encouraging direction, and for seekers, the gospel is an invitation to realize their destiny in Christ who has overcome darkness.
We often struggle in our spiritual journeys because we lack the critical frameworks with which to examine our lives. The parable of the sower teaches us three lenses we can use to examine our lives: the spiritual lens, the external or worldly lens, and the internal or character lens. Unless we cultivate spiritual wisdom and nurture the seeds God plants within us, we remain in a spiritual fog and either analyze our lives through the wrong lens, or fail to analyze our lives at all. Spiritual growth is not the result of chance, but instead is the fruit of being deliberate in our walk with God. It is when we put in the hard work to follow God that we break free from spiritual fear, grow in spiritual confidence, and flourish as the versions of ourselves God has destined for us to become.
Our beliefs are not always reflected in what we say our values are, but are ultimately reflected in our actions. In the church -- where pursuing a life led by Christ and becoming more like him is of utmost value -- competing commitments, implicit personal beliefs, and sin come into conflict with God's values via self-sabotage, conscious or subconscious ignorance, and rationalized excuses. How can the church come together to create a palpable culture of Christ-likeness when our values generate friction with Christ's values? It is through the wholehearted pursuit of Jesus with community, the unedited verbalization of the friction we feel to allow it to spark change, and the leading of the Spirit who comes to confront, correct, and guide us in pursuing the person of Christ.
Dr. Calvin Brown serves as a co-pastor for Destiny Church and a leadership partner for Arrow Leadership, an organization dedicated to the global development of Christian leadership. Dr. Brown concludes his "Q5" series by asking us how we can finish our lives well. As we embrace the whole of our stories and better understand how our stories fit into God's overarching plan for us, Dr. Brown invites us to consider that a life lived well means a life lived sacrificially for others and with a purpose oriented towards eternity. It's through understanding that our lives are trivial compared to what God has in store for us, that we can fulfill God's callings for our lives.
From the believer’s personal pursuit of holiness and sharing the good news whilst navigating life, oftentimes we encounter a clash between vision and the reality of culture in the scope of the larger community. Discipleship extends from ourselves to the pursuit of holiness of the community as a whole, but how can we create a culture together that aligns with the mission of the kingdom? In this two-part series, “Creating a Culture of Holiness,” Dr. Sammy examines how the church can reconcile the collision of a disparate culture and the vision that Christ has for the church by paying attention to the wind of the spirit, identify our cultural silos, and center our lives around a community culture that seeks to do the work of the Lord.