Tag Archives: hope
In Christian circles, we love to pray for breakthrough, discuss breakthrough, anticipate breakthrough. However, it appears we seldom actually experience it. Part of the difficulty might lie in a lack of understanding of what breakthrough entails.
By definition, breakthrough involves breaking or piercing THROUGH an obstacle or hindrance into something different; it means to leave something familiar or confining and move into something new that allows more freedom. While the concept of a breakthrough may sound grand and glorious, we often fail to experience it, primarily because we do not want to pay the price. When we count the cost of moving into an unknown, unfamiliar place, we honestly are not certain we are willing to relinquish the comfort and familiarity of the old place, however confining it might have become.
Breakthrough can be painful, and it usually entails the loss of something precious we cannot carry with us into the new place. When a baby is born, he or she loses the familiar place of comfort and constant, immediate supply of everything needed. The baby has to learn to breathe, to wait for others to supply his or her needs, and to thrive in a radically different environment. What constitutes great joy for the parents — to finally see and hold their precious child — might not be that thrilling for the baby, at least not initially. The baby is not allowed to take the womb or the umbilical cord into the new place. If that were possible, such accoutrements would certainly prove ridiculously useless when carried around outside the womb!
Similarly, when a family moves to a new location, the entire household must adjust to a new home, new schools, a new church, and often even a completely different climate! When we left Norway and moved to Texas, our eldest child had difficulty understanding why he couldn’t continue wearing his stocking cap, and he tried in vain to pull down the short sleeves of his shirt to make them longer. He also had to acclimate himself to new idioms in the language that had been unfamiliar to him in our home in Norway, not to mention new cultural phenomena (We had committed the sin of forgetting to teach him about American football at the ripe old age of seven, as we are not a football-aware family!). He left behind Helly Hansen rain gear, which were not needed in Texas but had been worn regularly when playing outside in the rain in Stavanger, Norway.
The same principle holds true for spiritual breakthroughs as well. When the time comes to move into a new season, everything familiar to us invariably begins to shake. Fear may grip our heart, and we may strive to hold tightly to the trappings of the old season, whether titles, positions, ways we have functioned in the past, sweet stages of life with our children and friends, or time-tested ways of doing things. Everything dear to us may appear to be threatened. Might it be that we are, in fact, to count it all as loss — even the things given to us by the Holy Spirit for ministry purposes, the talents and roles we hold dear, the skills that were hard-won — for the sake of moving forward into the new season with the Lord?
Even for the Lord Himself, breakthrough was not without a price. To break through the barrier of sin that kept us from the Father, Jesus had to BECOME sin on our behalf; He endured crucifixion in order to move through it into victory over sin and death. When He surrendered His Spirit to the Father, a powerful earthquake caused such a shaking that the curtain of the Temple was torn in two; Matthew records that rocks split apart, and graves were opened (Matthew 27: 50-54, TCJB). In order to break through as the Redeemer, Jesus had to sacrifice everything He was and everything He had, including His earthly body. Of course, He thereby conquered sin and death forever, but He was not allowed to hang onto anything of this earth.
If things are trembling and shaking to the point that you feel your life is falling apart, hang on tightly to your Heavenly Father, as He is with you and will carry you into the next season. Release the things you have held dear and dare to move into the unknown; He will carry you through the barricades and into things you never imagined, not on your terms, but on His (which are far better than the best we could imagine). When the ground begins to shake, remember He is rolling away some stones that have kept you in the old season! May the Lord of the Breakthrough carry you through to fresh experiences of His goodness and Presence in this new year!
Be encouraged by the song “Forever” as sung by Kari Jobe:
After a sustained bout of fervid horticultural attempts during the first ten years or so of my adult life, I came to the conclusion that proper care of plants proved far too time-consuming for my role as an overwhelmed mother of several young children. I consequently threw myself into the silk plant trend with the goal of avoiding watering, fertilizing, rotating pots seasonally for optimum light requirements, and other such cumbersome details.
After several years of contented, indoor-plant-free living, a friend presented me with an orchid. The flowers were delicate, exotic, and beautiful. They lingered long enough to guarantee my heartfelt attachment to the plant. In a moment of lapsed reasoning, I read up on orchids, trimmed off the old stems, and placed the barren potted stub in a northeast window. Every so often, I remembered to put an ice cube in the little pot. After a year or so of such treatment, I began to imagine I spotted a tiny sign of new growth. I moved it to a different northeast-facing window in the kitchen, where I could keep the stub under closer observation. In the meantime, various friends foisted their own abandoned orchids on me, as they claimed they did not wish to take care of them. Two more friends gave me additional orchids as a gift. I now have six orchids, happily shooting out new roots in sundry directions and occasionally surprising me with a bloom.
Apparently orchids are the perfect houseplants for me, as they thrive on neglect (my method of plant care)! Over time, I have come to admire their beauty and have learned a few lessons in the process. They require little water and seem to thrive when root-bound. Their roots reach valiantly out of the potting medium through the air, seeking sunlight. Am I that energetic and motivated when deprived of my creature comforts or under pressure? I think not!
The several orchids I have observed generally bloom once a year. After blooming, a leaf or two may turn yellow and appear to be dying; it is important not to pull the fading leaf off the plant until it nearly falls off on its own. However, new blooms typically do not form until the fading leaves come off, new roots press toward the sunlight, and a new center stalk forms, a stalk that will ultimately bear buds for the new flowers. This process follows in sequence on a schedule unique to the particular type of orchid.
However, one of my orchids is now in its third blooming cycle this year. Moreover, it has two unsightly yellow, limp leaves that have failed to fall off the plant. However, the fading leaves have not discouraged this orchid from unashamedly erupting again into glorious blooms! I am reminded that perhaps we shouldn’t wait for the residue of the old seasons in our lives to be completely gone before we press into the new season. Sometimes wheat grows with the tares; things that bear fruit may grow among a few weeds in our lives. Retaining some baggage from a season that is ending should not prevent me from boldly moving forward into a season of growth. In time, I will succeed in dropping my old suitcases from the prior season in favor of the beautiful growth of the new one. In the meantime, I need to stop using the detritus of the old season as an excuse for failing to move forward.
Similarly, in my walk with Jesus, I was far from perfect when I came into relationship with Him. (If I had waited until I was perfect to know Him better, I would never have known Him!) He was not rattled by the evidence of sin, pain, and bondage in my life, for He knew what kind of growth He had created me to sustain. He graciously tolerates my flaws as He sets about creating something of beauty. Instead of cowering in the corner, ashamed of my imperfections, I can move forward with Him and allow Him to birth beauty in my life. The dead leaves will fall off in due time.
In Luke 17:14, we read that Jesus healed ten lepers. However, they did not stand waiting before Jesus until the healing happened. Instead, “He said to them, ‘Go [at once] and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cured and made clean.” (AMPC) Often, we are healed in the process of being obedient to move on; we are healed “in the going.” If I obey the Lord to do what He asks me to do and choose to trust Him despite my circumstances and my “dead leaves,” I can move forward into the next season and bear fruit. The fruit-bearing process will ultimately trigger the shedding of the baggage of the past season. What a wonderful reminder from my valiant orchid!
I am learning that we should never underestimate the power of the trickle to erode strongholds in our lives and to flood us with God’s goodness. Most things begin with small cracks in the fabric of our everyday routines. Typically, nothing changes dramatically overnight, and even the apparent dramatic changes are, in fact, the fruit of a protracted period of systematic beating against walls of resistance to what God desires to establish in our lives.
We read in Ezekiel 47: 1-12:
“Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” (Exodus 15:22-25)
This passage from the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness serves as an illustration of the power of the Cross in our daily lives. In case you haven’t noticed, life seems to offer us a vast array of opportunities to taste rejection, disappointment, hurt, pain, infirmity, misunderstanding, and sorrow. The fact that the Israelites recognized that the water was impotable — potentially even toxic — was significant! Often we ignorantly take a deep swig of bitterness and end up experiencing its toxic effects for a long time after the poison has been ingested. At least they knew the waters were bitter and unsuitable for consumption.
When Moses cried out to the Lord for help, He showed Moses a remedy in the form of a piece of wood. In the Hebrew, the word is not a log, but rather a tree. Jesus Christ was crucified on a tree and thereby redeemed us from every curse. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'” (Galatians 3:13) In the Old Testament reference here, the word for tree is the same as the word used for log in the Exodus passage. Just as the tree absorbed the bitterness of the water and made it sweet (safe to drink), the redemption provided by the Cross absorbs the bitterness of our sin and makes life sweet. The Cross transforms the bitter waters of life’s painful experiences and losses into a door of hope for restoration and redemption.
Father, teach me how to cast the power of the Cross into every river of pain and loss that I must navigate. You are more than able to absorb the bitterness of my disappointments and give me in exchange a taste of Your sweet living water. Remind me to apply the Tree to every trial, in Jesus’ Name, and watch your transforming power at work!