Here we are. The final Tuesday in our Summer Soak. We hope you have persevered through 1Corinthians 13:4-7 with us and pray you are experiencing transformation which pours out through your words and deeds.
Gather your sister(s), Bible, and journal as we slip into our final soak for the summer to discuss hope and perseverance.
I confess. The Summer Soak study for me began with resistance. A spiritual battle between flesh and Spirit.
My flesh hoped for rest. While the Spirit pressed to continue.
After a long season (apparently it’s not over) which began with the first Sister Talk: Faith study in the summer of 2016 and the 25-plus weeks of going deeper into the five ways to exercise your faith (Believe, Pray, Trust, Obey, Love), I was done.
Experiencing a bit of an Elijah moment. I was ready to go hide in a cave. Let someone feed me. Care for me. Weary was the word.
So when the sister pressed with the idea of Summer Soak… the battle began. I didn’t even want to read what she started. But I did. And as I grumbled in front of the mirror getting ready for the day a still soft voice spoke. You need to meet.
In those four words came the understanding of continuing this study of faith and love. Another undetermined number of weeks through the summer. Ugh. was my response.
Perseverance is just too grand a word to characterize how I struggled through the initial weeks of writing. teaching. gathering. Grudgingly… unfortunately would probably be better. (This is painful and humbling to admit.)
But here is where God’s beautiful grace kicked in (or kicked me in the backside!). The week of Selfishness, He revealed what He wanted me to know about myself through conviction, and the enemy’s hand in using my bent toward self to try and destroy what He was/is doing through Sister Talk: Faith and my marriage.
Whew! There I was freed to be. To confess. To repent. To serve.
But I’ve yet to show you His gorgeous grace! Even though my obedience was less than willing, He used it to bring healing and hope to me. We have also heard many testimonies from the sisters who gather how this particular soaking has changed their lives.
So the message I want you to hear today. The one I’ve learned. Is perseverance does not have to be pretty. joyful. willing. It just has to. And in spite of all. If you do it because He said so. Even softly in a way that makes you wonder if you really heard it at all. He will use it to build character and increased hope in Him.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:2-5 NIV
Yes. Even if the sufferings are self-inflicted by selfishness. And the perseverance which produces hope does not put us to shame, even though we may shame our self in the process. His love poured out in us through the Holy Spirit, will complete what He’s begun. Just keep on doing what He says. Despite your feelings. In spite of yourself. Simply because He said so.
As we approached the completion of Going Deeper last spring, I began praying, What’s next?
And then, as my sister was inspired to lead us in a prayer exercise based on the 1Cornithians Scripture we’ve been soaking in this summer, I felt the nudge, a leading to the next place. I shared the idea with her and after some sister talk, we decided we would continue to pray. I knew she wanted rest, but I was feeling a tug to continue.
It was one of those rare Friday evenings when no one was in the house. I sat down with my idea at the computer and began to flesh it out. I asked myself why I was preparing something that might not be God’s plan, even considered it might be a waste of time. I pressed on, sent the idea to her and waited.
Honestly, I was surprised when she told me she heard God say, We should meet. We continued to talk, made a plan, and committed to a summer of leading, learning, and sharing.
For me, perseverance meant continuing on when I felt like I might be wasting my time. It meant pressing on when I questioned myself and wondered if this was God’s plan or mine. In fact, it was an entire season of questioning myself and my relationship with God.
Am I praying enough? Seeking His Word enough? What’s my role in all of this? Did I step beyond His boundaries? His will?
Through all the questions I quietly kept going. Trusting His will would rise up and meet us in the end. And now here we are. Remember our first memory verse of the summer?
The end of a matter is better than its beginning…
Sisters, it is so true! We never get to the end without persevering through the middle. We never make it to the thing we hoped for if we don’t keep going.
The words of a song float through my mind…
Standing on this mountain top, looking just how far we’ve come. Knowing that for every step you were with us. Kneeling on this battleground. Seeing just how much you’ve done. Knowing every victory was your power in us. Scars and struggles on the way, but with joy our hearts can say. Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did you leave us on our own. You are faithful. God you are faithful.
This summer was a time to climb, and climb we did. The view of love is good from here, a place I know I wouldn’t have seen without perseverance.
My friends, in the end love never, no not once ever, fails.
Would you like to hear the song? Click on the link: Never Once
We’ve talked about some hard things this summer when it comes to loving others as God calls us to. We’ve looked inside and seen what hinders our love. And let Him bring about change. It can be painful, yet freeing at the same time.
But in all this hard, let’s remember the first and greatest commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. …”
Matthew 22:37 ESV
When we consider how and who to love, we first and foremost are to work out our love for God:
- love is patient — be patient with God as He is patient with you
- love is kind — be kind to God
- love always trusts — trust God
You get the picture.
When we begin to wholeheartedly love God, the second greatest command falls into place, because it is like the first.
“…And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. …”
Matthew 22:39 ESV
Loving your neighbor, who may be a shady stranger, requires love for God by trusting Him and not who He calls you to love.
When we love the unlovable, the dangerous, the unbeliever, the lost, and the unpredictable — we are loving God.
We have been invited into a community of faith. The only entrance is a way named Jesus. And because of His love for us, we love Him by loving others.
The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this — is to risk your life for those outside the gate.
–Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
The spirit of God’s love is not a love we can manufacture, it is a love which grows by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus.
Jesus ended His prayer to the Father for His disciples by saying:
“…O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
John 17:25-26 ESV (emphasis added)
Increased knowledge of God’s character leads us into a life of love. Love drives us to know someone better. And the greatest commandment is a call for us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. When we love God this way, growing in our knowledge of Him and being filled with His love for others, it is a fulfilling of the law: love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:10).
God’s law is all about love.
So here we are. At the end of Summer Soak. Over the next several weeks, the sister and I will be quietly preparing for what’s next. But we hope you’ll come and explore the studies archived on the Sister Talk: Faith blog. (The archive selection box is found at the bottom of the blog page.) They are open to all who come. We’d love it if you started a gathering of your own using our studies.
We would appreciate your prayers as we prepare and look forward to talking again in a few weeks.
In His love,
Stacy & Carol