By Brad Hannink
The chorus of Lynn Anderson’s hit song, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” still rings in my ears. “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain some time.” Those lyrics probably resonate with you, as they did me, because of the truth they tell – life isn’t always a rose garden. It’s good, but it’s not easy.
Why? Because God wants His children and, particularly, the shepherd leaders influencing His sheep, to grow spiritually … and that growth often requires a rocky road and a narrow, steep path with unexpected twists and turns. The Good Shepherd knows that earthly adversity can produce eternal advantages. In fact, from God’s perspective, that adversity could easily be considered Miracle Grow for our soul.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Earthly troubles and trials for Christians in all walks of life are the exercise program that God uses to grow us to maturity – maturity as believers, for sure, but also to maturity as shepherds, for the purpose of being godly influencers in His Kingdom. Our physical muscles and our faith muscles have much in common – they both require resistance to grow stronger. The Great Designer knows that and uses trials and our natural resistance to them, to shape us to be more like Him.
Whether we like it or not, God’s workout sequence for us is in His spiritual gymnasium, where trials await to strengthen our shepherding muscles and test our faith. If we don’t quit, those trials produce endurance. Every shepherd leader knows that life is a marathon not a sprint, and that the only way to finish well is to keep moving, committed to letting the Father shape us to look more and more like Jesus.
Struggles, irritations, aggravations, difficulties, trials, and opportunities that He permits in our lives are what the Father uses to achieve Christ-like character and godly shepherding behaviors in us. When the sheep stink, when the rams are butting heads, and when the ewes are wandering, providing one challenge after another in your day, God is working. He’s refining you, He’s using you as a tool to shape the sheep, and He’s making us all more like Him.
I hope you have your gym clothes on!