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The pain of spiritual growth

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” – 1 Peter 2:11  

Prayer
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Like so many other great men and women of the Bible, Peter loved God but failed miserably. Peter was the rock on which the Lord would build his church, but he was also the one who denied the Lord three times moments after He was captured. The Prophet Abraham left paganism to follow God and was the father of all nations, but he also passed off his wife as his sister to avoid the wrath of a King. King David, a man after God’s own heart, a great warrior and statesman, stole someone’s wife and killed her husband to cover it up.  

Peter’s warning could come from any one of us who has experienced the chastisement of the Lord. As citizens of Heaven, sin will wage war against our souls, and if we succumb to that desire, God will not leave us in that state.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” – Proverbs 3:11-12

The pain of disobedience is my latest and probably most challenging lesson of becoming God’s disciple. When I first came to saving faith, it was easy to submerge myself in God’s Word and practice holiness. I was not married and had lost all my friends when I left Islam. Jesus and my daughter were all I had. Fast forward three years, and for the first time in my life, I am married to a wonderful man with a beautiful new family that fills my day with the adventures of five school-aged kids and local civic involvement. We are blessed with good health and provision to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I convinced myself that I was doing “enough” managing that responsibility. Then I started to hear the “soft, still, voice” of the Lord encouraging me to get back into an in-depth Bible study, serve at the church, and work more on my online ministry. Honestly, I rationalized that the voice was just the Type A overachiever in me that wanted to do more, so I disregarded it. This behavior went on for months. The Lord was prompting me, and I ignored it.

Then suddenly, my husband and I received some devastating news that literally brought me to my knees in remorse. I instantly knew the Lord was disciplining me. The Lord had commanded specific actions, but I did not obey, and I knew it. I had neglected my first love. I could hear the words, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

Grace is such incredible mercy that covers the life of a believer, but “without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”  Even if we do not commit adultery, fornication, or drunkenness, we must also put aside all forms of disobedience, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. Yes, the penalty of sin was paid at the cross, but the Lord wants our lives to reflect His presence so He can work in and through us.

God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” - Hebrews 12:10-11 

The real battle is within us, not with other people. Therefore, we must be on our guard. In these troubled times, we are called to even greater submission. In our obedience, in surrendering to His plan, we reflect that Christ lives in us and will draw others towards Him. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” – 1 Peter 2:12. We are not trying to win a popularity contest because we know we will be hated for His namesake. However, our actions will draw the lost and brokenhearted to the goodness Christ can offer.

There is this great quote from Smith Wigglesworth that he said nearly 100 years ago, and it is still true today: “The reason the world is not seeing Jesus is that Christian people are not filled with Jesus.” Christians don’t have an identity crisis; we have a submission crisis. Though the discipline I suffered was painful, this is the lesson He was teaching me. It was not for me to rationalize whether what He was calling me to was necessary. He was calling me to obedience. My plan had to take a backseat to His plan.

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.  – Romans 8:13.  It is hard to believe that dying to self gives true life, but that is what the Word tells us. The inclination in hard times may be to turn inward and protect oneself, but that is not our calling. We demonstrate good character, show perfect love to the family of believers and even our enemies while avoiding sin because our behavior is our witness. In honor of what Jesus did on the cross, we behave this way. We are called to follow in the footsteps of our Savior.

Remember that the Book of Revelation begins with the Lord’s rebuke to the churches, the body of believers in Christ Jesus. He admonishes them for being lukewarm, spoiled by riches, and sexually immoral. He warns the believer to overcome the enemy’s temptations and endure till He returns, or there will be consequences. Salvation happens in an instant, but sanctification takes a lifetime. Even when we disobey and we will, we must get back on the way, following God. Then, He will restore us. I am grateful that just like He did for the great prophets of old, my God forgives and redeems those who turn to Him in repentance.

Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel.  She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.

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