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No Training and No Testing Leads to No Triumph

Do you ever feel ill-equipped to deal with whatever you’re facing in life? As a dad, I’ve felt ill-equipped to raise my kids. As a husband, I’ve felt ill-equipped in the realm of marriage. As a pastor, I can’t tell you the number of people problems, financial burdens, and staff challenges I’ve faced where I have been less than equipped.

I just read the other day that Amazon.com tracks the most highlighted passages of books since the inception of the Kindle. Highlighted almost twice as much as any other passage is from the second volume of The Hunger Games: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them” (Brian Jones, Finding Favor, 47).

None of us knows completely how to handle every situation thrown our way. Part of our move toward competence is acknowledging our incompetence. Humility is the pathway toward growth. We don’t need training in areas where we’ve already been trained. Even re-training exists only because, like a cracked pot, we leak.

Anna, my daughter, is serving a mission in Costa Rica for six months. She called the other day to tell us her struggles with bugs, heat, and the barriers of language and culture. She feels ill-equipped. But the only way she will grow in dealing with bugs, heat and cultural barriers is by enduring bugs, heat and cultural barriers. Our desire to become fuels our willingness to endure. Training always precedes arriving.

I want to say to my daughter, and to all of us ill-equipped to handle what life throws our way, “The further the soul advances, the greater are the adversaries against which it must contend” (Evagrius Ponticus, fourth-century monk).

At some point, we would rather advance no further, lest our adversaries become too great. But I remember an old fable I once heard about the Apostle Peter. One night Satan came to Peter and woke him with a frightful scream. When Peter opened his eyes and saw who it was, he simply said, “Oh, it’s you” and rolled back over and went to sleep.

I’m not at that stage of faith, and perhaps neither are you. But the only way for us to be equipped to handle the attacks of the adversary is through training on the use of weapons of warfare (Ephesians 6:10-17). The only way to assess our training is by entering the arena for testing. And the only way to claim the victory is by engaging the enemy one battle at a time. The Christian formula is simply this: training leads to testing which leads to triumph. There are no shortcuts to overcoming the adversary. No training and no testing leads to no triumph. And we praise the Lord that our ultimate victory is found in Jesus Christ, even when we feel ill-equipped.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

This is Why Grace is Amazing

Today is my first day back in the office after a literal “mountain-top experience.” I was on a three-day retreat in the Rocky Mountains with a small group of pastors who have become my new “Covenant Group.”

I’m going to be very transparent and let you know that one of the challenges I face in being part of a pastors group is that I feel like I don’t measure up. And I’m the leader of the group. I hear their stories of church growth, God moving in amazing ways, their giftedness in leadership and preaching, and I think to myself, Who am I kidding? I don’t belong. I’ve got too much junk in my life to be a part of this group. Maybe I shouldn’t even be a pastor. Good pastors probably don’t even have thoughts like this!

Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts: I’m not good enough. My life is messy. I’ve made too many mistakes. Maybe I’m not even a Christian.

Some people think Christianity is for other people. The religious kind. Those who have their act together. Those who are more spiritual. Not us regular people. Johnnie Moore once wrote, “This prevailing sense of spiritual inadequacy is epidemic within Christian culture. It’s one of the greatest barriers standing between our faith and those who are curious about it” (Dirty God, 46).

What we learn in the Gospels is that Jesus is for all of us, not just the best of us. That’s what makes grace so amazing. We all need the grace of God—pastors, priests, religious, irreligious, spiritual, and “earthy.” Many of us are so convinced we have to get our lives together first and then come to God that we miss the point. The only way we can come to God is through grace. “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11a).

“In the story of Jesus, we find that the greatest recipients of his grace are those who needed it the most and who thought they deserved it the least. The religious elite, who thought they deserved the grace and favor of God, were those who would miss it altogether” (ibid., 49).

By God’s grace, I can sit in a circle with other pastors and know that I belong, not because of my gifts or talents or because x-number of people attend the church I serve. I belong because of God’s grace.

You and I are ushered into God’s Kingdom, not because we deserve to be there, but because God has reached out through the grace of Jesus. Is your life messy? Have you made a mountain of mistakes? Join the club. But the way out doesn’t come through trying harder, becoming more religious, or by getting your act together. The way out is by letting Jesus in. We become like a child and simply receive (Matthew 18:3), and the grace of God which covers all our sins transforms our lives from the inside out.

Stop trying to be good in order to get something from God. Receive from God and let His goodness begin to change you.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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