When we understand God and His plans and purpose, even when life is difficult we are able to not only walk through the tough things in life, but we can get through having allowed God to work in us to take us to a new level in our relationship with Him.
I have summarised a few of the beginning chapters and pray that not only that it is an encouragement to you but allows you to see your situation in a new light. The last 12 months have been extremely tough, but instead of breaking me God has used it to grow me in a way that would have been impossible without the tough situation. May God bless you as you think about the tough things you are going through and how God is using these things as a process to get you to the destination He has for you..
To start, this song from Hillsong is a great way to prepare for what God is going to say to you through TD Jakes.
This verse from James is one that I have struggled with\, but my goal is to mature and grow into perfection in Him.
Do not be surprised when these trials come. This testing is part of our Christian walk.
When we persevere and are successful through the trial God will reward us with the Crown of Life. That is worth waiting for!
Chapter 1 – When Everything Falls Apart
The chapter sets up our understanding of what the process of crushing is and how we can live confidently even when it appears things are messy, dirty and it does not make sense. God is doing an incredible job of taking us on a journey as His child to mature us, grow us and establish us for eternity. Romans 8 talks about dying to the flesh and walking in the Spirit. God is moving us from operating as if life here on earth is all there is, the flesh, to living, breathing, thinking and acting as sons of God where our whole life is based on an eternal perspective. This is when we learn to truly walk as sons of God and live in the Spirit. He looks at the process, what success is, the role of circumstances and the importance of the crushing process to establish us in truly Kingdom of God ministry. Let's explore these areas.
Process – TD Jakes challenges us to look at the process in a totally different way. Instead of seeing the pain and mess, when we understand that God is our father then we can submit ourselves to His working in our lives even when it is messy and we do not understand. God is working in our lives and using the heartaches and hard times to achieve good things for His glory. My ongoing journey may be tough at the moment but when I understand God I know He has my best intentions and the process has to be tough to achieve the work in me God needs to do. When I get through the tough times I will get to the times of amazing blessing. The big message is that God is changing my perspective from the temporary or now to living with an eternal perspective. God is using the crushing so I can reach the potential He has made me for and so do the things He has made me for. (Ephesians 2:10)
Circumstances – As Satan hates God, he tries to hurt God by hurting his children. Satan tries to attack me by attacking my wife and daughter. God, though, turns this around to grow me and to give me a new understanding of Him and myself. The circumstances cause incredible pain. During the time you feel powerless and have a sense of being crushed. You are totally submerged in pain and emotions and find it very difficult to get through this pain. Satan has a pattern of crushing us in places we least expect and often in our place of strength.
Success – In the times of crushing, we feel incredible pain. This pain is beyond anything we can imagine. It attacks our ministry and we question the potential that we have. Our idea of success changes and God takes us back to the compass to cause us to re-look at our priorities and ways of looking at the world so our vision is for the eternal and our eyes are always fixed on our creator. What looked like success in the world changes as we understand that God has created us as eternal beings and now means nothing when we understand eternity.
Ministry – Through the process of crushing we become able to speak and act authentically as we experience the depth of pain, are tested and learn through our pain to speak with not just intellectual understanding but a deep knowing. When we are going through the crushing it is normal to focus on Satan and the harm he is doing, but as we get through the pain to the blessing we experience that God is good and He has not only walked through the experience with us, He has given us incredible blessing through the crushing. There is a purpose for the pain in the crushing, and as we get through we find ourselves in a deeper relationship with God, more mature in our faith and equipped for the things we could not have done without the crushing experience.
Winemaking – We have been taught that God is producing fruit in us, but TD Jakes takes our understanding of this to the next level. He uses the paradigm of winemaking. He proposes that God is in the process of growing grapes so He can make wine. He is wanting to make the best wine possible. So God can make the best wine when the grapes are ready they need to be crushed and then given time to mature so it provides the best taste. This means that pain, things that look bad that crush us and times when things do not make sense and are totally out of our control are to be expected and part of the process. The fruit is grown so the wine produced is the best wine. Crushing and time, then, is needed. Through crushing, we get both victory and breakthrough. The process God takes us through brings us to a place where we can be all God has made us be and achieve the things we could not possibly achieve without the crushing.
Chapter 2 – Quality Control.
In our modern world, we see success as something that is quick, painless and easy. The microwave was an interesting invention that took cooking in the kitchen to a new level. We can "ZAP" our food and almost instantly we have a cooked meal. We send a text and instantly it is able to be read by the person we sent it to. We travel at a great speed to reach our destination. We have been conditioned to rush around to achieve a lot in a short space of time, often exhausting ourselves and living at a breaking point. When understanding God, we see that He is not after getting things done quickly, but working in our lives to ensure we have a quality outcome. TD Jakes explores 6 key themes that help us understand that God is at work and what is happening when God is orchestrating things so we have the best outcomes in our lives:-
Pain – Often when God is working we experience incredible pain. We are placed in positions where we are overwhelmed and powerless. God often places us in situations we have no control in and are powerless. We are often drained but through it all need to remain determined that God is working and we are OK. God has His hand on the situation and His goal is that we will become His masterpiece.
Time – When building, cooking, developing relationships and working on most projects, quality happens when we put the time into things so they are the highest quality when we finish. The process is difficult and involves careful sacrifice. We can trust God that He will not give us a quick "ZAP" but as we are patient and allow God to work over time He will complete the work in us so we are fully developed. The longer a wine is left the better the taste.
Brokenness – When God is working in our lives it is so important to understand He has to break us before we can grow. This process is integral to our growth. We can respond by thinking we are missing opportunities and lose hope, or trust God and persist and wait for the breakthrough that is coming through the brokenness. In the process, God works on our identity. It is threated as we question, go through the pain and as our exterior or "flesh" fails and breaks down. The main thing to remember is that God will not allow us to be destroyed, but His process is to use it to bring growth and breakthroughs and blessing in our lives.
Faith – The process of breaking us requires us to grow in faith. We are called to have a mindset where we understand God has a purpose and reason for what we are going through and as we understand God and His promises we understand we can only achieve our potential in Christ through the process. Patience is essential as we walk the journey and let God do the quality work in our lives. He is tutoring us to rely totally on Him and trust Him through the process even when we do not understand.
Planting – TD Jakes uses the analogy of a seed being planted. As a seed is planted the outer shell dies and rots and from that, a plant starts to emerge. There is the birth of a new plant that starts its journey of development. Death to the seed must occur before life occurs. In this process, the seed is covered with dirt which is smelly, dirty, and it is a place that you cannot see what is happening. Because of this, we need to have patience and faith. He also shows that we need to be connected to the vine and dependent totally on Jesus. We are buried, in the dirt but when we embrace this process we undergo transformation where we can grow and produce exponentially more fruit. We are able to get to a breakthrough where there are possibilities and opportunities beyond what we had ever imagined.
Infinity – It is so easy to be caught up in the now. God uses this process to show us that we are eternal beings and He is taking us through this process where we learn to think, act, relate and walk where the eternal is our central focus. This was demonstrated to us by Jesus where what He did physically was powerful, but His focus was ongoing to the cross for the eternal benefits we now have through His sacrifice. Our time on earth will end, but we will be with Him for eternity. When we understand that the process God is taking us on is to equip and prepare us for eternity and that the process of crushing and time is causing us to get rid of the worldly thinking and live in a new way where we live with an eternal focus and become the matured wine that has been crafted by God.
Chapter 3 – The Strategy of Cultivation
As we mature as Christians and get to know our heavenly father in a closer relationship, we learn to fix our eyes on Jesus and not our circumstances. Even though it looks messy and impossible, we learnt to trust that God is doing good things through the mess and dysfunction of the circumstance and even though the process is ugly, God is using the things happening to cultivate us. There are seven key points TD Jakes makes in this chapter:-
Submission – The biggest question is whether we are going to choose our way because we know best or that we submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee. When we don't choose God's way we can miss the blessings that come from these messy times. God is just calling us to trust Him as He has an invested interest in our growth and is directly intervening in our situation so things turn out for His good and glory. Embrace all God is doing and seek that God's purposes will happen through your situation as you submit to Him.
Embrace the situation – When we embrace the situation we understand that God is not taking us to the graveyard, but through the sacrifices He will transform us into the person He has made us to by. Dying to ourselves both enriches us and brings life to others around us. His purpose is to make us into a strong vine that will produce fruit. The purpose is that we as a seed will sprout and in the end be crushed over time so we make the best wine. As we understand this purpose we must leave all bitterness, anger and other emotions behind so the wine we produce does not become bitter.
Cultivation – When a seed is taken from the light and placed in messy, dirty soil it does not understand. As we see God at work we trust that the dirty places that bring death to our flesh bring life as our earthly flesh is dealt with. We can look at Jesus as our example. He came from heaven to take on a human body and live so He could die and give his life for us on the cross. Through His death we have life. God uses the unorthodox to cause us to achieve our potential and grow. The result of the cultivation is both a new way of living and abundance. The suffering through cultivation actually brings greatness. As we are cultivated we must know God is growing us under His watchful care. Finally, God uses the unfamiliar and unstable to be the place where we are forced to sprout and grow. If we were not placed in these situations then we would stay as we are.
Manure – When a gardener sees a plant not growing they put the right fertilizer on the plant so they will bear fruit. Sometimes messy and tough times are the manure God uses to bring instability to push us forward when we stall in our growth. The master gardener uses trials and hard times to grow us so we produce the best fruit. Even though it is smelly and uncomfortable, God knows best and we need to trust Him. Manure is uncomfortable at first but brings the growth we need. Trust the gardener!
Trust – As we go through the hard times we must trust God and allow Him to cultivate us and submit to the process He is taking us through to produce the best wine. Bringing death to us hurts but there is life after death. As we trust Him we must choose to submit and move with God. As we know we are sprouting and growing, God as the gardener will do what it takes so we can grow and become what He has designed us to be.
Comfort – We all desire comfort. Instead of comfort being our goal, we are put in uncomfortable places where we stumble and feel that they are alien to us. Not only does the trouble and tough situations bring blessing, but God's purpose is also to use a strategy that leads to the biggest blessing for both us, those around us and Him.
Pain – We all hate pain and will do whatever we need to to avoid or stop the pain. God uses pain to give us a signal that the time of preparation has arrived. Through the pain, God has promised to strengthen us and make us stronger. Pain, when embraced, will ultimately profit us and bring great reward as God is investing in us.
When we see the process happening in our life as God cultivating us as the master gardener, we then realize the process he is taking us through may hurt, stink and we may not even understand it. But we submit to Him, embrace the pain and trust that God is working in our life. He is using the situation to grow us so He can make the best wine from our lives. Submit to His process and look forward to exciting things as you emerge from the difficult times and pain and are released, as you grow, into the amazing blessings God has for you as His child.
Chapter 4 – Pruning Is Not Punishment
In our modern Christian view of the world, we have understood God through blessings. When we are being blessed we are doing the right thing, and when we are not we have done something wrong in our lives that needs to be dealt with. Sin has stopped the blessing. Steven Furtick spoke about love languages recently. He believes God's love language is trust. That blew me away. I am starting to view God and what is happening in my life in a different way. He explores the concept of pruning as something good and has seven key points:-
The story of Job – Job was the most righteous man alive but he suffered. Even though he did not understand he never gave up on trusting in God. Job showed how to remain true to what is happening and through the process, he was able to feel anguish and pain honestly and embrace them as an important part of who he was. In spite of the pain, he refused to believe that what he was going through was all that there was. He did not give up and die, but chose to push past the circumstances to fix his eyes on the divine perspective.
Suffering – When suffering our first question is often why are we suffering? We believe we always suffer for a purpose and that God has designed things to all fit together. In Romans 8:28 we read that God works together all things for good. Through suffering, we have to be careful not to search the natural world for divine answers. It is important that we are not trapped in looking for answers in our suffering. We just understand that when we endure the agony of the moment we can look forward to a bright destiny.
Choices – When looking at the things that we struggle with, we find that they cause us to become uncomfortable, to seek answers and God and to grow. The comfort that we call blessing actually causes or entices us into being lazy and through comfort we can forfeit the amazing future God has for us. Agony takes us on the pathway of growth that leads to joy, peace, contentment and our purpose being fulfilled. Our choice is to take the difficult road that leads to power. Jesus proves that our journey of being pruned can lead to fruit beyond our wildest dreams.
What is left? - God is using pruning to remove the things that are getting in the way of us being successful in Him. We are not burdened by so much and TD Jakes points out that our old blessings can be a graveyard for our future. What God removes and replaces it with is actually better. Pruning leads to confidence and joy and is often the start of the best season in our life.
Why do the righteous suffer? - This is a key question that troubles many Christians and must be answered. In Psalm 73:14-17 we read about David struggling with his afflictions until finally he entered the sanctuary of the Lord and realised their eternal destiny. When we understand God's long term purpose, the pain means something different.
Pruning versus punishment – When looking at the pruning God takes us through, the intention or the "why" is essential. TD Jakes uses the analogy of the pain we endure through an accident and through a surgeon. We can have the same amount of pain but the purpose is different. Jesus on the cross at Golgotha was being pruned while the two beside him were being punished. God's desire is for us to fully mature and so the pain is essential for further future success. We can be encouraged that when we bear fruit, God then comes in and prunes us so we can bear even more fruit. Therefore, often the pruning is not because we have done the wrong thing, but God is releasing us to produce more fruit through tough times and suffering.
Buried or planted? - This is the most important thing to understand. God is wanting to plant us so as a seed we die and we come to life. Romans 8 talks about dying to the flesh and walking in the Spirit. TD Jakes looks at the intent of God being our focus. If we are knifed by someone when mugged and the wound becomes untreated it becomes infected and dies. If we are cut by a surgeon, it hurts for a time but it heals and we recover. For both situations, the pain can be the same but our focus is different. If we are planted, the focus is on identifying truth and finding faith. Through being buried we become stronger, greater, truer and more trustworthy.
When we understand that the circumstances God has us in are to move us, grow us and prepare us for more fruit we can embrace what is happening and choose to accept and grow in the situation. The pain is part of the process God is taking us through to become able to bear more fruit as we mature and grow through pruning. The tough time is not God punishing us but part of the process we need to go through to reach the potential He has made us for. Embrace it and know it is the process needed so we reach the destination.
May God encourage you through this overview. Please get a copy of the book and allow God to speak to you and give you an insight into how God is using this tough time in your life to shape you to become all God as made you to be. This process is essential to getting you to the destination He has for you. Do not run away but trust Him.... it will be worth it!