true surrender…

here are the slides from this morning > Clear eyes 8 – when we’re tested

We will all be tested.  We will all fall.  As we’ve established this fall, that day is coming for each one of us.  God’s Word is crystal clear on this …

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.   James 1:2-4

Blessed is the man who endures trials, because when he passes the test, he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him.   James 1:12

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.”  For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.  James 1:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:12-13

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.   Romans 5:3-4


Lysa TerKeurst speaks to the “why” behind these tests …

“God doesn’t want you or me to suffer.  But He will allow it in doses to increase our trust.  Our pain and suffering isn’t to hurt us.  It’s to save us.  To save us from a life where we are self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed and set up for the greatest pain of all … separation from God.  The enemy would love for me to get caught up in the temptations of this world.  He would love for me to give in to the devastating pull of my constant cravings for physical pleasure.  The insatiable longing for all that I see.  The pride that comes with achieving and owning more and more.”

I don’t know about you but I KNOW I can very quickly become self-reliant, self-satisfied and self-absorbed.  Give me enough good times, enough success, enough smooth sailing and real quickly, it’s going to be all about me.  And, if I am lucky, God is going to allow me to get knocked off that high horse so He can teach me a lesson.  “Consider it pure joy … when you experience trials”.  “Blessed is the man that endures trials…”

Read this story.  It is such a powerful example of the point I’m trying to make …

In 2012, Kristen Ley started Thimblepress, a design, print, and gift shop in Jackson, Mississippi.  By 2015, the company expanded to more than 1,500 retailers across the globe.  “To the world, Thimblepress was a success.  To customers we were a success.  To anyone working with us, we were a success – but I never said, “How are you Kristen?  Are you giving yourself time to breathe?  Are you giving yourself time to get back to God?”

In October, Kristen spoke at a women’s retreat.  One of the Scriptures she read was Jesus telling His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).  She has had to learn that the hard way.

“Anything can be made an idol in our life. … I believe the devil knew exactly how to pull me from God.  I’ve always been super determined and strong-willed, strong-headed,” she said.

When Thimblepress started picking up steam between 2013 and 2015, “things were coming at me so fast.  Dramatic things, amazing things.  And I was like, ‘There’s no doubt this is the Lord. ….’ And I think a lot of it was.  But I think some of it was also the devil,” she said.  “I was still in prayer.  I was still in the Word.  But it was kind of like really a struggle.”

By 2016, Thimblepress was in 1,500 retail stores and Kristen was working on her fifth collaboration with Hallmark.  Her product was featured in Oprah’s magazine.  In November 2015, Kristen got an email from Target.  She thought it was spam.  By April 2017, Thimblepress was in every Target store in the country.

“I thought, ‘This is God — He is keeping me busy.’

“It’s hard for me to say no… So I was saying yes to almost every opportunity, (and) slowly my soul began to deteriorate,” she said.

“I stopped being in the Word.  I stopped praying.  I stopped going to church.

“I used to run six miles a day.  I stopped taking care of myself. … It became about, who can I be in this world?  How can I stand out in this world?  Because that’s how God’s using me. That’s how He’s going to show His love, through my accomplishments.”

(Do you see it? – self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed)  After Thimblepress launched in Target stores, “I was so busy that I didn’t even take time to really celebrate it. I was like, ‘What’s next?’”  She traded in her old hobbies – running and attending church – for more time to focus on her growing business, “If I wasn’t achieving something every week, getting X number of sales or announcing new collaborations, then I felt like a failure.”

The gap between more and enough never closes.

For several months, God tried to get Kristen’s attention in small ways. Then in May 2017, He allowed her world to crumble around her so loudly — in her work and in her life — that there was no denying God was doing something.  He was fighting for her soul.  But it felt like He was against her.

“I was in Carmel California when I got a phone call telling me we had been hacked and someone swindled thousands of dollars from my company.”  She scrambled to find a way to get cash to pay her vendors.  From Carmel, there wasn’t much she could do.  “God said, “I’m about to bring the hammer down on your life, and you’re not going to be able to do anything about it.”  She said, “I believe He put me in Carmel because had I been back in Jackson, I could have jumped into work to fix it.  In Carmel, there wasn’t much I could do.  I think God had been trying to get my attention for a long time, and out there, I was forced to pause and listen.”

“He broke my bones.  And I was so angry.  It took me a long time to admit that.”

After several months of praying frustrated prayers and yelling at God from the roof of her apartment, she finally surrendered her will for His in October 2017.  As much as she could at the time, anyway.

“It was a progressive development of true surrender.”

She started giving herself small goals for her relationship with God.  She committed to reading a daily devotional, reading whatever Scripture it referenced and praying. She wrote her prayers in longhand, as a journal.  “I started waking up early and spending two hours meditating, praying and writing down my prayers.  They were like 17 pages long, front and back.  I just started pouring everything out and getting back to why I started the business in the first place.”

She started realizing that God had been trying to get her attention for a year and a half.  Instead of yelling at God, she was now yelling at Satan — the one who had stolen so much of her time, energy and heart — in her apartment: “Get out of my home. Get out of this space.  Get out of my life. You are NOT WELCOME.  Remove yourself.”

God clearly laid out a plan for Kristen to radically shrink her business, eliminate her 20 person staff, close her store and concentrate on the core of her business.  Letting all those people go was painful but she followed God’s lead.  The process made her realize: Yes, you can grow a company very quickly, but how much will you lose in the process?“  I gained 80 pounds in 8 years.  I was mentally and physically unhealthy.  And I’m so thankful for that time, because it’s what brought me back to life and brought me back to God.”

Kristen knows that if God hadn’t turned her around, “scenario B” would’ve played out.  “I believe we are all built searching for something, which is God. … So eventually, because I was no longer in relationship with Him, I was going to start searching.  What would that have looked like?”

“Would it have looked like materialism?  ‘I’ve got to have all the things.’  Would it have looked like sexual immorality?” she said.  “Yeah, it could’ve.  And it could’ve even looked so bad as my mouth (becoming) a mouth for the (devil).  And Lord was like, ‘You’ve got a big mouth, and I’m not about to let you use it for him.’”

As God has used Kristen’s natural desire to teach and encourage others, she no longer sees Thimblepress as her one purpose.  At His direction, she is shrinking the company “down to the best of the best,” she said.  What’s more, she’s using Thimblepress more intentionally to bring Jesus to the next generation of women.

“I have partnerships coming out in January that I never could have imagined.  Half of the stuff coming out in January is faith-based.  (I used to say,) ‘But I want to make cool products.’  But they can be cool, and faith-based, and people don’t realize it until it hits them.  It can be seamless.  This year I came out with a hat that said ‘influencer’ on it.  But it had, like, a double meaning – as in, not a social media influencer.  I’m an influencer for Christ.”

So what’s her next dream?  “My dream right now is to float and just let God work.”

Ahhh, there is so much gold in this story!  We chase whatever balloon we think we need to find a fulfilling life only to later learn, painfully, that the gap between more and enough never closes.

Kristen lost herself in her career, her dream.  Eventually that dream became a monster that was devouring her.  She put God on the back burner to chase her dream.  Gloriously, He brought her back.  He never quit pursuing her and she began the “progressive development of true surrender”.  I love it.

This is it for each one of us.  What balloon are you blowing up that you think will define your life, make you who you are, meet the one deep need you have?  STOP.  Give it up.  Surrender.  Let God take you where He wants to take you.  Float and just let God work.

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