Have you noticed that there are two ways of using the iterative growth model? The one we have discussed most frequently thus far is what you might think of as the “macro” view because it helps at a higher, or “big picture”, level. In the “macro” view, a person is thinking about the activities they are employing to grow in knowledge, character and behavior. What books am I reading? What disciplines do I have in my life? How am I handing real-life experiences? Still within the macro view, one may focus these activities on a theme; i.e. joy, compassion, humility, or perseverance. The questions then become for focused. What books am I reading that will help me become more joyful? Which disciplines am I practicing that are designed to make me more joyful? What near-term opportunities do I have to be more joyful?
I want to add a second view today that you might think of as a “micro” view. The micro view is all about using the same model, and even the effort of the “macro” view, to help you obey when it matters most…a specific situation that demands faith and obedience. You can think of it as a way of being more successful obeying (from the growth model) God using another iteration of the growth model itself. Confused? Me too…let’s use an example.
Right now, stress/anxiety management is tops on my personal growth priority list. Why? Because I have lots of…let’s say “opportunity”…to use real life experience to help me conquer stressful and anxious situations. Catch my drift? No? How’s this … I’m stressed out because I have a full-time job, full-time ministry, and a full-time family; and, I sold my house, gave up my weekend looking at houses, and our best option seems to be living with my in-laws for ~5 months while our new home is being built. Better?
I’m not going to be exhaustive on everything that I am doing to deal with the stress/anxiety, because it can get complicated; but, I wanted to setup a real situation to illustrate the use of the growth model in situations like this. Here’s how it works…very simple. When I feel “anxious”, I ask myself a simple question: what Scripture (Hearing God) am I not believing (Believe God) that is causing me to be anxious (Obeying God)? The extent to which you have already been applying the macro view of “hearing God” (i.e. reading His Word and/or commentaries on His Word), “believing God” (i.e. disciplines such as Scripture memory and meditation), and “obeying God” (i.e. successfully handing anxious situations) in the theme area of joy/contentment/anxiety is the extent to which you will be able to use the micro view successfully. For, if you are not reading (hearing) and memorizing (believing) God’s word during times of peace, how are you going to recall it when you really need it? And, because spiritual growth is iterative (success breeds additional success), you need to be able to handle the small situations (obeying) before being able to handle the large ones.
The purpose of trial is not to escape the trial; it is to become better prepared for the next trial.
In my case, I have several passages, promises, concepts that I fall back on. My favorite passages are probably the ones most obvious to you; e.g. Phil 4:6-7, Ps 23. These two passages alone contain enough spiritual truth that if I would only believe it, I would not be anxious. And so, I recall it and trust it. Do the feelings go away? Not always for long, but can I make it through the trial with my faith intact and stronger, YES! And that, my friend, is the purpose of our suffering: to strengthen our dependence upon the Lord. The purpose of trial is not to escape the trial; it is to become better prepared for the next trial.
Therefore, allow me to encourage you. Next time you are in a tempting situation, think about which Scripture you do not believe that would cause you to consider the sin. Next time you are suffering, think about what Scripture that if you would only believe it would help you obey God and grow in your faith. Drive every tricky situation back to what God has said and your faith in Him. And remember, to be successful reacting you must be proactive between the storms.