Faith is a journey to be walked through and out. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. Being transformed is not automatic when you bump into God. I have concluded that there is a process of transformation we will all go through as we walk through life with God. If our change was automatic then we would miss out on getting to know God in a personal way and it would be more like a magic show. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17. Gods voice to us is for our benefit and to be life giving and growing. Transformation comes by hearing God and then doing what He says.
I was recently in a situation that I felt I couldn’t go through and didn’t know if I had the ability to cope in myself. As I lay in my bed in the middle of the night praying (asking God what to do) a small quiet inner voice said “you can if you let me lead you through.” I said thanks went to sleep peacefully and I am now working with God each to let him lead me. Every other voice or opinion is not important as I am walking it out with God now. It is a much easier ride.
Often trying to avoid discomfort at all costs we step away from painful or difficult situations in life. We avoid difficult people, places, memories that are going to push the buttons of discomfort. What we can learn from the life of first century Christians is that they embraced hardship and went about facing difficulties with a frame of mind “Being strong in Christ” and having a solider like way of being 1 Timothy 2.
It would be true to say that we don’t know what’s on the inside of us until we are challenged. There have been times when under pressure a darker side of my will pop up which never ceases to amaze me. I then take that darker unhelpful side of me to the cross and lay it down at Jesus feet in doing so I am discovering the next layer of transformation and humility. As I surrender God can come and do His work in my body, mind and spirit. In that way God uses our life journey to bring transformation. We are people of many layers so it takes time and patience with ourselves. Difficult life situations can be turned around for good as God uses them as a pathway to heal and restore us into Christlikeness. Transformation is not automatic it requires us to walk it out and win the battle.
Someone said those few words “look after yourself” and those few words have had me thinking for a few weeks about how we do that and the why we need to do it. I have discovered that when we look after ourselves we are then able to give love to others.
Love comes in many shapes and expressions. It is really up to us how much we access the ability to love from inside our hearts to then propel outward toward others. I think like many other things in life to flow in the ability to love is a choice we daily make. Some days we may have to choose to love ourselves first so that we can then love others.
Loving ourselves requires intentional awareness that the need is there to refuel or as the popular phrase reveals “have some me time.” This can be extremely difficult when under a lot of pressure and have a busy life. It will be the last thing you want or feel like doing but without the “me time” we will spiral and be no good for anything or anyone. It may not be appropriate to book a luxury spa or holiday or even hang out partying with friends in fact those things can produce guilt if you are. I find going for a walk alone down the street for thirty minutes can be amazing or finding a quite space and sit and read a book for ten minutes. I always carry a book with me for that reason.
I remember when my friend was very ill and dying in hospital many years ago at the time I was still in the party scene and thought I would let off steam by going out with a bunch of friends. It was the last thing I needed to be doing. I only ended up feeling ashamed and full of guilt. That wasn’t flowing in the ability to love either myself or anyone else. I learned a lesson that day of what was needed and what wasn’t.
We can have the ability to choose to love or not. The biggest challenge will come when there is a personal cost with it. I am not speaking of a financial cost although sometimes that is required, but rather the cost of time, energy a letting go of our own desires to put someone else first; that kind of cost. Jesus called this “loving your neighbour as yourself.”
Jesus often spoke about giving to those who can’t repay you or say thank you is actually really important. I have come to realise it is through those acts of love and kindness that our hearts are opened, our character is tested and formed and our skill set is developed and we gain strength on the inside. No personal challenge no personal growth. I don’t think there is any course that can teach you how to love. This one comes through opening our hearts to God and others and putting aside our own selfish desires. Then leaning into Christ we begin to understand the meaning of “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbour as yourself’ Mark 12:30-31
Remember to love yourself too in the midst of loving others.
I write this whilst I am sat in Rwanda preparing to leave after another tough but wonderful trip. I was asked if I miss home whilst I am away? My response was I miss people. With modern communication and social media I can keep in touch with my family.
However I miss those I have interactions with more often such as my friends who I hang out with and my work colleagues and my Church family. It is only when you are absent that you miss people and value their presence in your life.
I have been coming to Rwanda for many years now and have developed friendships and a sense of community here too. Over the years we have many genuine friendships that have grown. It is a joy to have two worlds where I can be part of communities and be accepted.
God brings people into our lives so we can have a sense of belonging and not feel isolated in the world. We pass through difficulties together and celebrate successes too. It is a place to listen, grow and share. We encourage and find a synergy to keep moving when we are together. Positive friendships build our lives and negative ones take until you have nothing left to give. Their work is done as you are destroyed.
Jesus drew a bunch of people together. They became friends and journeyed together. They had disagreements like anyone else. There were fights about who was the greatest friend to Jesus. My point is friendships are tested and we will need to be gracious and forgive. When we do we have growth. It takes the friendships to another level of trust.
Take a moment to observe those God has brought into your life. Take time to be with those that God has placed us with. Our lives are made stronger and wider by those we hang out with.
The gospel of Luke focuses on the ministry of Jesus amongst the poor and social justice. Luke 10 we read about the good Samaritan who picks up the beaten man and pays his bills. The lost son in Luke 15 who found himself in extreme poverty and the father who longed for him to come home. Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” God likes it when we share what we have. He has given us so much through Jesus it’s not much to ask that we now share our lives too.
The book of Luke is full of such stories. I am sure we could recount stories where we have noticed the poor in our world and done a random act of kindness toward someone. I try to practise this as a way of life. Not that I feel the need to be a do gooder. It’s that I can’t turn my back on social injustice as God asks us to bring reform and be the change thats needed.
When we look around societies around the world we don’t have to look far to see the resident poor. Whenever I travel to Europe, Africa, US and around the UKI notice the poor have a presence. We don’t have to look far to see them if we open our eyes and heart to engage.
I once sat and watched a woman who was mentally unwell be avoided in a cafe in the UK because she was different. I brought her a coffee and breakfast ( the staff could handle it ). That day she knew someone had noticed her. Be the change that is needed.
Another time I was with a friend and we took a woman who had severe mental health issues to lunch with us on a conference day. Six months later I saw her carrying her belongings in a trolley in Liverpool Street Station talking to herself and people avoiding her. That lunch day was a precious day that I often reflect on.
As I walked around a city in Africa. I noticed a group of women fighting in ripped clothes and high on drugs. One woman was beaten badly I knew I had to respond to what I was seeing. Hence we now have a transformational ministry that reaches out to poor women who have to sell themselves to feed their children and pay the rent. Become the change that is needed.
I noticed a bunch of young people in Uganda sitting under a tree playing instruments. They were school dropouts so we helped a friend get a farm up and running so the young people could learn some skills and eventually earn some money fro the project. It is a growing farm and young people are given value and self respect through it. We all have something in our back pocket to use, time, energy and finance to help someone else it is only a matter of our choices.
What I notice is this. As we notice the poor and respond in various ways. Our hearts are made healthier as we are look away from ourselves and our own self obsessed behaviours to become more like God the father who is love. It’s a spiritual practise.
God has His plans and purposes set out for us. We can think we are doing one thing and actually God is up to something else. I thought I was going through a mid life thing and have had a sense of discontentment for a couple of years. Great to know He had a plan to help.
On reflection I think I got lost in becoming who people want me to be. In a way I have been rejecting myself hence the discontentment. The most helpful thing that has happened this year is my reconnecting to a long lost friend after eighteen years.
Three months later we ere on the plane to east Africa together.. This is the place where I connected with God twenty years ago and where I am still called. The Bible speaks about “where your treasure is there your heart is too” I certainly have a passion and love in my heart for the people in east Africa.
By taking my friend with whom I have a shared history I realised who I was again. I noticed that I had become lost in being who people want me to be trying to fit in and avoid rejection. This trip I have been more my real self, laughing and joking ( not taking myself seriously) I felt free to worship God,dance, pray and speak from my heart when preaching than ever before. I think there is an unspoken pressure to perform in modern society and that behaviour is unsustainable.
Jesus invited people to follow Him as they were. Yes, the disciples were challenged and formed by hanging out with Jesus for three years. But I don’t sense a rule book when reading the gospels but a shaping of character through relationship with God in human form. Jesus accepts people unconditionally and draws out the true self.
I am a simple person who wants to pursue God 100% because I love Him. It’s as simple as that. I was born with a personality that is fun loving, kind and considerate person. Africa and the many friendships developed over the last twenty years have formed my relationship with God.
I have loved being in Africa with my friend and being able to laugh a lot and enjoy all Gods goodness in my life. I do sense a new beginning of being real with who I am. So thank you God for setting this up and thank you my friend for coming on the journey with me. If you feel lost ask God for help and let Him bring life to the lostness.