Proving Ground

This entry is part 77 of 84 in the series Holiness Matters
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I tend to get ahead of myself. Sometimes I like to just go. But most of the time, I like to plan out my events and everything that’s going on. I like to know beforehand where I’m headed.

Because of this desire to be a planner, even when I don’t plan very well, I tend to get bored with the schedule I put in place for the day. I get impatient and want to skip something and come back to it later. Because I sometimes like to be spontaneous, I don’t want to follow the steps and plans I laid out for myself.

The same thing can happen as we walk with Jesus in holiness. The Holy Spirit has an agenda. He has a plan to the destination of holiness. And as we travel this road with him, it’s easy for us to get sidetracked or to take more time on the character traits and issues he brings up.

So I want to encourage you in this blog post to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. We do get sidetracked, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We have expectations of ourselves, and even the Holy Spirit is more gracious to us.

One Step at a Time

I love checklists. They help me achieve my goals. But this desire to check things off of my list and see an empty page at the end of the day gets in my way. The moment the Holy Spirit announces the agenda for the character trait he wants to change, I want to set up my own pace. I want to see that character issue conquered.

So I start doing my own thing. I create my own path so I can quickly conform to Christ. When we do that, we put the cart before the horse. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to conform our character to Christ.

We must follow his lead even though we want to skip ahead to the end where we have conquered this issue. But it’s the Holy Spirit and his power in us that conform us to Christ. And we follow his schedule.

I’m still learning this lesson. It’s not what I can do in my own strength. It’s what the Holy Spirit will do in his time and his way. The Holy Spirit often uses situations to prove our character. When he brings up the character issue, we will find ourselves dealing with that issue in every situation we come across.

I can’t tell you how many times the Holy Spirit has brought up my impatience and then I find myself standing in the Walmart line for way longer than I need to, only three lines open. All I can think about is, “Why would they open only three lines when they can see that those three lines are 3 miles long?”

Then I play the line skipping game. I’ve only got so far in my line. So I look at the grass on the other side and see that it is greener. I contemplate whether or not I should join line. And then of course it happens. The moment I go to the other line, I realize the person in front of me fit two carts into one and takes 20 minutes to unload, pack, and pay for their groceries.

I know it’s happened to you too. If I would’ve just stayed in my own lane, I would be done. And we do the same thing to the Holy Spirit. He wants to do things in our lives his way. He wants to make sure that the character issue is dealt with, not just on the surface, but deep down in our person.

When we rush things, just try to get the task done, we tend to only remedy the surface. It’s not up to us to do the Holy Spirit’s work. Paul talks about turning away from the Holy Spirit in our sanctification.

In Galatians 3:2-5, Paul is talking to the Galatians about their incessant need to think they can figure out God’s plan on their own. They began with the Holy Spirit when they were saved. But then he asks them why they are turning away from the same Spirit during sanctification.

God worked our salvation, and he continues in our sanctification. We don’t suddenly get to chart our own path to holiness. We don’t know where the Spirit wants to take us. We must get out of his way. He is strengthening our character. Take it one step at a time. Follow his lead.

Circles Aren’t Bad

Most of us think in a linear fashion. I like to see my checklists checked off, my plans in my planner accomplished. But I don’t plan in circles. I plan in straight lines that get me from point A to point B.

Often times on the road to holiness we travel in circles instead of lines. The Spirit changes are character, but sometimes we must return to the same issues when we don’t listen to or obey him.

For example, When the Spirit addresses my pride, I first take offense to it. After all, he hurt my pride. And he puts me in situations where I must swallow my pride and be humble. After I am humble in a couple of circumstances, I pat myself on the back, “See how humble you were in that situation? Good job!”

It may be so subtle that we don’t even realize that our pride is congratulating us on being humble. The Holy Spirit’s work isn’t really done in this area of our lives.

That’s the circular path we sometimes take toward holiness. The same character issues we think we have conquered through the Holy Spirit’s power may return again. If this happens to you, don’t fret. The Spirit isn’t done with us until we are home in glory with Jesus.

The Spirit is incredibly patient. He knows the destination and the road to get there. He has a plan even when we don’t listen or obey. Circular paths make sure the Spirit’s work is deep instead of shallow.

Stay the Course

One way the Holy Spirit uses to build our faith and character is through trials. This may go against your theology, but stick with me here (I’ve got Scriptures to prove my point). New Testament writers sometimes use character chains to explain trials.

In Romans 5:3-5, Paul explains how the Holy Spirit works after salvation. God gives us access by faith into his grace. We rejoice in the hope of his glory, the fulfillment of his promises. But our journey to hope is through a character chain.

Paul says we rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3). That’s crazy! Why would we rejoice in the pain of suffering? It’s only the first step. Follow the character chain, and suffering results in endurance. Endurance means to stand up under pressure.

It’s the tree venting but not breaking in the tornado. It’s the lactic acid our muscles feel when we lift weights. It’s the adversity we face. The Spirit uses endurance through suffering to build character. “Character” means to stand the test, to pass the examination. God approves us through standing up under trials. We must rely on the Spirit through the trial.

It’s this proven character in us that makes us have hope in God. If he can get us through these tests and trials, he can do all things. His promises are true. So we put our faith in the hope of what God promises.

In James 1:2-4, James gives us another character chain that helps us understand why we go through trials. The saints in James’ church have just been scattered throughout the Roman Empire from Jerusalem. Especially in this difficult time of their lives, James focuses on talking about trials through his entire epistle.

He says to consider trials joy. Should we enjoy the pain and suffering? No. No matter what trials we face, we know they begin a character chain leading us to maturity in Christ. First, our faith is tested, leading to steadfastness. This is the same word Paul used for endurance. We bear up under pressure.

Remaining steadfast under pressure and in doing the trial brings perfection. This is maturity in Christ, wholeness, so we lacked nothing in our character. Pay close attention to these character chains because they are the Holy Spirit’s strategy to make us holy like Jesus.

We need to stay the course through suffering, afflictions, and pains. We don’t enjoy them at the time, but the Holy Spirit is working Jesus’ character in us through them.

Conclusion

Throughout this post I have tried to show you how the Holy Spirit is working behind the scenes in your character. His goal was to conform you to the image of Jesus. And it’s through this process that we become holy, prepared for our inheritance with God in heaven forever.

We like to get ahead of the Spirit’s plan. We try to do things our way instead of letting him work. We must follow the Holy Spirit’s plan. It’s the best one to lead us into God’s presence. Leave a comment and tell me how you understand the Scriptures I’ve talked about.

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