Growing Pains and Bittersweet Sanctification: Living a Purposeful Life In Christ #GodIsLove #Faith #Hope #Love #FaithFriday #Ministry #Calling

love-letters

Nearly four years ago (as most of you know), I fully relinquished my will to embrace God’s will and purpose for my life. Praise Yahweh! I had always known I was talented and gifted. I had always known I was blessed. I had always known I was different, set apart. I knew that I was created for something grand, something big. I am a passionate writer. I am a dreamer and a doer. I am a teacher and an exhorter at the core of my being. I am a lover. And a fighter (for all of the right things, and for all of the right reasons). And I had always dreamed that I would one day do great things. But during a very rebellious season of life (which lasted much longer than I wanted it to), my life was not reflecting the glory of God. At all. Romans 8:28-30, though. God used every experience in my life for my good and for the calling and purpose He had already predestined for me. I’ll blog about my testimony in the near future (Lord, help me!), but for now, I want to talk to you about purpose.

Before God births a purposeful desire and vision in you for His Kingdom, He has to turn your life upside down. In the best and most glorious way. He has to choose you. He has to call you. He has to deliver you. He has to save you. He has to restore you. He has to do His transforming work in you. He has to equip you. And that He did. And still continues to do.

One day, it happened! Grace happened. Love happened. Mercy happened. Suddenly. Christ saved me, transformed me, and gave me a heart that truly wanted to live for Him. Since then, God has redeemed the time tremendously. He has taken back all of the time that was spent doing my own thing and living my own life, stifled by my own worldview. He gave me a heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. He has given me His Holy Spirit. He has given me power. He has given me strength. He has given me substance. He has given me love. He has given me joy. He has given me peace. He has given me compassion, humility, and the fruit of the Spirit. He has given me life.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about the day that He rescued me – and how He sought with everything in Him to capture me and have me as His own. He chose me before the foundations of the world. He grabbed ahold of my heart and would not let go – regardless of how hard I tried to resist Him. He pursued me relentlessly until I finally surrendered.

So much love.

And once I surrendered to the will of God for my life and began to love Him with my entire being, He gave me purpose! Purpose is only found through One – through the Maker of Heaven and Earth who has given us every good and perfect gift; who has given us talents to impact the world and advance HIS purposes, not our own. It is indeed a high calling – living, loving, serving, teaching, dying selflessly, and restoring hope for God’s glory.

This is where purpose gets tough. Because as I sought (and obviously still seek) to pursue my purpose and my calling full-force for God’s glory alone, the attacks have become stronger. Really strong. But in those moments, God is building spiritual muscle in me (and in you). As the enemy increases his attacks, we build up spiritual strength. God even uses the enemy’s attacks to fulfill His purposes. He is using this time to build up patience, perseverance, endurance, and steadfastness in us.

I will spare you most of the heart-wrenching details of my attacks (because you honestly wouldn’t believe them if I told you), but I will definitely share some of the easier things in hopes to comfort you and prepare you. God has laid it on my heart to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters who are compelled to go all out for God and pursue their purpose. God’s work and God’s Kingdom isn’t for the faint at heart. You will get weary. You will doubt yourself and your calling. You will become fearful. You will face persecution. You will face heartbreak. You will face opposition. You will feel as if you are incapable of fulfilling the work He has called you to at times. You will feel the intensity of the opposition coming from the enemy and will consider backing down. But don’t. You can do it. He has called you. He will equip you. He will sustain you. He will give you strength. He will give you rest. You just need to rely on Him and trust Him during the process.

On January 25, 2016, (almost one year from today) my purpose and calling catapulted into another level of pursuit. Before this date, I was still writing and publishing books, blogging, serving in my church and house church community, and just using all areas of my life to proclaim of God’s goodness. Then suddenly, it was as if God had purposefully and strategically planted me in an area of ministry to which I had been called. I began serving at a local pregnancy resource center as a volunteer then paid employee. While there, I began learning so many areas of the ministry and began enveloping myself in God’s work through this ministry. The experience was amazing. I had an opportunity to pour into other women and use my gifts to minister to the oppressed, the broken, and the hurting. I had been there. I was once that oppressed, broken, and hurting young woman. And in some ways, I still am. I am a work in progress. There were times when I saw my “four years ago” self in these women as I ministered to them. Who I was then, who I am now, and the miraculous work He has done…it is still fresh in my mind. And I believe God wants it to be. To keep me humble in my work for Him.

Since then, SO many opportunities to minister, serve, and share the love of Christ have opened up for me. If I can be honest with you, many of the assignments and opportunities are incomprehensible to me in the moment. However, I am forever willing to surrender to the call of God in every season. I am a missionary, a sojourner, a traveler (just like Jesus), who rarely has a stable place to lay my head but can still impact the world in a profound way.

We must go when He says go. We must move when He says move. We must do the work of the Lord with diligence, with passion, with strength, with joy, with peace, with favor, and with love!

I want to say plainly to those of you who are reading, to those of you who are pursuing purpose, and to those of you whom God is preparing for His special purpose: When it seems as if God is taking you down a road that seems less traveled, that seems unfamiliar, that seems unwanted, that seems like it is NOT for you: Trust Him anyway! Pray. Seek Him. Go down the road. Do the work. Don’t second-guess God’s will and God’s way. Don’t question the Lord! He has called you, and He will equip you.

What God revealed to me about His vision for my life and my purpose almost four years ago continues to unfold as I remain obedient and take small steps of faith. And I want to say this: There is NO such thing as a comfortable Christian. I have been completely uncomfortable in every way and in every situation for the past four years. And my work only becomes more uncomfortable as time passes by. Although the road may seem uncomfortable to you, step out – knowing that He is the One leading and guiding you.

Getting past the fear and stepping out in faith in one act of obedience is not the end of your journey. No, love. It is just the beginning. You will have to do this – over and over and over again. We die daily. So die. Your life doesn’t matter. Your life in Christ does.

I will try my best to be as succinct as possible as I recount some of the things I have experienced and endured, some of the things I struggle with – and some of the things that God has taught me and by the grace of God I made it through:

As a result of several traumatic experiences in my past (as well as recent experiences), I struggle off and on with anxiety and depression. By God’s strength and healing power, it no longer has a hold on me like it used to, but during a new and recent transition with ministry, my stress level and anxiety level was super high. Though certainly not as severe as most cases, my depression was harder to manage at this time – especially since anything could trigger it. Someone’s voice. Someone’s tone. Someone’s actions towards me. Someone’s choice of words. Normally I can fight and conquer it (my bouts of depression) easily with God’s strength and power, but with the busyness of my ministry schedule, the demands of the job, the learning curve, and a compilation of several personal things I was currently battling, it was a lot to bear at the time. I struggled to maintain focus during training. I couldn’t recall certain tasks as I learned them. I felt as if I was now slowly completing tasks that I thought I had grasped quickly earlier on. I felt incapable. I felt like I did not measure up. That I didn’t have it in me. That I wasn’t built for real-life, down in the trenches type of ministry. All lies from Satan.

Satan began to attack my thoughts hardcore. He began to tell me: You can’t do this. You’re a failure. You are not the person for this job. They chose wrong. You will continue to live a less than abundant life because you cannot follow-through. And then he began to attack my character and identity: What are you even doing here? You are not a child of God! You are a liar and a deceiver! Satan is the father of lies. If you didn’t know, now you know.

In the midst of all of this, as mentioned before, so many other things were happening and changing relationally in my life. I was just trying to keep up. Trying to keep my head above water. But I felt as if I was drowning.

That’s when I finally had the correct mind-shift. Something needed to change. And I knew I needed to take action immediately. I reached out to a friend and sister in Christ and confessed my struggles. I told my boss and her boss so that they were aware of what I was struggling with in this season of my life. And it helped. Tremendously!

If you are struggling, do not hold it in. Allow God to renew your mind, trust in His redemptive power that has already saved you from every evil thing and every evil thought, and trust His servants to be earthly help when necessary. A tough decision, but a bold decision. My boss even told me that the Holy Spirit had urged her (a week prior to me having the conversation) to pray for me. She stated that she was trying to figure out why because I seemed to be doing fine. I seemed to be doing fine (which I am by God’s grace and through His strength), but I still needed physical, earthly help. So my obedience confirmed the Spirit’s urging in her heart. And when I came to them and confirmed what the Holy Spirit revealed, they covered me in prayer. They told me that the enemy will always attack what he considers a threat. They told me that he does not like my ministry for the Lord, and he will attack the Lord’s servants in many different ways. This is true. But we are a unit. We are the Body of Christ. We are stronger than his attacks. We need to cover and support one another.

It took me an entire month of battling before I realized that I needed help, an extra boost, and once I asked for help, I had so much peace. I knew that I couldn’t and I wouldn’t quit – but I knew I needed to be transparent. Brother and Sister in Christ: Although you may not struggle with anxiety and depression specifically, ministry will get tough, and you will feel as if you are in under your head at times. As you are pursuing your calling, and especially in full-time ministry, you need to be close to the Lord. You need to be covered in prayer. You need to be lifted. Because as I stated before, ministry is not for the faint of heart.

There is so much more I could post about this topic and about my experiences living for Christ wholeheartedly, but it would be a much longer post. This is not the first time the enemy has sought to deter me, destroy me, and kill my purpose. It is always right before I commit to doing a big thing – and even while I am in the midst of pursuing a big thing for His Kingdom.

But this time, I wanted to encourage someone else regarding their purpose. God has taught me much over the years, but this is what God has taught me specifically (and still continues to teach me):

1) You cannot fulfill any kind of work in ministry alone. You need God, you need the Holy Spirit, and you need people surrounding you to encourage you, support you, and build you up in Christ. It is not a suggestion; it is a mandate.

Preachers, teachers, pastors, evangelists, writers, authors, musicians…you need people. Do not isolate yourself. God has big plans for you, but He cannot accomplish them through you if you are not dependent on Him and other people. The plans and purposes that He has set out for each of us are bigger than anything we can ever accomplish on our own. Even if you have just one good, godly, solid, sanctified brother or sister in Christ (friend, pastor, spouse, whoever) – this is enough. But you need at least one.

2) Growth – in every way, shape, and form – is uncomfortable and painful. Love what God has done and what He is doing in and through you. Even when it hurts. Because He is conforming you into the image of His Son, and forming you into the man or woman He has called and created you to be. He is pruning you, shaping you, and molding you for His purpose. Continuously.

Embrace the difficult parts of your life. It will result in the kind of beauty you never imagined or anticipated when you allow God to do His transforming work with the ashes you’ve surrendered and laid down.

3)You must remain near to God when you are pursuing purpose. You must pray. You must seek His face. You must continue to put Him first (Matthew 6:33, John 15). You must kill your sin. You must be covered in prayer. And you must be honest with God and transparent with others about your struggles so that they can come alongside you and help fight off the enemy’s schemes in your life. The enemy wants you to remain silent about your struggles, your thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) so he can continue to attack you there. But don’t give him that kind of power! Be open and honest.

4)The enemy never wants you to succeed in your relentless pursuit of God. He wants to deter you. Kill and destroy you. But our God is mightier than his attacks and his threats. There are times when the enemy will run up on you and TRY to throw you ALL the way off track. But don’t shrink back in fear. Push forward. Let the enemy know that he is messing with the WRONG person by pursuing Christ all the more!

5)As children of God, quitting is not in our blood! Failure is not in our blood. I don’t care what your past, your history, your genealogy has told you about yourself. The blood of Jesus Christ has made us victorious. Keep moving. Keep growing. Keep reaching towards Christ. The Cross has afforded us new DNA, and there is power in HIS blood.

6)Not every painful thing that happens in our lives is from Satan. Sometimes, it’s just plain old pruning and sanctification from the Lord! As mentioned before, God is working in us patience, endurance, and perseverance in trials – to equip us and to help us stand firm as we go higher in Him. But we must know the difference between the enemy’s attacks and God’s sanctifying work – and act accordingly.

7) You are loved so deeply by our Savior and Lord! Please know that whatever it is you are facing, God is with you! He knows, and He sympathizes with us in our weakness! He will never leave or forsake us! Allow Him to give you strength, peace, and rest! Lean on Him during times of trial, draw near to the throne of grace, and have faith in His future grace for you! His grace is sufficient! Trust and believe it! 🙂

8) Whatever your gift, whatever your talent – use it for the glory of the Lord. Use it often.

Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Lastly, I want to encourage you with something I posted to one of my social media pages about a month ago as it relates to vision and purpose. If you are unsure as to what your purpose is for the Kingdom of God, I pray this exhorts you to seek Him and surrender to His plan for your life!

“God has given me a vision for my life. And although I can’t see His COMPLETE vision and plan for my life (He reveals glimpses of it at perfect times), I absolutely know my purpose and what I have been created to do for His glory. But I had to WANT God more than anything to find it. I had to surrender. I had to draw near. I had to reciprocate the love. I had to do some seeking. I truly had a hunger and thirst for God during a specific time period in my life that still, to this day, has not died.

The vision is beautiful. And as I remain obedient and take small steps of faith, He continues to do His work. And it’s making sense. I can see His hand upon my life – leading me and guiding me along the path of glory.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. You will NOT see it all. He is gracious to even show us a little of what He’s doing in our lives. But have faith. Continue to hope in Jesus and the ultimate promise that awaits us.

Trust Him with your life. His plans for us are far greater than ANY we can conjure up for ourselves.”

Trust the Lord with it ALL.

I love you so much, and I pray that this post has encouraged you in your purpose; I pray this post has encouraged you to continue to persevere in all areas of your life for God’s glory! The reward in Heaven is priceless, and the joy will be unfathomable. Don’t shrink back, grow in God! If I can help you further, please do not hesitate to email me at loveisalifestyle1@gmail.com. We are in this together!

God Bless You! Keep the faith!

With God’s Love,

Porsche R. Armstrong

Founder, Love Is A Lifestyle

Author, Happily Ever After: Biblical Womanhood, The Pursuit of Christ…and Marriage

 

 

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