Did you know that God uses a very predictable process to build your character? I call this process the "Six Phases of Faith." If you dont understand this process, youll get discouraged when problems arise. Youll wonder, "Why is this happening to me?"
But if you understand and cooperate with what God is doing in your ministry, your faith - like a muscle that is stretched - will develop great strength.
Phase 1: A dream
God gives you a dream an idea, goal, or ambition. Every great accomplishment first begins as a God-given dream in someones mind. "God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (Eph. 3:20 LB)
Phase 2: A decision
A dream is worthless until you decide to do something about it. For every 10 dreamers, theres only one decision-maker. This is the moment of truth where you decide to invest your time, money, energy, and reputation and to let go of security. If you want to walk on water - you must get out of the boat! "You must believe and not doubt a double-minded man is unstable in all he does. (James 1:6, 8 GN)
Phase 3: A delay
There is always a time lapse before your dream becomes reality. God uses this waiting period to teach us to trust him. Remember, a delay is not a denial. Maturity is understanding the difference between "no and "not yet. God says, These things I plan wont happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day! (Hab. 2:3 LB)
Phase 4: A difficulty
Now the problems start popping up. The two most common types: critics and circumstances. Dont worry. Its all a part of Gods plan. At the present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold. (1 Peter 1:6-7 Ph)
Phase 5: A dead end!
Your situation will deteriorate from difficult to impossible. You are backed into a corner, you reach the end of your rope; it looks hopeless. Congratulations! You are on the edge of a miracle. Trust God. At that time we were completely overwhelmed in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we now believe we had this sense of impending disaster so that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves but in God who can raise the dead. (2 Cor. 1:8-9 Ph)
Phase 6: A deliverance
God provides a supernatural answer. Miraculously, things fall into place! God loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections so you can see his greatness. I expect the Lord to deliver me once again so I will see his goodness to me . (Ps. 27:13)
Until next week,
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Adapted from Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for pastors and church leaders, available at Pastors.com.