Spiritual formation is a journey, a lifelong journey. A journey of learning to submit our will and our ways to God so that we might become more like Christ in order to make a difference in the world.
Spiritual formation is a journey of faith, love, hope, grace and trust so that God becomes the one true desire of our hearts. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, called this moving on to perfection.
Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite passages. It is one of those scriptures that I learned as a child that has carried me through many phases of my faith journey.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart…I clung to those words during the loss of our first 3 children. When the pain was so intense and my heart was so broken that the only way to bear the pain was to trust God with all my heart.
Lean not on your own understanding…I find myself focusing on these words when things in my life just don’t make sense, when I can’t understand or figure out all the answers.
In all your ways submit to God and God will make your paths straight. These are the words that carried me through times in my life when I knew I had made mistakes and fallen off the path. But God was always there waiting to lead me back to him.
Then there were the times when I felt that tugging on my heart and I thought God might be calling me to something, but it seemed really crazy, impossible, or pushing me way out of my comfort zone. Have you ever felt the Spirit whispering in the depths of your soul…Trust ME with all your heart?
Proverbs 3 is a reminder to us to focus on the Lord; to trust, know, and honor God. The words aren’t surefire promises of success, but a reminder of who God is and what God expects from each of us. We are to live every aspect of our life to honor God.
So spiritual formation is a journey of trust. A journey of learning to lean on God rather than ourselves. A journey of turning everything over to God and trusting even when things seem impossible. The words translated trust in the Bible literally mean, “a bold, confident, sure security or action based on that security.” Trust is what we do because of faith. Trust is believing in the promises of God in all circumstances. We are to trust God, not ourselves or our plans or the world’s wisdom.
What does trusting God mean to you?
The reality is that trusting God does not come easy. We live in a culture where being in control is viewed as a strength, even a necessity to being successful. But God requires us to humble ourselves, let go of our need for control, let go of our own understanding, let go of our ways and submit to him. Because we are conditioned to be in control, it is hard to let go of our own will and desires. It is hard to give up our want it my way mindsets. It’s hard to trust God with all our hearts.
In what ways is letting go of your ways a struggle for you?
In the New Testament there is an incredible, unbelievable story. A story that might challenge our trust and belief. A story that reminds us why God is worthy of our trust. A story that reminds us of the power of God who can do anything, even the impossible.
The feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle story found in all four Gospels. Here we see that compassion motivates Jesus ministry as he demonstrates his life-giving power while modeling hospitality for his disciples and even for us today.
When Jesus saw the people, he saw an opportunity to love and affirm them. When the disciples saw the people, they saw problems. Imagine the look on the faces of the disciples when Jesus said, “You feed them!” I imagine them saying, “Jesus, we have five loaves and two fish. Are you crazy, Jesus? We can’t feed all these people!”
Can you imagine the look on their faces when they gathered all the leftovers? Five loaves, two fish, over five thousand fed to satisfaction and twelve baskets of food are left over! As they gathered the leftovers, I imagine the disciples thinking, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding.”
Jesus’ disciples are called upon to do more than they think is possible for them to do. We, too, might feel daunted by the great needs of the world when we feel that we are only one person or one small community of disciples. However, when we take what we have and ask God to bless our efforts and resources we can do more than we ever imagined possible on our own.
Healthy spiritual formation includes a Christian imagination that believes that with God all things are possible!
We learn in the feeding of the 5000 that Jesus is adequate to meet any need, no matter how impossible the circumstances. When we act in his service to respond to the needs of others, he will provide all the resources we need! Christianity is not a matter of doing things FOR God. Discipleship is doing great things WITH God. That’s the life of Christ Jesus in us. Jesus’ disciples work with him as agents of God’s miraculous feeding power.
Jesus and his disciples gave up a quiet time of fellowship because Jesus had compassion on the crowd and stopped to teach them and feed them. As much as we’d like to think that the Christian life will be happy and comfortable, dying to self and submitting to God often require us to give up both our time and our personal preferences. When our service is costly and we empty ourselves, God can fill our hearts with compassion.
God who loves you wants to bless you and wants to use you in amazing ways!
If God can feed five thousand plus from just five loaves and two fish, imagine what God can do in our lives if we let go of ourselves and trust God? Imagine what might happen if we lean less on ourselves and more fully on God?
Imagine the possibilities…
God is a possibility thinker! The One who can feed a large gathering from five loaves and two fish provides ALL that we need!
In what ways have you experienced loaves and fishes stories in your life?
We’ve experienced many loaves and fishes stories at Faith UMC over the past year!
- Because of God’s provision, we are able to pour into our Camp Read-A-Lot ministry this summer in extravagant ways during a year in which we have had to realign budgets and expenses.
- This summer we have experienced several stories of volunteers who stepped out of their comfort zone to serve God at Camp Read-A-Lot and Vacation Bible School. But the blessing of Christ making room for more people to experience these summer ministries was these people participating in ways they might not have if we did not trust God enough to provide right up to the very last minute. We have to allow room in our plans for the Spirit to move in unexpected ways!
- We have experienced loaves and fishes through Faith UMC’s Women’s retreat this spring as God led us to learn more about PAL, a mission that supports homeless young adults in our community. God enabled us to develop a ministry partnership that blessed these students with gift cards, meals and fellowship, graduation parties, and most importantly relationships. They now refer to our women’s retreat ladies as their Faith Moms!
- We experienced loaves and fishes blessings through God’s provision for our Wednesday Night Faith Connections dinner ministry!
- We have experienced loaves and fishes blessings through the children we served at Camp Read-A-Lot and VBS. Children arriving each day with enthusiasm so excited to learn and practice reading skills is life-giving. Their expressions of appreciation and sadness that Camp Read-A-Lot was over on the last day moved many of us to tears.
God wants to bless you and use you in amazing ways! Are you willing to let go of your desires and trust the Lord with all your heart? Are you willing to let go of leaning on your own understanding and acknowledge God in all your ways so God can use you to make a difference in the world?
Are you willing to allow God to use you in ways beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine?
John Wesley said, “I saw that giving even all my life to God…would profit me nothing, unless I gave my heart, yea, all my heart to him.” Giving our whole heart to God is only possible when we let go of ourselves and put our complete hope and trust in God and allow God to shape us to be who God created us to be. There is a song that has captured my heart over the last few months that I want to share as a closing prayer. It’s a prayer for God to keep making us. It is a prayer for God to make us broken, empty and lonely so that Christ becomes our one desire, our true love, our breath, our everything! Let this be the prayer of our hearts. Amen.