Sunrise, Sunset

29861Evening passed, and morning came. This was the third day.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky to separate day from night. These lights will be used for signs, seasons, days, and years.They will be in the sky to give light to the earth.” And it happened. Genesis 1:13-15

Life is full of transitions. I’ve watched many sunrises and sunsets, marveling at their beauty and majesty. I would miss it all if the transition between night and day was simply a flip of a switch, similar to what I experience when I walk in or out of a room in my house and turn a light on or off. I would miss vibrant colors that cannot be seen any other time of the day except during the transitions of sunrises and sunsets. I’d miss the anticipation of a new day as I begin in the dark but see a hint of light in the eastern sky. I’d miss the reminder of the pending darkness near the end of the day, when I know I must finish an outside task before I need a flashlight.

Despite being a morning person, I remember some mornings I wasn’t excited to see the sun rise. I also remember many days I didn’t want the sun to set. The transition period was almost painful, because I wasn’t particularly thrilled with what was coming next. Perhaps it would have been easier to have the lights come on or off all at once. No, I don’t think so. Temporary blindness doesn’t sound appealing either. The transition between light and dark allows for adjustment. Transition also invites choice:

       To be sad something is passing.

       To be anticipatory something is coming.

       To celebrate the completion of progress of something.

       To dread something is coming.

God created seasons, and each season has benefits. Each season involves potential for growth. Each season also includes potential for decline and decay – which can eventually be used for growth.

When have you experienced a death or loss that you later saw an area of growth spring forth?

How can a loss of innocence lead to growth?

Loss of a favorite hobby?

Loss of a relationship?

Loss of material possessions?

Loss of pride?

Loss of satisfaction?

Loss of doubt?

Loss of fear?

Loss of faith?

Loss of control?

Growing up on a farm, I had many pets. I experienced loss numerous times. Sometimes the deaths were sudden. Some were expected. Several were tragic and traumatic. I felt each one with a sharpness, a cold sting of reality. As I’ve experienced other losses throughout my life, the pain is still present and often raw, but I look back on my experiences of life and death on the family farm, and I know they prepared me in some ways to deal with the inevitability of death. Some of the deaths of people in my life have been sudden, some expected, some tragic and traumatic. My earlier experiences on the farm paved the way for an appreciation for life. I rarely take life for granted. I know people can fight long battles of excruciating cancer or lose life in an instant because of a drunk driver. I also know death is yet another sunset, yielding another season that will last for eternity. In fact, life here on earth, comprised of many spiritual seasons of life, is really just one season in preparation for another.

As we work through the spiritual seasons of our lives, may we always widen our vision to take in as much of God’s perspective as we can. That’s why we study God’s Word. That’s why we seek his will. That’s why we yield in obedience. God understands the sunrises and sunsets of our lives. Even in the midst of our experiences and our longings to understand, our comprehension will be limited. When we strive to understand our seasons outside of the context of God’s plan, we try to put together pieces of puzzle with no box as a reference point. Putting together the puzzle is difficult anyway, but without studying and regularly glimpsing at what the big picture is, we will be less effective and more distracted.

As challenging as it is, let’s savor what God has for us.

As The World Turns…God Thinks

29861“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me! Jeremiah 29:11-13

Let’s look at these same verses in several translations.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (King James Version)

This is God’s Word on the subject: “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” (The Message)

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Amplified Bible)

I love digging into God’s Word, discovering the meaning, frequency, and context of words. One of my favorite tools to use is the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, which gives original Hebrew and Greek words and their meanings. However, you can dig into the meaning of words for yourself by comparing words choices across translations. Biblegateway allows you to choose several different translations to view a verse on the same screen.

What stands out to you as you compare these verses?

The King James version uses the word “thought” in place of “plan.” Thought can also mean purpose or intention. God plans for us. And he thinks about us. Isn’t that comforting to know? God didn’t simply create you and leave you to fend for yourself. He’s invested in you on an ongoing basis. He knows you, thinks about you, and plans for you. Constantly. Can you say that about anyone else in your life?

God is dependable. Look through the verses again.

What do you see that speaks to the dependability of God?

I think there are times when we don’t want to depend on God. There are times throughout our spiritual seasons of life that we (1) don’t want to give up what we have to yield ourselves and our lives fully to him, (2) don’t think he can handle our lives as well as we can, (3) don’t believe that he cares enough…and the list of excuses goes on. The truth is God is dependable. If we don’t depend on him, it’s not his fault. He’s waiting. It’s our choice whether or not to respond.

What does God say about timing in these verses? What do words such as then and when promise?

We’re involved in God’s plan. We don’t change God by what we do. His character and existence isn’t dependent on how we respond through spiritual seasons. However, we’re not puppets or pawns either. He wants our involvement, and he gives us if, then, and when to indicate promises, consequences, and possibilities.

I love the verb tenses in these verses. Take a look. You might need a grammar refresher lesson, but to keep it’s simple, let’s just say these verses are future tense. Your present season might not seem so great, but there’s hope for the future! God has the biggest, longest, and most grand view of the future possible.

What does God’s plan for the future hold for you? You likely don’t know the specifics, but you can be certain it’s great, whether here on earth or in eternity. Settle into where you are this very moment and savor what God intends for you to experience. By living in your current spiritual season, you’re growing toward the future God has planned specifically for you.

When Our Spiritual Seasons Don’t Match Our Expectations

29861“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me! Jeremiah 29:11-13

What’s your immediate response when you read these verses?

I’m not asking you for the “Sunday School answer,” the one you think you’re supposed to give because it’s what’s expected. The one that “if my faith was as I wish it was, this is how I’d answer.” The one that “so-and-so, that person who has immense faith I know,” would answer. God knows your initial response. He knows your struggles. He wants you to be honest with him – and with yourself.

For many, these verses spur confusion, regret, fear, anger, frustration, because…

  • How could God say he doesn’t have plans to hurt me when I’ve been hurt?
  • Is God not big enough handle the details of my life?
  • Does God simply not care?
  • Am I doing something wrong?
  • Why do I struggle with knowing or understanding God’s plan? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Life doesn’t make sense, but it’s not because God can’t make sense of it. It makes perfect sense to him. He knows. He understands. We don’t. We’re limited in what we can know and understand. We make all sorts of assumptions about what’s going on in our lives within our limited knowledge and understanding, and those assumptions lead to some of the above questions. We can easily get stuck in the muck of limited perspective even though that’s not God’s intention at all. Our limited perspective is a blessing. We can’t handle what he knows and understands. We weren’t created to be little gods. We were created by THE God to be his creation. We’re created in his image. We’re not carbon copies.

Let’s commit to setting aside our needs for more of what we want and letting God consume us with what he wants and what he knows we need through each season of our lives. Life changes just as the seasons change. We can be warmed by the sun one day and bone-chilling cold the next. We gather beautiful bouquets of colorful flowers one day and dig into frozen ground to find any remnant of a sign of life the next. It’s not just about what’s going on around us; seasons occur deep within us. Our lives are marked with spiritual seasons – and they aren’t as predictable as the beginning of seasons on the calendar. A season can be short or long, expected or unpredictable, welcomed or ignored. We won’t understand or appreciate every spiritual season of our lives. We likely won’t even acknowledge some, while we try to bask too long in others.

What you’re currently experiencing as winter might be a spiritual spring to which you simply haven’t been awakened yet. The chill you feel in the air in the middle of what you believe to be summer might be an early onset of spiritual fall. God – and your spiritual growth – isn’t ruled by a calendar. You have your own calendar with God. Your calendar is unique and cannot be compared to any other. Jeremiah 29 includes no words that indicate if you plan and do well enough, you will prosper. Prospering in God is drastically different than prospering by the world’s standards. You will prosper through his plan. Because he created you and knows you more intimately than you know yourself, he knows where to guide you and how to use your experiences of living in this imperfect world. You can trust him for his perfect plan or try it on your own. I’ve tried it both ways, and as difficult as it is to yield myself to him and give up my own needs and wants, the bottom line is that God takes care of my needs and wants much more completely when I yield them to melt into his.

So how can you not only live with but thrive in the promises of Jeremiah 29:11-13? We’ll dig into these verses in more depth in tomorrow’s post, but for now, let’s consider and share:

What’s a word or phrase that best describes what you believe your needs to be in this spiritual season of your life?

Every Season

29861There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

God’s Word declares every season is set apart. It is marked by particular events, challenges, necessities, lessons, and purpose. Every season combines with other seasons to complete a person’s life and purpose on earth. Individual seasons cannot stand alone in isolation. Seasons are dependent on each other for context of meaning. Growth is only possible because of the combination of seasons.

We could identify broad terms in an effort to capture the essence of each season: spring=renewal, summer=beauty, fall=productivity, and winter=dreariness. Yet single words don’t begin to portray the full scope of each season. Different parts of the world experience natural seasons in a variety of ways. Different people experience spiritual seasons in a variety of ways. How one person responds to a situation in a spiritual winter differs from another person’s response to a similar situation. How one person celebrates during a spiritual summer differs from another’s celebration. Productivity differs. Renewal differs. There’s variation in spiritual seasons, yet there is also consistency.

  • Seasons change, assuring us nothing is permanent.
  • Seasons change without our control.
  • Seasons require adaptation.
  • Seasons don’t always make sense.
  • Seasons invite awe and appreciation.

How have you specifically experienced one or more of these facts of seasons?

God will use every spiritual season of your life. He wastes nothing. If it’s in your life, it can and will be used by God.

  • You can choose to appreciate the beauty of what God is placing in front of you – or not.
  • You can choose to be thankful for what God is providing you – or not.
  • You can choose to learn the lessons God teaches you – or not.
  • You can choose to adapt to changes around you – or not.
  • You can choose to trust God through challenges – or not.
  • You can choose to seek God’s perspective on each situation – or not.
  • You can choose God – or not.

Every season is not enjoyable. Every season is not comfortable. Every season is not desirable. We want to avoid the uncomfortable and settle into seasons of comfort. We pull the covers over our heads and try to pass time as the challenges swirl around us, then tightly grab onto the celebrations, unwillingly to unclench our fists in hopes the moment will stay. We want to know what we can do to grow pleasant fruit in our lives as quickly as possible. We don’t like the waiting process. We don’t like not being able to see the connection between what we’re doing today and what happens in our lives tomorrow. We want life to make sense, but we have limited information, understanding, and perspective.

God has every detail. He knows each growing season of every area of each life – yours, mine, and every single person he’s ever created to live on earth. His purpose for us is driven with the passion of establishing an ever-deepening relationship with each and every individual. He uses what we experience as both good and bad to benefit us in a way that ultimately glorifies him. Each season places demands on us – expectations to rely on God, respond in obedience, and welcome results. We experience similarities across some seasons and situations, but others seem foreign to us. We get disoriented, discontent, and disappointed.

Every season requires sacrifice. In order to fully experience God’s purpose, we must yield to him as the one who guides and provides. He should be the only one we trust, because he is the only one who has perfect perspective. We think we can handle our experiences – past, present, and future – but we are vastly limited. Every season holds blessings for us. In order to fully experience each blessing, we must choose to set aside what we think and want, inviting God to consume us.

You might have a favorite natural season, but you cannot live in it every day of your life. The same is truth for spiritual seasons. Regardless of where you’d prefer to be, you will not be there every moment of your life. You can choose to sit and pout about it, or you can use the time given to you, learning the lessons and growing the way God purposes so that every season that follows is nourished by the preceding seasons.

Today’s post begins a series of Pure Growth, which will include excerpts from the study published under the same title. We’ll dig into a study of spiritual seasons, so we can choose pure growth, the purpose God intends for us. We’ll determine to embrace every time and every season, because we’ll grow in seeing and living life by God’s perspective.

Invest In Your Legacy

“Here the saying is true, ‘One person plants, and another harvests.’ I sent you to harvest a crop that you did not work on. Others did the work, and you get to finish up their work.” Many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus because of what the woman said: “He told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:37-39)

Bill Gaither wanted a piece of land to build a house in Alexandria, Indiana, the town where he had grown up. He noticed a piece south of town where cattle grazed and learned it belonged to a 92-year-old retired banker named Mr. Yule. Mr. Yule owned a lot of land in the area, but he wasn’t planning to sell any of it. Bill and his wife Gloria decided to personally visit him. Bill shares the story in I Almost Missed the Sunset.”

“He looked at us over the top of his bifocals. I introduced myself and told him we were interested in a piece of his land.

“Not selling,” he said pleasantly. “Promised it to a farmer for grazing.” Then he said, “What’d you say your name was?”

“Gaither. Bill Gaither.”

“Hmmm. Any relation to Grover Gaither?”

“Yes, sir. He was my granddad.”

Mr. Yule put down his paper and removed his glasses. “Interesting. Grover Gaither was the best worker I ever had on my farm. Full day’s work for a day’s pay. So honest. What’d you say you wanted?”

I told him again.

“Let me do some thinking on it, then come back and see me.”

I came back within the week, and Mr. Yule sold me the property.

Three decades later I said to my son Benjy, “You’ve had this wonderful place to grow up through nothing that you’ve done, but because of the good name of a great-granddad you never met.”

How did people who came before you prepare the way? Consider more than your biological family.

How are you preparing the way for those who come after you?

My parents grew up in a small farming community in central Illinois. They built relationships because people in the community relied on each other. They trusted each other, watched out for each other, and helped each other. They worked fields side-by-side, lent and borrowed equipment, and lived through trials and tragedies together.

When my parents had been married for 45 years, my sisters and I planned a surprise party. It was a wonderful party. They were thrilled to see so many friends from their decades together. They hadn’t seen some people in years. Others, they lived alongside daily. With each turn, as they looked around the room, they were greeted by another smiling face full of memories.

After the celebration had been going for a couple hours, a friend and I were talking. He and I had been friends since birth, because our parents were friends, as well as our grandparents. The family farms were only a couple miles from each other. We shared weddings, births and funerals. Looking around at the multitude of friends, circles overlapping circles, my friend reflected, “You know the sad thing is, we – our generation – probably will not get to experience this when we’re our parents’ age. We’re too busy to make the depth and extent of friendships they have.”

I’m not saying it’s impossible. In fact, if anyone will have a 45th anniversary celebration with extensive circles of friends, it will be this particular friend, but I completely understand what he was saying. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often skirt around and skim over the importance of long-term relationship-building. Our relationships can use more intention and attention. Our relationships can be bumped up on the scale of priorities.

Who are you investing in, and who are you allowing – even inviting – to invest in you?

It’s not just about who you’ll call in the best and worst times of life. It’s about who you’ll call, drive to, sit with and sacrifice for during daily life.

Consider the people surrounding you.

Are you focused more on short-term benefits or long-term investment?

Are the people by your side going to be by your side in 10, 25, 50 years?

Life changes. People move. Interests change. Transitions are part of every person’s life. But you might see life as so transitory that you’ve become comfortable in the transition instead of investing in the long-term possibilities.

Many people avoid investing money because they’re overwhelmed with the amount they’ll need. They can’t fathom such a sacrifice.

Are you doing the same with relationships?

Investing even the smallest amounts of money will accumulate into a growing investment.

Surely, you have time, energy and resources to invest in growing relationships.

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Pure Growth: Why Are You Standing Here?

Jesus said to them, “The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.”

After he said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight. As he was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go. (Acts 1:7-11)

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment – or season. God gives us Scripture to reveal himself to us, teach us his principles, and equip us to live in his will. God speaks to us in many ways through his Word.

He gives us facts. The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know. We can try to figure things out for ourselves. We can try to analyze the times and reasons for seasons and situations in our lives, but only God has the authority to decide such details. It’s clear we’re not to know everything that he knows. He gives us what we’re supposed to know. We should always be open to him giving us knowledge and wisdom and readily accept and apply what he gives us. What he doesn’t give us, we’re not supposed to have.

He gives us instruction. But when the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world. God tells us what we’re supposed to do. He gives us direction in and toward our purpose. God wants our steps to fit into the ones he has planned for us. He wants us to desire his will so intently that we will look for the way he has prepared and be bold enough to follow regardless of our trepidation or preferences.

He gives us reassurance. After he said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight. As he was going, they were looking into the sky. We’re not perfect, and God knows we need his reassurance in our humanness. He provided many accounts of people who have been deeply devoted to him but not always responded in model ways. The apostles knew Jesus personally as a flesh-and-blood man. Jesus looked into their eyes, touched their shoulders, and taught them with his words and actions. He told them multiple times what would happen to him, yet their focus wasn’t on what he had just directed them to do. Their focus was on the immediate. We can relate. We want to see and touch proof. We don’t want to feel isolated. God knew we’d need reassurance.

He gives us conviction. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky?” God knows we need him to speak authority into our lives. Left to ourselves, we might think we can come to the right conclusions, but we’ll usually get off track, stay in one place, or run in circles. When God speaks through his Word, angels, visions, teaching, and prayers, he always speaks with authority. The Holy Spirit shares God’s truth with us. He speaks to us internally, so we don’t have to rely on external influences. He challenges us through difficult questions that help us realize where we are spiritually and what we need to do to grow into a better place. We can ignore the God’s voice, but we can never avoid his presence.

He gives us promise. Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go. We can have hope because of God’s promises. We never need to doubt what God says will happen, because he doesn’t contradict what he says and what he does. God’s promises might not be fulfilled in exactly the way or time we expect and want, but our expectations don’t change God’s promises. God will do what he says he will do – every word and every detail. When we are faithful, we will see the fulfillment of God’s promises, either on earth or in eternity.

As we complete the Pure Growth study, let’s commit to inviting God to invade our lives with his facts, instruction, reassurance, conviction, and promise.

Consider and share your hopes to grow in one or more of these areas.

We need God to accept the spiritual seasons in our lives. Only God has the perspective to give us exactly what we need when we need it. Only God knows how our past season has prepared us for this one. Only God knows what’s necessary in our present season to prepare us for the next one. Only God knows the details of people’s lives who prepared a legacy for us and those for whom we’re preparing a legacy. Only God knows how the details we know of and those we don’t are weaving together for his purpose.

There’s much that only God can do and be, but there’s much expected of us as well. We must seek him. We must trust him. We must know him. We must accept his guidance. We must wisely use his provision. We must love as he loves. We must serve as he models. We must become less so he can become more in our lives. We must accept that our lives here on earth are brief, and they are pointless without a relationship with him.

It has been an honor to share this season of life with you. May you continue to recognize and accept your journey of God’s pure purpose. Jesus prayed for his followers before he was arrested and crucified for you and me. Let his words soak into you today. Let his words challenge you to live today giving all glory to God.

After Jesus said these things, he looked toward heaven and prayed, “Father, the time has come. Give glory to your Son so that the Son can give glory to you. You gave the Son power over all people so that the Son could give eternal life to all those you gave him. And this is eternal life: that people know you, the only true God, and that they know Jesus Christ, the One you sent. Having finished the work you gave me to do, I brought you glory on earth. And now, Father, give me glory with you; give me the glory I had with you before the world was made.

I showed what you are like to those you gave me from the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your teaching. Now they know that everything you gave me comes from you. I gave them the teachings you gave me, and they accepted them. They knew that I truly came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for people in the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And my glory is shown through them. I am coming to you; I will not stay in the world any longer. But they are still in the world. Holy Father, keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they will be one, just as you and I are one. While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me. I protected them, and only one of them, the one worthy of destruction, was lost so that the Scripture would come true.

I am coming to you now. But I pray these things while I am still in the world so that these followers can have all of my joy in them. I have given them your teaching. And the world has hated them, because they don’t belong to the world, just as I don’t belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world but to keep them safe from the Evil One. They don’t belong to the world, just as I don’t belong to the world. Make them ready for your service through your truth; your teaching is truth. I have sent them into the world, just as you sent me into the world. For their sake, I am making myself ready to serve so that they can be ready for their service of the truth.

I pray for these followers, but I am also praying for all those who will believe in me because of their teaching. Father, I pray that they can be one. As you are in me and I am in you, I pray that they can also be one in us. Then the world will believe that you sent me. I have given these people the glory that you gave me so that they can be one, just as you and I are one. I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me.

Father, I want these people that you gave me to be with me where I am. I want them to see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the world was made. Father, you are the One who is good. The world does not know you, but I know you, and these people know you sent me. I showed them what you are like, and I will show them again. Then they will have the same love that you have for me, and I will live in them.” (John 17)

Pure Growth: But Now You Know

But now you know the true God. Really, it is God who knows you. So why do you turn back to those weak and useless rules you followed before? Do you want to be slaves to those things again? You still follow teachings about special days, months, seasons, and years. I am afraid for you, that my work for you has been wasted. Galatians 4:9-11

But now you know…

These four words seem so simple, but they cause pause. Faith changes things. Knowing God changes perspective, priorities, and behavior. Knowing God realizes God knows you. Knowing God involves moving forward.

In these verses, Paul is warning followers to not turn back.

What is behind you that you need to refuse to return to in order to move forward?

Our pasts brought us to our presents, but we need to fully live our presents in order to get to our futures. The past might be comfortable, because we established habits – and those habits have not always been healthy. We might have even thought they were helpful and productive at the time, but once we assume God’s perspective through our faithful relationship with him, we don’t need the old assumptions, excuses, and habits. We need to invite God to transform our lives.

Paul refers to “special days, months, seasons, and years” because many of the people to whom he was speaking were trying to revert to the old laws and traditions by which they had once adamantly lived. Those laws and traditions served a purpose. In fact, they were biblical. The issue is they were remnants. They had been replaced with the new covenant of a personal relationship with Jesus. It was no longer essential to live under the covenant of the Old Testament, because since Jesus came to earth and died, making the way for the Holy Spirit, helping us with life on earth in preparation for eternal life, the new covenant prevails.

Without intentional effort, we will not grow forward. We will default to what is comfortable to us. We gravitate to what we know. When we begin a relationship with Jesus, even when we want to leave our former lives behind, even when we have a burning desire to continually seek and obey God, we will struggle in at least some areas of life. What we’ve been taught and have practiced our entire lives up to the point we begin a relationship with God is difficult to reverse or replace.

In what areas do you most struggle to grow spiritually?

Perhaps you can think of people who seem consistent in their faith in many ways, but there’s that one area that doesn’t seem to fit. You don’t understand how they haven’t grown in that one area. It’s so obvious to you. It’s not an area in which you struggle. You likely have your own.

We can easily compare ourselves to others and rationalize that “at least I’m better than _______”! (We can also compare ourselves to others and rationalize that we’ll never measure up to someone.) But God doesn’t measure you against anyone else. You have a purpose to fulfill in this season of life as well as in life overall, and only you can fulfill the specific purpose he has for you. He brings people into your life not to compare yourself to but to walk alongside you. And everyone will not help you grow. Consider several verses further along in Galatians 4:

Those people are working hard to persuade you, but this is not good for you. They want to persuade you to turn against us and follow only them. It is good for people to show interest in you, but only if their purpose is good. This is always true, not just when I am with you. My little children, again I feel the pain of childbirth for you until you truly become like Christ. (Galatians 4:17-19)

Consider who is in your life who pours into you in ways that pull you away from God. (Keep in mind anyone who is not intentionally helping you grow toward God is pulling you away from God. There is no neutrality.)

Consider who is in your life who pours into you in ways that help you grow toward God.

Who are you pouring into right now, helping her grow toward God?

How might you be pulling someone away from God?

Don’t simply skim over these questions. Be honest with yourself. Let God reveal the reality of your relationships. Let God reveal the reality of your priorities. Let God reveal the truth of your faith. He longs for you to long for him in this season – and in every season of your life. Your enthusiasm will ebb and flow, but your commitment to God isn’t about feelings. God is passionately pursuing you. Who or what are you passionately pursuing?