I've had a lot of fun planting Ember Church, but I'd be lying to you if I told you that it was easy. Church planting is hard work, if for no other reason than that the devil is opposed to it. We've experienced setbacks. We've gone through trials. We were cruising along the highway going 65 when all of a sudden someone put a speedbump on the interstate. Every church planting team goes through this. Every established church goes through this. Heck, every family, every corporation, every school goes through this. It's a part of life.
What makes it especially difficult for a church planting team, though, is that you begin to ask questions like, "Is God still with us? Does he want us to quit? Are we doing the right thing here?" What was once so certain becomes hazy when we get hit by the trials of life. It happens. Trials happen. It doesn't mean that God has abandoned us. Quite the opposite, actually. Any team that's doing God's work and fulfilling his purposes for their community will experience resistance from Satan.
The enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to steal your joy. He wants to kill your spirit. He wants to destroy the work of God in your life. That is always his aim. He wants you to doubt God's call on your life. He wants you to doubt God's presence with you. Don't. Faith is trusting in God despite the mounting evidence. Faith sees with eyes that look through circumstances and see the living God, standing in the midst of it all, inviting you to his side. Faith sees the true, deeper reality, that God is--that he simply and fully is--and in that finds overwhelming joy.
In one of the most incredible passages in the whole Bible, Peter puts it like this:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
who through faith are shielded by God’s power
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith
—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—
may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him,
you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him
and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
for you are receiving the end result of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.
That's 1 Peter 1:3-9. You should probably read it again.
You have been given an entirely new life, a life that is rooted in a hope that lives because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. You have been given an inheritance that can never wear out or be destroyed--an inheritance that Jesus is keeping for you in heaven.
God's power shields you from the wiles and lies of Satan through your faith in Jesus Christ. This protection lasts for more than a moment--it lasts from this moment until the day Jesus returns in power and glory to judge and reign on the earth.
Because of this...rejoice! Greatly rejoice! Even though you're going through crap right now, that crap has come so that you have the opportunity to persevere--so that you can see just how genuine your faith in Jesus is. And rejoice, because this crap too shall pass.
You haven't seen him; and yet you love him. You haven't seen him; and yet you have put your trust in him--the resurrected King of the cosmos. And when you press into that reality, into what is really real and truly true, then you will be filled with an inexpressible joy because, in that, you are receiving what your faith has promised, the salvation of your soul in the here and now.