2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT) For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
Before the age of digital photography, cameras contained film canisters. A roll of film would produce anywhere from twelve to twenty four pictures by capturing images of life and light making an imprint on the negative inside. The film would then need to be developed. Film processing includes a variety of steps to bring out and stabilize the latent image made by light striking the film during exposure in the camera. Once the film was delivered to the photo shop, one would have to wait up to a week or two to obtain those images. Waiting. The lost art of mankind in this world of immediate gratification. Until the film is developed, the image is hidden from sight. We have shining light hidden inside of us looking for a way out. (2 Corinthians 4:7) The Holy Spirit is working to develop the character of God’s People.
The vision of our church is simple – saved, healed, developed and fulfilled. Four steps to completion as the Lord has intended. As I constantly come back to them, it seems one stands out as the place where it is the most challenging for all of us. Developed. The development process of God is the refinement of one’s character. His Spirit reaches deep down in our heart and soul comparing every thought, intuition, and intention to the very character and nature of God. It would be safe to say our humanity leaves much to be desired in the area of godly character. God’s Word tells us that His Divine Power has given us everything we need to for a godly life just because we know Him. (2 Peter 1:3)
The Spirit of the Lord invested in us by Jesus Christ came to develop us as believers. God loves us too much to leave us powerless and struggling in our sin. Jesus died and rose again to deliver us from the bondage of lowly living well beneath the standard of our creation. We have a purpose to be fulfilled. How do we overcome this hurdle called development to live in the fulfillment of God? Are we there yet? Are there sick among us? Does everyone in our realm of influence know the Christ we serve whether accepting Him or not? The Lord uses the Holy Spirit to make us more and more like Him. We are to be changed into His Glorious Image.
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
When I was nineteen years old, I was wandering the plains of Africa on a mission trip. Though far from home, I felt alive and purposed. Just a few short years later, I would be wandering in the darkness of the world. How does this happen? Salvation is the acceptance of God’s Grace in exchange for our sin. Healing is the restorative power of God that allows us to rise up from the ashes of a life broken physically, emotionally and spiritually from the brutality of this world. To live right here in these two qualities of godliness is not enough. God did not create you to survive. He created you to thrive in the abundance of His Kingdom. If there is not further development, we will live in a vicious cycle of wandering from the Light of His Love to the darkness of sin and shame. It is an exhausting cycle that can kill dreams, end faith and destroy hope. In the wastelands of life there are waterfalls for those who choose to engage in the active development of godly character.
Hope will not lead to disappointment. We become confident in hope as our character is strengthened. Strength of character is the process of endurance. It is not a quick work but lifelong endeavor to engage in the process of faith that allows us to continue even when we face problems, trials and pain. If you are saved today, are you healed? If you have been healed, are you developed? We can determine our development in our responses to this world. When you run into barricades, obstacles and detours in life, what is our response? Is it faith that keeps pressing and pushing deeper into the Presence of God? Or do we give up or give in?
Deuteronomy 8:1-3 (NLT) Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Having four older siblings, including three who are adults, our baby girl struggles with constant instruction. There is always someone telling her what to do and how to do it. I wish I had a dime for every time I have heard her say, “You are not the boss of me” or “you are not my mom/dad”. Nobody likes people telling them what to do or how to live. Our flesh bucks authority on every level from the earliest age. I have had to pop (yes, punish) many little hands that would challenge the boundaries set before them. Yes, I believe the padded seats they come with my need the occasional swat to remember certain guidelines in life. Why? I am developing responsible adults packed as immature babies and children. It is my job according to the Lord to train them up in the way that they should go.
We must be careful to obey our Father in Heaven. Faith is evidenced by our wiliness to obey God and take Him at His Word. Our character is limited by our obstinate nature. We want to live our life with the opinions of others. Yet, from early on, it is established that we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord if prosperity and fulfillment is our goal. My way always leads to death and destruction. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, if I want to be saved, healed, DEVELOPED and fulfilled. I must faithfully follow Him no matter where it leads me. Mountain high or valley low, I cry out to remind my soul that I am yours. Lord, I am yours.
Psalm 105:19-21 (NLT)Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character. Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free; the ruler of the nation opened his prison door. Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household; he became ruler over all the king’s possessions.
The story of Joseph emanates the process of development that the Lord uses to refine our character. Until the time… this is the biggest challenge of building character. The wait times in life are the hardest part in my opinion. The space between the dream and fulfillment when you slowly but surely every earthly way is exhausting until the only foundation left is our faith in Jesus Christ. Here is where we find fulfillment if we have been dedicated to development along the way. See Joseph continued to serve the Lord in captivity. When he was thrown in a pit, Joseph still loved God. When he was shackled among slaves to be made like them, He still knew and understood that He was a Child of God. When he went to Potiphar’s House – he served his master as if he was serving God. When he was falsely accused, Joseph didn’t throw his hands up and quit, but served God with the same faithful obedience in the dungeon of the palace. When those who promised forgot about him, Joseph still served the Lord. What happened? His Dream came true. I wonder if maybe it took all those years to forgive each one of his brothers who left him for dead. Whatever the case? The Lord knew every single step it would take for Joseph to become the wise and mighty man of God who would lead the nation in its darkest hour.
Let’s talk about Peter for a minute. The Bible calls those who believe without seeing to be blessed. Joseph did not see Jesus but knew the Lord. Peter actually walked side by side with Jesus as a man. His struggle with development was no less intense even though he could literally reach out and touch the Lord. In Matthew 14:28-29, Peter tries this thing called faith and walks on water…at least for a little bit. Just enough to taste the power of faith invested in Jesus Christ. Great start, right? Matthew 16:17-19, Peter confesses Jesus is the Messiah, Son of the Living God. Jesus prophecies over him that he is the rock on which the church will be built. He hands over the keys to the Kingdom to this man in this moment. How exciting, right? Nothing can stop Peter now. Matthew 19:26-27 whoops Peter discovers a little doubt festering inside as expressed when he tells Jesus – “Hey, we have given up everything…for what?” That doesn’t sound much like water-walking faith anymore. Thing get worse before they get better. Matthew 26:32-34 Jesus predicts Peter’s denial right after Peter demands to defend him. What’s up with that? Of course, our hero would never ever deny the Lord. Come on… Matthew 69-74 oh well, Peter blows it and denies Jesus three times just like the Lord said he would. Game over. Not so fast. In John 21 is the account of Jesus meeting Peter on the beach. He had decided to go fishing. Back to his mediocre existing fishing the waters. Jesus didn’t change His Mind about Peter but used the string of events to produce character in him. Now that Peter was developed, he could enter fulfillment.
Hebrews 1:2-3 (NLT) And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.
To be saved is to separate us from our sin as we repent and turn to the Lord. He begins to move us farther from our past into our future, as our sin continues its trek from the east to west. (Psalm 103:7-12) To know God’s Character as outlined in Psalm 103, is to understand that everything He does is with the mindset of a Good Father. He looks past who we are now to our potential and purpose far beyond our impetuous and impulsive nature driven by immaturity in Christ. God’s Character of compassion and unconditional love allows us to come to Him boldly no matter what our sin with our willingness to walk away from it and pursue His Love. As we begin to walk in His Love, the Lord heals us from the inside out. The more we walk by faith the more complete and whole we become. However, there is more to life than temporary comfort and deliverance. We have a destination called fulfillment that requires development.
To be mature is to be developed. We cannot fulfill our destiny and purpose in the Lord unless we become mature Christians rather than spiritual babies. We must feast on the meat of His Word. We must dive into the depths of His Love. It is due to a lack of knowledge that my people perish or die. Not my word but His Words (Hosea 4:6). To develop self-control that comes from His Spirit that drives us to obedience, faithfulness and a firm commitment to Christ and His Word at all times no matter what the situation or circumstances. We must count it all joy when we enter trials knowing that in our complete undoing we will become like Him more and more producing His Glory in us to shine through us. Are you frustrated today? Tired of turning to Christ and returning to the world like a giant inescapable merry-go-round? Do you want to see God’s Purpose for you fulfilled? You must be developed. It is not a fun process but worthwhile indeed. It is a commitment to follow Jesus past the peace you feel in church and goosebumps when they sing your favorite song to the point when the enemy tries to sift you like wheat.
I cannot help but wonder what the Light of His Love has imprinted on each human heart called potential. What might happen if men and women would simply surrender their life to be saved, healed, developed and fulfilled? Would revival break out? Would Jesus come sooner? Would we live in the midst of miracles? Would dead dreams come back to life? Would our lives be filled with His Glory? I don’t really know…but I want to. We each have purpose that leads to fulfillment along with a process to make it come to pass. Isn’t it time we let the Lord develop us into the masterpiece that He created us to be.
Ephesians 2:4-10 (NLT) But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.