There are a lot of things going on in my life right now, especially in the past week or so. This includes a combination of what I perceive to be both blessings and challenges. But as I’m praying and journaling about all this right now, I feel the Lord is telling me they are actually one and the same. Similar to steps on a staircase leading one ever higher, what look like obstacles and difficulties could actually be “platforms of increase”.
I’m learning the art of seeing everything that happens in the light of a redemptive future story arc, where setbacks and disappointments actually are just interesting “plot twists” that make the ultimate testimony that much more powerful. Not only that, what looks like a setback is actually a setup for even greater increase, leaving me better off than I would have been without the seemingly adverse event.
One of the blessings I received this past week was another extravagantly generous donation to the book launch fundraiser. On a practical level, this was an enormous financial blessing. On a deeper spiritual level, though, it really challenged me to receive God’s grace (unmerited favor) at a deeper level. God’s grace not only does not work the way I many times expect in my human thinking; it actually works exactly opposite to it. By resting and repenting of striving in my human strength, I actually get greater practical benefits.
In this case, the gift came from someone who has been one of the greatest supporters and encouragers of the book. This person has given me feedback that has been so encouraging in confirming the effectiveness of the book's primary goal and desired impact on the reader. They’ve also selflessly and liberally given their time and professional expertise in helping edit the book. I actually offered this person financial compensation for their work on the book, but they turned it down. They then proceeded to give me one of the two biggest donations to date!
I felt like what was “right” and “just” was the exact opposite of what happened. I should have given them what they were actually giving to me. It didn’t seem “fair” to me, and at first I seriously considered giving the money back to them. But the Holy Spirit stopped me and showed me that this is exactly the “better way” He does things: completely backwards to how I feel it should be done; not in any way as a result of my own work or merits. What was given as a blessing, both by God and the person He used as His channel for that blessing, was being revealed as an obstacle in my ability to receive because of wrong thinking.
In this case, the form of wrong thinking is false humility, which is really just a form of pride. It was trying to hold me back from receiving this generous gift because of a misguided notion of “fairness” and a felt need to earn it. A friend of mine personally understands this dynamic very well, saying: “Good luck with processing that [receiving this donation]. It just feels so uncomfortable.” That is so true to me, and I realized this difficulty in receiving sometimes actually requires God’s grace just for me to be able to receive His grace.
The wisdom and perspective of the Holy Spirit showed me that the whole basis of God’s grace is inherently unfair and unjust: Jesus lived a perfect life and got the punishment for our sin, while we live sinful lives and get the rewards of Jesus’ perfection. This donation is simply a practical example and outflow of that same root of His grace. God is training me in the art of “learned openness to receive” from Him; however and through whomever He deems fit and necessary.
It also confirmed what He’s been speaking to me lately during this process of raising funds to publish the book. He puts desires in specific people’s hearts He is speaking to in order to sow into this in a variety of ways. Because it doesn’t happen in the ways and through the people I would expect, He’s making it abundantly clear through it all that ultimately He is my Source. My work is just to believe and put my faith into action by committing to the process, and leave the outcomes completely in His hands.
This also relates to the recent “challenge” I mentioned earlier, which concerns the sale of my investment property in Ohio. I wasn’t ever planning on selling this property, but because of a really strong seller’s market an unexpected opportunity presented itself to me. I listed it a month or so ago (you can hear more about it by clicking on the following link to this podcast episode: ABW 44 - Holy Spirit-Led Investment Decisions). I was pleasantly shocked by the interest I received at a price point way higher than I was expecting.
The first contract for an all-cash offer fell through a couple weeks ago. This was really frustrating because of the way the buyers and their agent did not negotiate in good faith and illegally broke the contract. It was also disappointing because I thought this was God’s unexpected blessing for me at this specific time, and I had publicly shared the testimony. But I’m very grateful that I am now catching myself earlier than I used to, in repenting of negativity and doubt to embrace optimism and a faith-filled response. I am now much more quickly recognizing setbacks as those interesting plot twists and setups for greater increase and more powerful testimonies.
I prayed to God and said, “I don’t know how You’re gonna do it, but I fully open myself up to however You’re gonna blow my mind and cause these circumstances to make me even better off than I would have been otherwise”. I have been believing and declaring verses like Romans 8:28 (“So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives…”) and Psalm 138:8 (“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me…”). I really like the wording of that last verse. The word “concerns” indicates to me both that which “worries”, as well as “pertains to”, me.
So with a renewed attitude and high hopes, I had my Realtor re-list the property and got another better-than-expected response from the market. We accepted a new offer (again for full asking price) based on the type of financing this buyer had. Specifically, we believed this commercial (instead of residential) loan was great because it would virtually negate any possibilities of a low appraisal causing the contract to fall through. The home inspection was my biggest concern, but the inspection went through very smoothly without any problems. The only thing that could prevent closing on the deal at this point was the appraisal, which my Realtor and I both thought was pretty much a non-issue.
Just today I got the news that the appraisal inexplicably came in way below the asking price. My Realtor, the other party, and me were all shocked! It now looks unlikely this deal will go through. How could this happen?! TWICE we had what looked like offers that were nothing less than a miraculous blessing, and both times a very unusual setback occurred. I was furious this morning, and worked off some steam at the gym.
Then I went back to God yet again, with the same faith-filled response that I was just going to leave the outcome in His capable hands. 1 Peter 5: 6-7 (TPT) encourages me to do this: “If you bow low in God’s awesome presence, he will eventually exalt you as you leave the timing in his hands. Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you”.
What God emphasizes to me over and over nowadays is to look at everything, even and especially the practical and financial concerns of life that tend to stress me out, as a “testimony in progress” and all part of the redemptive storyline He’s weaving throughout my life. No truly great story is without conflict and difficulty that has to be overcome, and always contains the thematic elements of “conflict, climax, resolution”. The greater the challenge, the greater the victory, and the more honor and glory goes to God. Please partner with me in faith-filled prayer and agreement for an “exceedingly, abundantly, beyond-all-we-could-ask-or-imagine” outcome to the storyline for this property!
As I was praying about this today, the Lord showed me a new perspective. Things that I tend to look at as unwanted, undesirable setbacks and obstacles can actually be setting me up for success. The visual analogy He showed me was being in front of a staircase. I was just looking with frustration at the stair or stairs immediately in front of me as a chore at best, or even as a cause of anxiety or unbelief.
Instead, He was showing me to look beyond that to the top of the staircase and the position I would be in when I got there. Not only that, but each step was actually working for my good by giving me greater strength, endurance, and training to reach the top of other staircases in the future. Though many times not from God, challenges and setbacks are something He wants us to actually thank Him for because they can and will be used by God to grow and develop our “trust muscles”, increasing our faith.
It reminded me of what a former podcast interviewee and fellow real estate businessman Colin Carr says: “You can’t get ‘jacked’ [muscular] in the natural by only lifting light weights in the gym. You’ve got to lift heavy if you wanna get jacked in the spiritual realm, too, so get excited about opposition or resistance that will grow your faith muscles”. Colin also repeatedly talks about building a “superior skillset” in business and life that make us more valuable and increases our ability to add value to others.
That’s how I want to view this situation as well, because it will force me to continuously build a superior skillset. This is true of real estate investing, but perhaps most importantly in becoming more reliant on God’s grace, strength, and perspective for all of life. This applies to the obvious blessings that challenge us to grow in the art of the “learned openness to receive” extravagantly from God and others, as well as the ability to perceive obstacles and challenges as “platforms of increase” on staircases bringing us ever higher.
Call to Action: Ask God and yourself if there are any areas in your heart of false humility, preventing you from receiving all the extravagant blessings God has for you. This can be especially difficult in the context of receiving from other people. Also ask the Holy Spirit if there is something you’re looking at as a setback that could actually be a setup for even greater increase. Then share your testimonies!
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