Strength to Stand: Kathy Johnston

By Kathy Johnston

I don’t know why, but I am always amazed that wherever I’m at in the Word is so relevant to where I’m at in my life.

The past month or so has brought much testing in my life.  When times like these come, I always wonder how others who don’t have the strength of the Holy Spirit abiding in them can survive.   I don’t necessarily enjoy it, but I trust him that he is working something in me that I can’t see right now.

I have been studying the book of James recently, and I find it so fascinating that right off the bat, James begins talking about trials.  In fact, he tells us that we should “count it all joy” when we meet trials of various kinds. Jesus himself says in Matthew 5 that we should “rejoice and be glad” when we are persecuted and reviled and in John 16 he says that “in this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world”.  

What’s the message here?  It’s pretty clear that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, trials and persecution are inevitable but the good news for us is that they are also purposeful.  We see this demonstrated throughout the Old and New Testament.    Trials are used in our lives to bring growth and maturity.  And growth and maturity is what produces fruit.

Trials don’t come because God is not paying attention to what’s happening to us.  But it’s because he is paying attention to us that he allows the trials to come.   He knows exactly what we need to bring us to maturity and fruit bearing.  The question is, are we willing to sink our roots down, holding fast to him, and walking in submission to the work he is doing in us through the hard times?   Do we become bitter or better by the testing he brings?

In the parable of the sower we see there are 4 different types of soil represented in the story. Only one type, 25 % of the soils mentioned, is good.  75% of the soil represented is not suitable to produce fruit.

Should we not then examine our own hearts?  What kind of soil do you represent?  Are you like the rocky soil where the word is received with joy and begins to grow quickly, yet when any trial or persecution comes your way, you’re done with God?  When you come across something in the word that convicts you, do you find yourself not wanting to submit to the authority of God’s word, deciding to do things your own way and walk away from your faith because you refuse to obey?

We must be willing to count the cost to follow Jesus.  It involves death…death to self.  It involves repentance for resisting his will and his way in our lives. It involves obedience to his word.  It involves enduring trials and testing so that we become more and more molded into his image. We must trust him in this.

I pray that our hearts are not like the rocky soil.  If we are unwilling to walk in obedience and are constantly striving against the will of God, we are going to find ourselves in a very sad and scary place.  We need to pray and ask for God to soften our hearts to not only hear God’s word, but to do God’s word as James pleads with us in James 1:22:To be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”.    

We don’t want our hearts to be hard, but instead, we want to allow the Holy Spirit to break our hearts…to break up those hardened rocky places in our inner most places so that the seed of his word can penetrate our hearts and produce in us a fruitful crop of love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  We want God to do for us what he did for his people in Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

My prayer is that we are women of the 25%, women of the good soil!   May our roots go down deep, and just as we received Christ Jesus the Lord, we will also “walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith…”  Colossians 2:6   

Trials, persecutions and temptations will come, but remember, my dear sisters, in Christ, they have purpose!  They are working in us an eternal weight of glory!  Let them have their full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:4)  He is working out something so much more beautiful and joyful than anything you could imagine.  Trust him in this and live!

“When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told

Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow

I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in its shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun
Till He completes the work begun

One day all things will be made new
I’ll see the hope You called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old”

– Keith & Kristyn Getty

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