From Chapter 2 of “Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You”
If you choose to embrace God‘s process and time line for building your root system, I believe it‘s possible not only to survive but to thrive in the midst of it. By thriving I mean growing in wisdom, character, faith, endurance, strength, and more. Growing isn‘t always comfortable, but it‘s exhilarating and rewarding.
The apostle Paul is an example of someone who thrived and grew through every circumstance. We all know that he said, ―I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). It‘s one of our favorite verses. It‘s on bumper stickers, bookmarks, and tattoos. But we often forget the previous two verses:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. - Philippians 4:11-12
When we put ―I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me in context, we see that Paul was saying, ―I‘ve had seasons in life where I‘ve had nothing and seasons where I‘ve had everything. I‘ve developed the ability to thrive in both seasons by learning to access the resource that never changes, no matter the season, namely, Christ‘s strength.
Similarly, when you read the Psalms, you find David spoke about all kinds of circumstances, ranging from celebratory to terrifying. He wrestled with impossibilities, fear, heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal, anger, and grief. But every time, the wrestling drove him back to the source of his strength: God. And every time David accessed that strength, whether in the field, a house, a cave, or a castle, it led to his thriving.
For us to navigate the same range of circumstances and find God, our strength in every situation, we have to know where to look and how to continue to look there in the face of the Enemy‘s distractions. Typically, these distractions are going to try to get us to (1) wish we were in someone else‘s process, (2) resist the lessons God is trying to teach us in our circumstances, (3) rush the process, or (4) skip steps in the process. Falling for any of these will prevent us from thriving and will ultimately put us in dangerous places. Avoiding these will enable us to find our strength—God—and grow regardless of the season or circumstance.
BUILD THE WALL IN FRONT OF YOU
The first key to thriving is to focus on building the wall in front of you. Some of the most powerful lessons God wants to teach us are the simplest.
We see this in the strategy Nehemiah laid out for the workers who were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah had a powerful encounter with God after hearing a report about the city‘s fallen walls, and God gave him the assignment to rebuild those walls. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he scouted the walls to determine how bad things really were and what needed to be done. Then he called the priests and the people together to delegate the work.
Nehemiah 3 lists specific individuals or groups to work on the wall and the exact part of the wall they were assigned to rebuild. For the most part, people were assigned to work on the part of the wall that was closest to their homes: ―The priests made repairs, each in front of his own house (verse 28). From what we can gather, Nehemiah said, ―Walk out your front door and look directly in front of you. The wall that‘s directly in front of you—build that.
Simple yet strategic.
This is a powerful picture for how God works in our lives. Sometimes we miss what He is doing right in front of us because we look longingly at other people‘s portions of the wall, wanting to build those areas. We get distracted watching other people in other assignments and seasons of life, and the grass always looks greener at their section of the wall. We can‘t see that God is using what is in front of us to develop the root system we so desperately need. The need for significance makes us look at other areas that feel more exciting or more in line with our vision.
We‘ll never thrive in the process unless we accept the place where God has put us, because that is the only place He will work with us. Faithfulness and obedience call us to recognize what God is asking us to put our hands to and what He is emphasizing in our lives.
I understand why a lot of us have a hard time focusing on what is in front of us, because it usually doesn‘t look like the promise, dream, or vision we have in our hearts. It takes faith and commitment to trust the God who gave us both the dream and our current assignment and to say, ―I don‘t understand how You‘re going to get me from here to there. But getting me there is Your job, and this wall in front of me is my job. Faithfulness to build the wall is not giving up your dream; it‘s trusting God with your dream.
I wholeheartedly believe in embracing your dreams and pursuing the passion in your heart. Yet ultimately we are not called to be passionate about a dream but about Jesus and His cause on the earth. Many people I know and respect did not accomplish things for God simply by following their passion but by being faithful and obedient to what God had placed in front of them. This will be tested in your life. Are you more passionate about pursuing a dream or about following Jesus?
As I mentioned in the chapter 1, my first ministry job was as a youth pastor. Jesus Culture was birthed out of the youth group I pastored for over ten years at a church where I was on staff for eighteen years. Even now, as a lead pastor, my heart still leans toward young people and young adults locally and around the world. But it wasn‘t always like that. In fact, when I was twenty-one and my church leaders asked me to be the youth pastor, I turned them down. At the time I did not feel called to young people or the local church. I wanted to travel and preach.
I had read a biography of Billy Graham, and I had also been impacted by some itinerant ministers who had come through our church. That was where I wanted to be building the wall in my life. But eventually I realized God wanted me to build right by my house, and that meant becoming a youth pastor. I said yes to being youth pastor not because I felt a passion for young people but because it was the assignment in front of me.
I‘m so glad I accepted that assignment because it set me on a course I am still on today. I had a passion to change the world, but God had to first develop the root system in my life. That root system was developed by putting my hands to the assignment in front of me. I can trace all of the fruit in every area of my life to the eighteen years I spent building the wall in that community.
The problem with making your passion the thing that guides you is that passion can trick you into avoiding tasks that maybe aren‘t fun but that are absolutely vital to get you to where you need to be. It is important to remember that God can develop your life in different settings. I hear people opt out of opportunities by saying, ―I just don‘t feel a passion for that. While we pursue the vision on our heart, there are a lot of things we are called to do that don‘t seem terribly exciting but are absolutely vital in getting us to where we need to go.
It‘s amazing how many believers disqualify themselves and stunt their growth because they don‘t just do what‘s in front of them. Do what‘s in front of you, and do it well. As the Bible says, ―Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10) and ―Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). If you‘re delivering pizzas, be the best pizza-delivery person on the planet. If you‘re answering phones, do it with everything in you. Stay current with the Lord and with whatever assignment He has given you.
The Enemy is trying to get you off assignment. He wants to distract you with something that God is not emphasizing in your life so that you will miss what God wants to teach you in that moment. Make no mistake: God is trying to grow you exactly where you are.
God is trying to grow you exactly where you are.
God is intent on establishing a root system in our life, and we don‘t always recognize this fact. Because we don‘t feel passionate about what we are doing, or because it‘s harder than we thought, or because it‘s boring or slow, we think we should be somewhere else. But that‘s not how God works.