I am struck by this concept of journey. I wrote about it in November – I invite you to read that post where I make connections to the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt, in the wilderness. (Click here).
Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs.Rick Warren
It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.
Our journeys are rarely over even terrain. They are more likely over mountains, through valleys, even through fire, hail, and drought. Our spiritual journey, our transformation from glory to glory can be difficult, even messy at times.
Parker Palmer, in his book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, writes about five monsters we face on our journeys through life in light of leadership. I’ve been thinking about these monsters – relating them to our spiritual journeys. I can’t help but reflect on the monsters I need to slay and wonder with which ones you might be doing battle??!
Christian selfhood is not defined in terms of who we are in and of ourselves. It’s defined in terms of what God does to us and the relationship he creates with us and the destiny he appoints for us. God made us who we are so we could make known who he is. Our identity is for the sake of making known his identity.John Piper
The first monster is our insecurity about our identity! When we are confident, we know who we are, what we believe, our purpose in life. This is significant because underlying our choices, our decisions, big or small, is our belief system. We were created for worship – so when we find ourselves worshiping our work, our financial prowess, our hobby, our ____ (you fill in the blank), our identity is skewed, and we begin to falter. Our true identity is found in Christ. He created us, chose us, redeemed us, and is in the process of transforming us – our journey of sanctification. Landing with surety on who we are in Christ is essential always but especially when we are under attack, or feeling the weight of the world on our shoulders. It’s then that we go back to the essentials, what does the Word say about us?! (Check out this post on living in His reality!). In affirming our identity in Christ we slay the monster that would cause us to doubt our calling, our purpose, our light for the path we are on.
I am, however, alive – but it isn’t me any longer, it’s the Messiah who lives in me. And the life I do still live in the flesh, I live within the faithfulness of the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20 NTE
Men think of the world, not as a battleground but as a playground. We are not here to fight, we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land, we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, we are already living, and the best we can do is to rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full.A.W. Tozer
Our second monster is possibly a misunderstanding about life being a battle. Scripture clearly says we are at war. But a close reading of both Old and New Testaments illustrate for us that it is God Himself that fights for us. This is a huge concept, too big to explore fully in a single paragraph of this post, but first remember Jesus said our work is to believe! So we must capture our wayward thoughts to focus our faith! 2 Corinthians 10:5 says to capture our rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. Ephesians 6:10-20 instructs us to put on armor, but notice whose power is being wielded – God’s! And after putting on the armor, what are we to do? STAND! And pray! I’m reminded of Exodus 14, the first of many battles as the Israelites move towards Canaan and eventually take the promised land. Moses instructs the people, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” TO BE STILL! Oh my! Notice even in Moses’ song he sings, “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.” Friends, the victory is won, not because we are strong, not because we are warriors, but because we believe in the ONE who is victorious! He said, “It is finished!”
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:57 NLT
… born again Christians are statistically indistinguishable from non-born again adults on most of the behaviors studied. The studied behaviors included lying, substance abuse, and extra-marital sex …George Barna
Functional atheism is our third potential monster! We worry, fret, speak words without consulting God, make decisions as if we are in control. We live our lives as if He does not exist. But there is another way this monster raises its ugly head. We sometimes live as if our God is small, uncaring, maybe distant, act as if God is not good. We interpret who God is in light of the broken world we live in and judge Him as incapable. I’m reminded of the last sentence in the book of Judges, “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” This may be the most crippling of monsters. Identifying our idols, focusing on the truth of scripture, repenting, and bowing our knee to the Lordship of Christ are our first steps!
Search me, O God, and know my heart;Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you, and
lead me along the path of everlasting life.
We are not adrift in chaos. To me that is the most fortifying, the most stabilizing, the most peace-giving thing that I know about anything in the universe. Every time that things have seemingly fallen apart in my life, I have gone back to those things that do not change. Nothing in the universe can ever change those facts. He loves me. I am not at the mercy of chance.Elisabeth Elliot
This past year has felt chaotic, chaos being Monster #4. The pandemic, the tense social climate, the political scene have been unsettling. I don’t know about you, but I like order. While the occasional surprise is nice, I mostly like my predictable life. Our technological advances add to the chaos as well. The news is overwhelming, the debates rage on social media, the urge to reply in the heat of the moment strong. There is hope, though, in the chaos, the clutter, the generic demands of life. Somewhere I read this quote by A. W. Tozer, “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority.” In the midst of strife, we have the Prince of Peace reigning within! When the monster of chaos raises its ugly head, we slip away, seek solitude, spend time with the ONE who calmed the angry sea!
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3 ESV
Never fear dying, beloved. Dying is the last, but the least matterCharles Spurgeon
that a Christian has to be anxious about.
Not surprisingly, the 5th monster is the denial of death. Death of dreams, projects, hopes may be challenging but their deaths may be necessary for the next steps in our journeys. And of course, our physical death is the open door to the promises that await us. No, we don’t seek to end life prematurely but instead, we look with hope, even gladness, that Jesus conquered this last monster for us!
… This mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:1 Corinthians 15:53 – 57 MSG
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!
Do you recognize these monsters? Is there a particular one that has your number? My twin grandsons, just 4 1/2, make up stories about defeating monsters. One of their favorite words is “teamwork!” When one tackles their granddad, he’ll call out “Teamwork!” and the other will come running! We could learn from them. Monsters are not easily defeated on our own. We’ve been equipped by Christ Himself with gifts to build up the body of Christ that we might all be presented mature in Him! Let’s join together – praying for one another, confessing our need for help with one another, supporting one another in the journey!
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.Hebrews 10:23 – 25 MSG