Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy - Lesson 7

Spiritual Formation: Three Paths to Grow (Part 2)

This lesson delves into the idea of spiritual formation, discussing three paths through which one can grow: practicing virtues, experiencing difficulty and suffering, and practicing spiritual disciplines. One of the virtues discussed is thankfulness, which is counterintuitive to the way the world thinks, and that maturity in faith is marked by being malleable in God's hands and surrendering our own desires. It is emphasized that when difficult times come in our lives, it is a opportunity to grow spiritually, but it can also be used as an opportunity by Satan to create bitterness and resentment in our souls. The lecture also provides several suggestions for books that can help deepen the understanding and practice of spiritual disciplines in one's life.
Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
Lesson 7
Watching Now
Spiritual Formation: Three Paths to Grow (Part 2)

I. Introduction to the concept of spiritual formation and devotional intimacy

II. The Three Paths to Grow

A. Practicing the virtues

i. Humility

ii. Gentleness

iii. Sacrifice

iv. Thankfulness

B. Difficulty and suffering

C. Practicing the spiritual disciplines

III. The virtue of surrender and sacrifice

IV. The role of humility, gentleness, and thankfulness in spiritual growth

V. The importance of understanding scripture to guide spiritual growth

VI. Conclusion and recommended resources

  • This lesson focuses on the concept of spiritual formation, which is the process of growing in one's relationship with God and becoming more like Christ. You'll learn about the role of historical figures such as Perpetua and Francis of Assisi in spiritual formation, the importance of more than just belief in doctrine, the need to cooperate with God and surrender to his will, and the challenges and opportunities of spiritual formation.
  • This lesson discusses the distinction between static and dynamic holiness. You will learn about the importance of being available to God and the potential for transformation in one's relationship with him.
  • In this lesson, Gary Thomas discusses the societal pressure to conform to a certain physical standard and how this can lead to insecurity and self-doubt. He contrasts this societal view with the Christian view of the body, which holds a respect for the aging process, and acknowledges that our bodies have a purpose because they were created by God and that God incarnated himself in human form in Jesus Christ and how our bodies will also be raised on the last day.
  • This lesson focuses on the transformation of our physical bodies to become spiritually alive, and the idea that worship is not limited to singing and music, but encompasses all aspects of our lives. An example of Madame Galen Jean, a historical figure who lost her physical beauty but found spiritual depth and wrote books that inspired others, is used to illustrate the idea that surrendering oneself to God can lead to spiritual growth. The class also suggests that individuals can bring Jesus to others by approaching them with love and understanding, and by focusing on bringing Jesus to others rather than personal ambition and people pleasing.
  • The lesson highlights that God desires a personal and intimate relationship with each individual and that different people will have different ways of relating to him. It is emphasized that there is no one right way to connect with God, and that we should be open to exploring different ways that resonate with us personally. Throughout scripture, various forms of worship are celebrated and it's encouraged to find the way that works best for us.

  • The lesson discusses the idea that spiritual growth does not happen by accident and that it requires purposeful and intentional effort. The main focus is on humility and gentleness as two important qualities necessary for spiritual growth. The lesson cites Proverbs 3:34 and James 4:6 as biblical references to the idea that God opposes those who let pride reign in their lives, and that humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking less about oneself and putting others first, and gentleness is the way of being like a mother caring for her children.
  • This lesson delves into the idea of spiritual formation, discussing three paths through which one can grow: practicing virtues, experiencing difficulty and suffering, and practicing spiritual disciplines. One of the virtues discussed is thankfulness, which is counterintuitive to the way the world thinks, and that maturity in faith is marked by being malleable in God's hands and surrendering our own desires. It is emphasized that when difficult times come in our lives, it is a opportunity to grow spiritually, but it can also be used as an opportunity by Satan to create bitterness and resentment in our souls. The lecture also provides several suggestions for books that can help deepen the understanding and practice of spiritual disciplines in one's life.
  • Marriage can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth and holiness as it can help reveal and work through one's sin and selfishness. However, we need to understand and accept that all people stumble in many ways, and that it's important to adopt God's agenda for our marriages rather than trying to impose our own expectations and desires on it. This way we can have a healthy and fulfilling marriage.
  • In this lesson, it is discussed how marriage and parenting can be used by God as tools for spiritual growth and personal development. It is shown that by putting the needs of others first, as in caring for a spouse when they are sick or teaching and guiding children, individuals can learn to become more like Jesus Christ and grow in their faith. The speaker emphasizes that despite the challenges and mistakes that may come with these roles, they present opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson covers the historical development of Christian spirituality including the Desert Experience, various forms of prayer, Eastern Orthodox approach and challenges for Western-minded Christians.
  • The lesson covers historical movements in Christianity, including monasticism, Puritanism, and Pentecostal/Charismatic, and their emphasis on asceticism, scripture, and the Holy Spirit.

In this class, you will learn about the process of spiritual formation and the importance of developing a deep devotional intimacy with God. The lesson will explore the biblical foundations of spiritual growth, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the individual's personal responsibility in their own spiritual development. You will also delve into various spiritual disciplines and practices that help foster a closer relationship with God, such as prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, worship, and fellowship. Finally, you will examine common obstacles and challenges faced in the journey of spiritual growth and discover strategies to overcome them.


Dr. Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
Spiritual Formation: Three Paths to Grow (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:10] A third virtue that we could talk about would be surrender and sacrifice. This this whole attitude of Jesus in the Garden of Eden and I will not mind be done. I've I've had to learn this the hard way. I've been known throughout my life as a little bit impulsive. I always preferred the word decisive. But when I look at the evidence, I have to accept that the word impulsive somehow fits. I remember when my wife and I were first married, going to college didn't have much money because I was trying to be as much of a full time student as I could. I just worked part time. My wife wasn't making much as a receptionist and we just got married. And our biggest prayer at the time was that God would provide a stereo system for us to play our records on. It seems silly that our biggest prayer would be to get a stereo system for our records, but we've both gone through college with roommates that had the big stereo system. So when we got married we had a big pile of records and literally nothing to play them on. For those of you under 30 records, with these big floppy vinyl discs that go on a turntable, a needle would come down and music would come out of it and it worked pretty good. And so I'm driving straight through I-5, which splits Bellingham in half. And it was listening to the radio and it was a Christian station. And now so the first person who showed up at Dewey Griffin Honda, would receive a free stereo system as part of a promotional giveaway. So I'm saying to myself, This is amazing. God works in miraculous ways because I was just 100 yards from the Iowa Street exit.

[00:01:46] We're doing Griffin on to us. So I raced off the exit, go down the street, pull up to Dewey Griffin. Want to see the radio booth jump out of my car, run up to the radio booth, out of breath and say, I'm I'm here for the free stereo system. And Guy says, I'm so sorry. We just gave it away. I mean, just 30 seconds ago, because here's a Randy Stonehill album. I'm thinking, I love Randy Stonehill, but what am I going to play it on? I mean, that's my whole problem. I have all these records that I can't listen to anymore, so I'm starting to walk off. But a salesman comes up and introduces himself to me and starts talking to me. And I wasn't good at just being direct with people at the time. And so I'm listening to them. He's finding out I'm coming up here to Canada, go to school, and and I finally had to cut it down. And I said, Look, I'm not really here to buy a car. I was just hoping to get a free stereo system. He said, I know that, Gary, but there's something I want you to see. So it leads me over a corner a lot where they have some brand new Honda Civics at the time on sale for 6999, you've got brand new Honda $7,000, and now the tires cost about that much. But it was a different age. And he talked to me because he'd talked about coming out of school. He said, Gary, that you get such great gas mileage, you'll probably save more money on fuel alone than you will have on your payments for the car. And he goes, And they're so well-built. You really shouldn't look at it as a car.

[00:03:07] You should look at it as an heirloom, you know, something that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren. They'll speak about the wisdom of their ancestor who got this incredible vehicle for his family's needs. So I bought a car. And my wife, who God knows why, is still married to me. She's looking at you. Gary, let me get this straight. We can't afford a stereo system. So you buy a car and you have to put it that way. Just when you put it that way, it makes me look stupid. Well, and. And I was stupid, but God dealt with me. And so over the years, I knew my impulsive nature. So we'd been out on the East Coast in the Washington, D.C. area for a number year. So when we moved back to Washington State, we had sold our cars because it was a cross-country trip. And we're going to buy our first brand new vehicle since that infamous 1984 Honda Civic hatchback. We just use vehicles. And because I knew my impulsive nature, I went on the Internet, I did all kinds of research and I figure out the best vehicle for our family's needs, what it should cost. Went to a volume dealership in Seattle, picked out this car. And I remember being so grateful because I'd been self-employed as a writer for just two years. The fact that I could not only feed my family but actually buy a new vehicle was more than I expected at that point in self-employment, and I was determined to keep it up as well as I could. I was going to change the oil every 300 miles. And, you know, I just like the new car smell all the things that you have.

[00:04:43] Well, just a few weeks into owning that car, my wife came down to my office where I was working one morning and she said, you know, Gary, the Smiths have their family visiting from out of town and they're going over to eastern Washington and their cars are too small for them to take their parents and their kids over the mountains. I knew where this was going and I didn't want her to finish it. But she's she's pressing on and she goes, they're going to rent a van to go over there. And it seems silly to me that they would spend $300 to rent a van when we can loan a car for the weekend, drive their Volvo, and then they could save that money. And I was horrified at the thought of that. And I'm giving her all the reasons why I do. I said, You know, honey, they're going to double the mileage in one weekend. I go, They probably eat fast food and is going to lose the new car smell. So we don't know how they treat cars over in eastern Washington. I mean, that's over the mountain. So I'm just not sure this is a good stewardship thing to do. Right. Well, what Lisa didn't realize is that God had already set me up. I had had my quiet time that morning. And in my Bible reading, I had come across this passage of chapter two verses 44 through 45. This is this. All the believers were together and had everything in common selling their possessions and goods that they gave to anyone as he had me. I've since learned to say for to have your quiet time in the evening, you know, after all your decisions have been made, God is really convicting me.

[00:06:20] So Lisa came back after she let guilt do its work and she said, I give them a call. I said, Sure, I guess. Okay. Grudgingly, not with a spirit that honors God at all. The next day I was going for a run and thinking through things and praying. And that's when God really spoke to me and began to challenge me in the way that he speaks. I'm not talking audibly, you know what I'm referring to, but to put it in the form of a dialog so you can understand when something like this as if God was saying to me, Now, Gary, you were saying that if you had two or three vehicles and wouldn't miss the van for the weekend, you wouldn't have even hesitated to let the Smiths use it. I said, Exactly, God, I'm glad that you understand. I'm glad that you get my heart. And if money wasn't an issue, you wouldn't hesitate. Yes, Lord. Exactly. That's just right. And that's when I believe that God revealed the sin in my heart when I could sense the question. So what you're really saying, Gary, is that you're willing to act like a Christian as long as it doesn't cost you anything. And the reality in my heart was laid bare that I'm happy to obey Scripture as long as it doesn't really cost me anything. Now, the reason I've taken such a long time to introduce this virtue is this I believe we live in a day and age when people tend to see spirituality as a profitable enterprise. They have the thinking that I had as a younger man that if I really get close with God, if I get really tight, I've gotten in with him, right? He might let me get a cold.

[00:07:55] Never cancer. My kids might feel a class, never get seriously sick. I might have a tough time paying a bill, never be unemployed or face bankruptcy. I didn't believe in the prosperity gospel. I think that's absurd in the light of Scripture. But I thought that God would at least round the corners. If I could get really close to him, really tight, I'd have an easier life. But then when I would read the Christian classics, the men and women that God had taken so far, it seemed like in many ways he was beating them up. Teresa of Avila, who wrote the interior counsel, once said to the Lord in a prayer, If this is how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so many enemies. I mean, I looked at the lives of these ancient writers who wrote the Christian classics. I wouldn't want any one of them. The social pain, the physical pain, the alienation. It was a horrifying reality to realize that getting close to God isn't a guarantee of an easier life. In many ways, the closer we get to God, the harder he can deal with us. Which is why this notion of sacrifice slash surrender is such a key virtue, because we're going to top out in our spiritual growth if we're becoming spiritual only for selfish ends. If our pursuit of God is to have an inside track where we'll never get sick, family is always taken care of. Nothing bad ever happens. God has a way of confronting that. His goal is for us to become like Jesus Christ. Who in the Garden of Gethsemane? He said, Not my will, but thine be done. I love it if you enjoy reading the classics and we talk about that in the last class.

[00:09:53] Henry Drummond has an essay in a book called The Greatest Challenge in the World called The Will of God. And I loved it. He said, What is the goal of the Christian? He says if the goal of the Christian is the will of God, then God is glorified in every situation, if God's will is that I be healthy? How do I love and serve God with a healthy body, if God's will, that I be sick? How do I love God in the midst of my sickness? If it God's will is that I'm poor? How do I show hope and patience and gratitude in my poverty, if God's will, is that I be affluent? How do I show God's generosity and kindness and freedom from materialism in the midst of my affluence? If I'm anonymous, if I'm famous, if I'm beautiful, if I'm ugly, whatever this situation is, if the will of the Christian is the will of God, we're always called forward. But whenever the will becomes ours, when it's not about surrender or sacrifice, but getting trying to manipulate God, we will find ourselves at war with God and not fully representing God to this world. So surrender and sacrifice is a huge one. Thanksgiving is another virtue. I think of. One of my favorite examples of this is in First Kings chapter 17, when there's a story of a widow in Zehra Fat, who's visited by the Prophet Elijah. And and this is a time of famine. There's not much food in the land. And in the midst of her great desperation, she we're told that she's literally cooking the last meal for her and her son. And then she knows there's no food left in the land. Every apple has been picked, every potato's been dug up, Even the bark has been stripped off of trees.

[00:11:47] Nothing that could provide nutrition remains in the land. They've been through a long drought. It's been horrible. Prophet Elijah comes to her town, sees this widow, calls out to her, ask her to give him something to drink. She gives him a little bit of something to drink, and then he asks her to bake a cake. And that's when she reveals how desperate situation is that She is going home, she says, to make a last meal for herself and her son. That quote, We may eat it and die. Now, as a parent, how many here are parents? Okay, I think you would understand this. Can you imagine a more desperate. Situation, the knowing you are literally cooking your kid's last meal. I can't imagine anything more horrifying knowing that there's nothing left I can give them. I'm going to watch this kid starve to death in front of me. It's every parent's worst nightmare to see their kid waste away slowly in front of them. That's what she face. It's important to understand her desperation. But I think the widow probably thinks. You know what? What do I have to lose? I'm going to die anyway. And my son will die with me. Maybe I'll make a little smaller cake for me and my son. I give it to the prophet. If what he said is true, we might live. And so she tries it. And guess what? God's Word proves true. Every day she opens up. I didn't tell you what proves true. Elijah had told her, If you go ahead and bake me that cake, I promise you the jar of flour will never run out. The vessel of oil will never run dry. Into God brings reigns back upon the land. Yeah. And.

[00:13:22] And she's got to be thinking. Well, it's a possibility. You're. I'm really kind of out of options. So she bakes cakes, give something to the prophet, and his word proves true. Now she's like me. For the first few days, I would be looking for the natural explanation. I would think. I thought the oil was gone, but maybe it pulled up overnight. You know, it ran down the sides and created a little bit in the bottom. And I thought all the flour was gone, but maybe it was knocked off the sides of the jar and lid after a few days. She's got to know there is no natural explanation for this. This literally has become a divine miracle from God. But then something curious happens because the days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. And at this point, she would be more surprised to open up the jug in the jar and find out that they're empty than that they're full, even though there's no natural reason why that should be the case. No natural explanation why there should be anything left, because it's just the way it is. She would be shocked if they were empty. And then she forgets what God has done. And we're told in First Kings, I believe it's chapter 17. Some time later. We don't know how much later, at least man's probably more likely years. Her son becomes sick of something not related to hunger and he dies. Now she's furious with the prophet and she goes to him and says, What good does it do me if you spare my son from starvation only to let him die of another disease? So Elijah takes her son into the back, prays to God. God raises that son from the dead.

[00:14:57] Elijah presents the son to the mother, and she says, Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth. Now, as a journalist, if I could interview this woman, the first thing I'd want to say is this Now you know that he's a man of God. Now you know that. What? He speaks the truth. How? What have you been eating for the last couple of years? Isn't it true that literally every day you are sustained by a miracle, spoken from the mouth of this very prophet, and only now you begin to believe that he speaks the truth and that God has provided for you miraculously. And what happens that a woman who is in such a desperate situation, she thought her son was going to starve to death, and now he provides for or God provides for her every day. That just becomes the way it is so that she stops seeing it. Then one difficulty comes in her life, something she didn't plan, and now she resents God. And that's just a small step away from. And by the way, God, what have you ever done for me? Now, what that passage teaches me is I'm always on the precipice of taking God's blessings for granted to the extent that I become blind to them. And then when a problem comes into my life, I can so easily resent God. How dare you let this happen to me? And I believe spiritual sickness begins when we start tolerating God's blessings instead of being thankful for them. Recognizing that I have to renew, that I have to open up my heart every day. God help me to see these blessings that you've given me, that I've forgotten about my my health, the provision, the job, all of these things that we take for granted that we literally stop seeing because gratitude, thankfulness is the heart of a healthy Christian.

[00:16:59] Look at Psalm 104. It tells us to enter his gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with praise Colossians to six through seven. So then, just as you received Christ, Jesus is Lord continue to live in Him rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. What ever marks the life of a believer. It should be the sense that God is treating me better than I deserve. I know I'm talking to an immature believer when I'm hearing. How could God let me? How could God treat me this way? And I got to be honest. I hear that all the time. Because I don't think we believe the Bible. And the Bible says we deserve hell. Is it true? I mean, we talk about what we deserve. Theologically, the Bible is pretty clear. I have earned hell. Right. It's not as if God has to wait until I die. Measure my good acts and my bad acts as a. Yeah, this one does. I've fallen short of the glory of God. What I truly deserve is help. And if I believe, I deserve hell. Isn't it also true that any minute outside of hell is a minute I don't deserve? It's a gift of God's kindness and grace. I deserve to be there. I'm not there right now. As difficult as things may be on this earth. I'm not getting what I deserve in a positive sense. And so when somebody says me here, I don't deserve the spouse. I don't deserve these parents. I don't deserve these kids. I want to say I know you don't. You deserve to go to hell. But God is being so kind to you. So how do we express that gratitude in words, which I'm not a counselor.

[00:18:47] That's a little harsh, but. But you get the point that the virtues I've talked about humility, gentleness, sacrifice, thankfulness. There are many more I can go through. In fact, I do. In the Glorious Pursuit, this book on embracing the virtues of Christ. That's what this book is about. But they're counterintuitive to the way the world thinks. I want to talk about how the Bible teaches us to think differently. A mature Christian growing in spirituality just thinks about the world differently. They seek humility rather than self exhortation. They seek to be gentle rather than harsh. They seek gratitude rather than resentment. They seek to surrender their hard. They believe that maturity is marked by being malleable in God's hands, rather than this idea of the prosperity that somehow I can manipulate God to do my will. Can I tell you this? My mind is so puny. There are some prayers. I am so thankful to God. He said no to. I'm thankful God said no to some prayers. He knew better than I did. And so when I grow in the virtue of sacrifice, I'm just really growing in a God is Lord. I want him to be Lord. I've spent way too much time on one path. We've got 10 minutes. I've got two more months. Let me at least touch on them so intensely, practicing the virtues, becoming familiar with them, putting them into practice. That's how we grow as believe. That's our spiritual bodybuilding. And you can focus on a virtue at a time. You study thankfulness, you study gentleness, you study courage, you study kindness, and then you just begin to act that way. It begins to shape your heart. So that's one path. A second path is the path of difficulty and suffering.

[00:20:40] I have a friend a few years older than me, about four years older than me. He's a godly man and he was godly in his twenties. I came into college. He was one of the leaders in the college of Ministry that I was a part of. And to be honest, I wanted to be like him. I don't know if you remember the Michael Jordan campaign. Be like Mike. Well, this guy's name was Michael Lipman, and I wanted to be like Mike referring to Mike Pitman because he was everything I wanted to be. He loved the Lord, charismatic in front of a group, very athletic, very gifted, musically gifted as a worship leader, great with the guitar, good singing voice, great counselor, one on one. He was just really helpful with me and my faith. Great evangel. He seemed like he had everything that I knew. He wasn't perfect. He had to go through pre-marital counseling twice before he was able to get married. And what actually happened is that he was in a pre-marital counseling group and there was another couple there. And at the end of that, that class, he broke up with his fiancee. She broke up with her fiance. And then Mike and Pam got together. As Mike explained it to me, I like Pam's answers better than Diane, so I thought I should marry her. So if you're single and you go through premarital counseling, you might think about the other couples just to preserve your future marriage anyway. But they got married, and we all knew that God would do great things for Mike, and God was doing great things. But Mike found himself in a church after he'd been well-educated, and some men that really loved him came to him and said in an appropriate way, Mike, you are multiple.

[00:22:24] We gifted. But you're harsh. Your words are wounding some people. I talked about some some casualties, some problems they represented. Because Mike is a godly man. He received it with humility. He considered it, and he was mortified to realize that everything they praised him for was a human trait. You're charismatic. You're dynamic. They didn't praise him for a single biblical truth. And he found himself praying, Lord, I wish I was a little less dynamic and a little more compassionate. I wish I was a little less charismatic and a little more humble. Well, be careful what you pray for. It wasn't that long after that. Michael was playing basketball one morning. He was with one of the players he was with was an EMT, EMT, an emergency medical technician. As Mike was walking off the floor, his body dropped to the ground. He had an aneurysm, exploded in his brain. If you're not familiar with that, the effects are sort of like a stroke. Mike probably would have died if the EMT hadn't been right there immediately offering service. They got him to the hospital, and and while Michael survived, it was a very different Michael that came out of the hospital. For starters, his Hollywood handsome looks were gone. His face was was so transformed that it's kind of one side is pulled tight and his mouth is is is pushed up here because of the way his muscles were impacted. Since that day many years ago, he can't play the guitar anymore. And music was a part of who he was. It was one of his instruments, a service to God. It was part of his identity that was gone. He couldn't. It's very difficult for him to walk and talk and say he had to learn how to speak all over again.

[00:24:17] And even today, when he gets tired, his words begin to slur. The picture I'm trying to paint here with little time to do it. Is it? He was humbled in about every way it's possible for an ambitious, young, gifted man to be humbled. And I was invited to go out to Philadelphia, where Mike was working to speak to a group. And I wanted to take the opportunity to meet with Mike, and I hadn't seen him since the aneurysm incident had had taken place. And I remember it was so sobering. I spent about two and a half hours with him. And the difference was that, you know, describe it this way. I talked to my wife that evening and I said to her, Elise, when when I was in college, I wanted to be like Mike. I was enamored by who he was. And I would say, Lord, let me be like Mike. So I spent two and a half hours with in this evening. And when I went away, my prayer was, Lord, I want to be like, Jesus, make me more like Jesus, because he had been humbled. There was a different ministry in his life rather than trying to emulate him. There was something about the presence of God in his life that I wanted Christ rather than I wanted to be Mike. I wanted to have Christ live in me. And there are the number of people, men and women, who are so gifted, who have the presence and the power and the passion and the hair and the bodies, and they could all make us feel like we're just beginner humans. Those are a dime a dozen. But the men and women who individually one on one, can usher us into the presence of Jesus Christ.

[00:26:06] Those are our precious few. What do you think the church needs more of? The challenge is the pathway to get there can be pretty severe as it was in Mike's life. If you look at scriptures, I mention that about God gives Grace to the humble but opposes the proud. Look at how the Bible says we grow from three major New Testament writers. James, the brother of Jesus, says this in James. One, two, three, four. This is on your outline. Consider it pure joy, my brothers. Whenever you faced trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything without perseverance through difficult times. James As were half baked Christians, really cookies that are only partly done. You try to pick them off the pie plate in the baking sheet and they they fall apart first. Peter one through six. These trials have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Paul in Romans five, three through five. We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character. Hope. Now, I chose these three passages very intensely. You've got James, the undisputed leader in the first New Testament church around Jerusalem. James was the man. He was the spiritual shepherd of the early Church of God. Peter, the man that Jesus shows saying He is the rock upon whom I will build my church. I've got Paul, who is God's emissary to the Gentiles. These are the three guys in the New Testament church all speaking with unanimity. We grow through difficult times.

[00:28:12] So any gospel that tries to suggest Christianity makes life easier. The faith means we don't face times of trial and difficulty and pain simply isn't reading their Bible with honest eyes that God develops us through difficulty. We have to learn how to cooperate with that. I'm not suggesting we bring trials into our life because I believe each life will have plenty of trials on its own. Under the providence of God. I'm saying this to the to prepare you so that if you find yourself going into a time of trial, it's an opportunity of discipleship. It's a it's a threshold of spiritual growth rather than resenting it rather than being bitter toward God. How do we cooperate to grow the one thing we have to maintain? One thing I've got to take the time to talk about is our attitude toward God. In that trial, I had a life experience that really helped me understand this. When my son, a very active little boy, was just about three years old. He was running around in our downstairs room where we have a fireplace. He tripped, he fell right onto the fireplace and split his head open right here. I mean, it was gushing out blood. I could see his skull. It's not what you want to see on your kid. Lisa was gone. I wrap him up, take him to the hospital. They rushed right in, and I see what's going on. It's a head wound. They put him in one of these ingenious contraptions. It's like a straitjacket, but it's like a stretcher. So he can't move. He's such an active boy. I kind of wanted to ask if they sold those in that hospital store thinking we might be able to use us later.

[00:29:48] But they let me be there while they were going to stitch him up and he was immobilized. And this is one of the most difficult moments of my life when my three year old boy, blond hair, blue eyes about this big is looking up at me, pleading with me, Daddy, he saw the needle. Don't let him do this, Daddy. He's going to hurt me. Make him stop. And it broke my heart because Graham ran to me whenever he was scared. I'm the one that he thought he could depend on. I'm the one that was supposed to protect him. He trusted me, and now he's pleading with me. Dad, this guy's going to hurt me. Are you going to let him? I mean, you're not very big, but I think you could take him. This doctor looks pretty small. Are you just going to stand there? And I had to let the doctor stick the needle in, Graham said. Didn't matter because Graham didn't have the understanding where I could explain why this had to take place. I could look and say, Buddy, you three. Yeah, I know you think girls have cooties, but the day is going to come. When you're 23, you want to bring a young woman home for dinner to get to know us. It's not going to help you have a flap of skin hanging over your left diamond. That's not going to be a selling point with the women or I couldn't say, you know what? But there's this thing called infections. And if you get stitches and take care of you and get infected up there, it's right by your brain. You could die. He didn't know biology. Had no interest in girls. He didn't know that it was for his good that I let this happen.

[00:31:15] All he knew was I think my dad can stop this pain. He's not. What's up with this? Now, imagine there was another man in that hospital emergency room speaking to Graham saying this. See? I told you. Your daddy doesn't love you. How could it be love if he lets a man stick a needle just above your eye repeatedly to see if you were my son, I'd just take you off this table right now. Why? You just come with me, Graham. Why do you just come away with me? I won't let this doctor touch you. Sounds like a loving thing. It wouldn't be a loving thing. Every time we face a time of trial sickness, discouragement, financial challenge. That's exactly what's going on spiritually. God is giving it as an opportunity of growth. Our enemy is saying, How could God love you and let that happen? And if we're not armed with the understanding of Scripture what God can use to build us up, Satan wants to use to create bitterness, it's a war within our souls. I haven't talked much about spiritual warfare, but virtually every opportunity to grow spiritually comes with it. The consequent opportunity to grow in bitterness and resentment. And and we need Scripture to guide us in our pursuit of spirituality so that we understand that. All right. Okay. Let me just mention the third pathway. And I've just written it here. And in one way, in one sense, it's pathetic that I'm going to give one minute to this. Practicing the spiritual disciplines we have, practicing the virtues, going through difficulty and suffering as a pathway to growth. The other thing is the spiritual disciplines. The reason I'm willing to do this is that when people think of spirituality, when they think of spiritual formation, 99% of you, I would guess, came in here, think of fasting and meditation and Bible study and what we call the spiritual disciplines, and rightly so.

[00:33:17] But those are so well known and these other pathways and aspects and emphases are so under emphasized that I'm kind of purposely acknowledging these, but recognizing that it's it's much bigger than this. So let me just point you to some resources to pursue this. Richard Foster really brought the celebration of the disciplines into the the modern era of the church with this book, Celebration of Discipline. Dallas Willard, excuse me, has the spirit of the disciplines, which is sort of an academic approach to it. Don Whitney is wrote in spiritual disciplines for the Christian life can also kind of call it spiritual disciplines for conservative Baptists, and it goes to places where it just is a safer approach for some that are nervous by some emphases that Foster might mention in his, We don't have to go. We don't have time to go through these quotes. But you can see both Whitney, Willard and Foster. I'll describe what they are. But but the idea is this, that by choosing these actions, choosing intentional times of meditation, intentional times of study, intentional times of retreat, intentional times of fasting or whatnot, we can begin to shape souls and hearts and minds that are receptive of being filled by God and transformed by not giving them them time. It would be a grave mistake if you thought, then I think they're not important. I think they're crucial. I think they're essential. It's just I'm operating that from the presumption which may be wrong, but operating from the presumption that you probably have heard about them, you've probably read some of these books. You're probably familiar with them. Other aspects of spirituality, I think just haven't gotten their due. So I'm doing that. Foster lists the inward disciplines, the outward disciplines in the corporate disciplines, and you can look at those at your leisure.

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