The faith God calls us to is far more than glowing positivism that shields us from life's struggles. It is one that guides us into a deepening intimacy with the God who sustains us in the broad sweep of life.
Bestselling author Gary Thomas helps us sharpen our spiritual vision and fortify our commitment to Christ by examining ten disciplines God uses to forge a fire-tested faith. A biblical view of these disciplines can safeguard us from disillusionment when - not if - difficulties surface in our lives.
Sharing scriptural insights, the wisdom of Christians through the centuries, and cogent personal observations, Thomas explores the disciplines of: selflessness, waiting, suffering, persecution, social mercy, forgiveness, mourning, contentment, sacrifice, hope and fear.
As Thomas reminds us, faith is about something other than a smooth ride through this fallen world. Rather, authentic faith is shaped, tempered, and purified in the flames of struggle. This eye-opening look at what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus will encourage you, bolster your faith, and help you rise above shallow attachments to fix your heart on things of eternal worth.
|Sold by:||HarperCollins Publishing|
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|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Gary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of 19 books, including Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied under Dr. J.I. Packer, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Western Seminary. Gary has spoken in 49 states and 10 different countries. He has appeared numerous times on various national radio and television programs, including CBN, Focus on the Family and Family Life Today.
Read an Excerpt
One Severe Gifts Fire-Testing Seasons from a Loving Father The Church is the one thing that saves a man from the degrading servitude of being a child of his time. G. K. Chesterton 'Did you hear about Mike?' 'No,' I said. 'What happened?' When I arrived on Western Washington University's campus in 1980, Mike Dittman was perhaps the most dynamic Christian I had ever met. He was several years older than I was, and already a leader in the college ministry I attended. Mike had everything: a charismatic personality, great athletic ability, and a walk of integrity, as well as being a skilled worship leader and a good teacher. He could lead you into the presence of God like few I've ever met. I often sought him out at lunchtime to talk, and was later pleased to end up being in the small group he led. Following his time at Western, Mike served as a campus pastor and then enrolled in graduate studies to become a counselor. He worked at a church for a number of years until finally an 'intervention' of sorts took place. Men whom Mike respected and loved confronted him and said, 'Mike, you're very competent. Very insightful. A dynamic leader. A guy who inspires admiration and respect. But you're also too blunt. You hurt people with your words. You lack compassion and empathy.' Mike was devastated, but in a good way. He realized that not one of the positive traits mentioned by these men was a 'fruit of the Spirit,' and he found himself praying, 'God, I wish I was a little less 'dynamic' and a little more compassionate.' It was just a couple years later that a close friend told me the shocking news: After a morning workout, Mike's body dropped to the locker room floor. A brain hemorrhage almost took his life, but after a furious scare, doctors were able to keep Mike in this world---albeit, a very different Mike. His Hollywood-handsome appearance was gone. Half of Mike's face now looks 'fallen,' pulled over to one side. He can't sing anymore or play his guitar, so there's no more leading worship. For a while his speech was slurred, so he couldn't teach. He was humbled in just about every way an ambitious man can be humbled. After months of grueling therapy, Mike moved on. The devastating effect on his body was paralleled by an equally powerful--- and wonderful---change in his spirit. Now, years later, Mike's ministry has never been more productive. He started a phenomenally successful department of counseling at the Philadelphia Biblical University, which has grown from a handful of students to hundreds of participants. People fly in to Philadelphia from all over the country to meet with Mike---pastors who have fallen, marriages that have broken apart, children who are rebelling. Mike's seen it all. Whereas before his focus was on the masses, Mike now specializes in healing hurting hearts, one at a time. 'The brain hemorrhage took a lot away from me,' Mike told me recently, 'but it gave me even more.' Mike is now the type of guy whose spirit invites you to quiet your heart, get rid of all pre-tenses, and revel in God's presence. I think the main difference is that in college, when I was around Mike, I wanted to be like Mike. Now, after spending time with Mike, I want to be more like Jesus. The amazing thing is that Mike's story, though inspirational, is not particularly unique. I have heard so many Christians tell me of a gut-wrenching season they walked through, only to hear them say, 'In the end, I'm glad it happened. The fruit it creates far out-weighs the pain and angst that come with it.' None of them would have chosen ahead of time to walk through such a difficult trial. But all of them are grateful, in hindsight, that the trial came. Such fire-testing seasons are severe gifts from a loving Father, though initially they are rarely received as such. These seasons are necessary because we do not walk easily into maturity. At first, Christianity can be an intoxicating blend of free-dom, joy, exuberance, and newfound discovery. Longtime sins drop off us with relatively little effort. Bible study is rich; we may feel like archaeologists finally coming across an unexplored cave as we become astonished at the insights that pour from the book in front of us. Intimacy, tears, and the assurance of God's voice and guidance mark our times of prayer. This 'spiritual infatuation' phase is well known and well documented among spiritual directors and those familiar with spiritual formation. Just like romantic infatuation is self-centered, so spiritual infatuation tends to be 'all about me.' It seems as though it's all about God, but the focus of new believers' lives is still mostly taken up with how they're doing with regard to defeating sins, as well as cultivating the new joy and spiritual depth that come from walking with God. They're thrilled with what Christianity has done for them. Eventually, God asks us to discard this infatuation and move on to a mature friendship with him. In a true friendship, it's no longer 'all about me.' It's about partnering with God to build his kingdom. That means, first, being 'fire-tested' and, second, growing in ways that we naturally wouldn't be inclined to grow. This growth can be painful for us, but it's a growth that is necessary if we are to become the type of women and men whom God can use. Instead of focusing on our desire for God to answer our prayers, spiritual maturity leads us to yearn for faithfulness, Christlikeness, and others-centeredness. This is a painful process, a very real spiritual death that some have described as being 'born again' again, except for the fact that it is never a onetime event. It is a mistake to ask someone to grow out of spiritual infatuation too quickly. Such a season has its place. There's no getting around the fact that babies need diapers and milk. But when a ten-, twenty-, or thirty-year-old still wears diapers and still acts as though the world revolves around his or her own personal happi-ness, something has gone wrong.
Table of ContentsContents Acknowledgments 9 Chapter 1:Severe Gifts 11 (Fire-Testing Seasons from a Loving Father) Chapter 2:Living beyond Your Self 22 (The Discipline of Selflessness) Chapter 3:That Excruciating Exercise 41 (The Discipline of Waiting) Chapter 4:Fragments of Frustration 60 (The Discipline of Suffering) Chapter 5:Titanic Testimony 85 (The Discipline of Persecution) Chapter 6:The People of God 's Heart 108 (The Discipline of Social Mercy) Chapter 7:Giving Up the Grudge 130 (The Discipline of Forgiveness) Chapter 8:Mourning 's Promise 153 (The Discipline of Mourning) Chapter 9:Tyrannical Expectations 174 (The Discipline of Contentment) Chapter 10:Not My Will ...199 (The Discipline of Sacrifice) Chapter 11:Well Done ...Depart From Me!219 (The Disciplines of Hope and Fear) Epilogue 249 Notes 255