No Pain, No Gain

I wish the way to godliness was through Bible study!

This can help lay an important foundation, but the primary way we become more like Jesus is through adversity.  That’s when those biblical truths have the opportunity to work their way into the depths of our soul and transform us.

We see the heart of a disciple so beautifully displayed in Mary’s response when the angel approaches her about giving birth to Jesus, “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)  Talk about a willingness to follow God regardless of cost!

And did this ever prove costly!

If you take time to read the nativity story slowly and really consider what’s happening, you realize it wasn’t a very silent night!  Imagine giving birth far away from home, and if you’ve ever given birth, you know this was no cake-walk!  She had no access to any epidural or even demerol to take the edge off the pain!!!  And can you see her learning in the midst of contractions, there’s no room in the inn?!  Forget about sterile environments, your newborn gets placed in a manger, and then a bunch of scruffy shepherds crowd in?!  And that’s not even taking into account all the attempts of the enemy to destroy her – surely he wasn’t at all thrilled that she was carrying the son of God – or the hurtful things said to her due to being pregnant before the wedding!

It’s so easy to read these verses quickly, whitewashing over them, but in the middle of the story there is pain and intense emotion!

I bet Mary never dreamed how great this cost would be.  And isn’t that true for us too?  We say “yes” to following the Lord, yet are surprised when things don’t go smoothly.

When we came on staff with the Navigators, we gave up a secure income, career, being with family and friends to head in our late-thirties to a college campus to spend most of our time with people half our age.  You think in view of all the sacrifice the Lord would roll out the red carpet!

But instead we ended up homeless for a month, living like vagabonds going from house to house, then lived in a tiny, temporary home for the next few months where our dining room table was in the center of the kitchen so I had to squeeze around it to cook.

Prior to this the Lord laid it on my heart to start memorizing Psalm 119.  I was like, “Lord, that’s the longest chapter in the Bible!”  And He was like, “I know!”  When I agreed to do it, I asked, “Would you please give me music to set each of the 8 verse sections too?  That would really help!”  And he did.

During the time of our homeless adventure, I was memorizing Psalm 119: 81-88 and verse 83 jumped off the page at me, “Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.”  And I wondered – what’s that about?

When I looked it up, I discovered wineskins are put in smoke to mature them faster!!!

Can’t you just hear the wineskin…  “Lord, I said I’d hold whatever wine you want to put in – but what are you doing leading me to that fire and wait…!!!”  Cough, cough, cough…  “This smoke is burning my eyes! It’s hot here!  And those flames keep getting closer!!!  Are you trying to destroy me?!”

You see, the Lord knew we needed to grow, we needed an intense faith and character stretching experience to be ready for the work He had for us, more than we needed a comfy, easy transition!

Truly what He gave grew us a ton!  And afterwards, looking back, we can clearly see it was so worth it!  But at the time…

This is why it’s so helpful to have someone walking with you through the journey!  Someone who’s been in the fire, felt the pain, experienced the intense emotions and can help prepare you for the hard times sure to come and assure you it will be worth it!

This is why cake mix discipleship is so deadly!  That’s where people are led to believe if you just do x, y, or z,  if you just follow the recipe your life is going to go great!  Beware of communicating this!  It’s so easy inadvertently to do!

There is no formula!  Unless you consider, “No pain, no gain!” Because being a disciple and becoming more like Jesus isn’t about following a formula, but following a person who is committed to transforming you as He writes a unique masterpiece in your life!




Here is a link to one of my favorite songs related to this entitled, “Every Day”

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