Ask anyone I know to describe who I am to you, and you'd get a smorgas-borg of attributes that make me me. One thing most would say is that I am an avid lover of fine coffee. Any of you out in cyberland that have been regular readers of mine know it to be true. I hardly ever will turn down a fresh, hot cup of coffee. Mind you, I'm not talking about Folgers or Maxwell House here. I need a good cup of joe, like Starbucks, Panera, or the pure Kona from the little Hawaiian coffee joint across the street from the church. There is something about the robust flavor of hot, black coffee I can't get past. It isn't the caffeine. There is just something about the taste of coffee.
It's made me think deeper into my coffee desires. One day, as I was looking into the cost of Kona beans from online distributors, I stumbled onto something I never really thought about. People out there actually order unroasted, or "green" beans. They actually take the time to roast their own coffee! Wow, that there is a real fan of coffee. I've had fresh java before, but not that fresh. The last time I ordered coffee online was from a place called Munn's World Coffee. You order online, and the good folks there at Munn's roast the beans you selected and UPS them to you in a couple days time. That's much fresher than even Starbucks. I found, though, that people actually use hot air popcorn poppers to roast green beans.
That wonderful cup of coffee you enjoy each morning had to go through a process to get poured into a cup. The beans were selected, the cherry had to be removed. There was a washing and a drying process. Then the beans had to face the heat. Some had to face longer, hotter periods of time, depending on the roast level.
I see real similarities with us Christ-followers. We too have to endure a life of process. Today, in the final segment of the Purpose '09 Pastor's Conference, my pastor's son, Tony Stewart, pastor of University Church of God in Tampa, preached about the processes God takes us through as He prepares us for new seasons in life. At the altar, as I played the guitar, and as we worshiped, I suddenly felt emotion welling up. I couldn't help but reflect on my own process I've endured for a while now. I'm not new to trials. Not by a long shot. But usually my trials consisted of financial things. I struggled to pay bills, I struggled to buy groceries. We are still having some trouble, but compared to where we've been, we are doing good in that arena. Our struggles lately have revolved around a place to call our own.
When we were living some 20 miles away, with nowhere to go, we found an eviction notice on the front door, giving us 24 hours to be out. Turns out the owner we rented from didn't pay his mortgage. God made a way, and we got a month extra. Then we dealt with the hard reality of finding a place to move to. Once we found it, we signed the lease, moved in, and found out 2 days later that the house was foreclosed on. The landlord forgot to mention that little tidbit of information. So, then began our saga again. Just when we thought we could settle down for a year at least, we are finding ourselves having to rent the U-Haul again and move. Today, what hit me was that I was indeed going through the process. Like the coffee beans, I felt the heat. But, I am certain that when all is said and done, I'll look back and see that God had His hand on me, and was making me into the man He needs me to be. I won't lie, friends. I am hurting. It never feels good to endure the flames. But I trust that when God is done, I'll come out better than ever.
I put the guitar down in that moment, and walked to the side of the platform toward the stairs to pray at the altar. That's when my pastor and his son yelled "Jeff!" I walked over, and they began to surround me and pray. They were pouring strength and encouragement into me. I needed that. I was in the process, and was feeling quite empty.
Our walk with God is progressive friends. He doesn't just push some button in heaven, and instantly change us. Listen to what the Bible tells us:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom. 5:3-4
That, friends, is describing the process. It hurts. We would love for it to stop. But it's a necessary part of growing in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, as you endure your process today, take comfort in knowing that God's hand is on you, and He is shaping you in the person He has called you to be.