Occasionally, the Lord will give me a clear word—a word that I am usually not too pleased to get, “Step it up son.” This means He is pushing me up to the next level of the mountain, when I was comfortable at the altitude that I had already attained. For all of us, there is a time in our walk where God urges us up to the next level. We can resist, and many times life will go on as normal, as if nothing happened. The one thing you can count on is, if you are walking close to Jesus, you will not escape a push, whether gentle prompting or forceful compelling, to come up higher.
Recently, my cardiologist strongly suggested I give up caffeine. I took the advice of the doctor and decided to give up caffeine. To get to the next level of good health for me, this was needed. But the doctor’s advice would be ignored except that I DECIDED. Where you are today is a result of many decisions—even daily decisions—that you have made over the course of your life. These include good and bad decisions.
Luke 14:28-30: For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish. NASU
When God urges your to the next level, your response should be a decision. With decision comes commitment. Since there are different levels of decisions, we should count the cost. Without counting the costs, we will have a well-meaning but short-lived decision.
Getting to the next level with God may not be as easy as something tangible such as giving up caffeine. It is not unusual for the Lord to ask you to follow the initial decision with even more hard choices—choices such as giving up a hindrance, sacrificing your free time, or laboring harder in His kingdom. As a project manager, I accept new projects that take me out of what I am comfortable doing. To step it up means I have to deliver skills and capability to meet the new demand. In God’s kingdom, you are always being prepared for a new demand, a new task that God is assigning you, and change is always in your future.
We are living in a day—a day of preparation—a day preparing us for THE day of the Lord. It is not trivial, and what is ahead is much more grueling than most Christians envision. There are those suffering in a pit, about to perish, and God is placing them directly in your path. If we refuse to make the decision to come up, we will be impotent when we arrive at that place where we are needed to rescue. Instead, we will not know how to react, how to hold out the hand of Jesus.
We may think that God will magically give us supernatural abilities in that moment, but we would be wrong in that thinking. The scripture and the Holy Spirit were sent to you for preparation and maturing. Peter was mightily used in Acts Chapter 2. But God kept preparing him. . .it is a process that never stops. He is always dealing with you. It is your heart He is after, and when He gets it, He can flow through you to REACH THE WORLD!
If making a decision isn’t hard enough, now comes discipline, the part of serving God that balances law versus grace, sets free for some and puts others in bondage, and causes many to simply stop serving God well.
If I made a decision to give up caffeine, I must have discipline or the decision is useless. The discipline starts early in the morning when I am semi-comatose, trying to regain some kind of consciousness in the world. My body yells out, “strong caffeinated coffee”. There is only one thing standing in the way of that craving that was formed over 35 years: discipline. For me, it is not just saying no, it is replacing that coffee with another hot beverage. I had to show my body who was really king in the situation.
When God speaks to you about coming up higher, He is usually targeting one area. Instead of me giving up every bad thing I put in my body, I am dealing with the one: caffeine. In your walk, He may be saying it is time to use that gift that you have had on the shelf. No doubt, there are those with all kinds of creative gifts that use them for the world system, if at all. He is calling those to come up higher with the gift. In this example, you focus on making a decision to come up higher with that gift, and then discipline to do what it takes to fulfill the call of God.
Sometimes, God will call you to a place of maturity that is drastically different than where you are walking today. I can tell you this: If you answer that call, the discipline will involve fellowship with Jesus and His body, passionate worship, and learning to listen to the Spirit as He unfolds scripture to you, even though your church may not believe that way. There is a boldness and confidence we must all have in our relationship with Him.
Discipline is not law or bondage. It is required. It is what we do in the world to be successful, and it is what God requires in the Spirit to be mature. Ultimately, anytime you do come up higher, you are walking as a maturing saint, not a stagnant saint.
In my book “Temple Builders: The High Calling,” there is a chapter called Sit at God’s Table. In that I describe diet in detail, but as it relates to coming up to the next level, diet is a critical component.
One of the things that holds us back is we get right the decision and discipline but are lacking a change in spiritual diet. I observed many years ago how certain camps of ministry, with very popular teachers, would have a following that acted and believed just like they did. Then observing both the teachers and followers many years later, they still acted and believed the same. . .maybe a little bit more battered, though. Why is this? One of the things that must come up higher is the inputs you receive, what you are feeding on. If you feed on your favorite ministers all the time, or ministers in that same circle, expect a very narrow range of understanding God’s ways. Contrastly, if the leaders you listen to are ones always going to the next level, your diet change is most likely fractional; you may need only a change in diet that aligns to the specifics of the NEW call to step it up. We need a pragmatic approach to our diet, and totally spirit led, without hestitation or constraint.
What should you do then? Change your diet to suit what God is calling you up to. God is faithful to lead you to the right teacher or scripture if you truly hunger and are willing to forfeit immature thinking. If your ideas about scripture or God’s ways can no longer be challenged by the Holy Spirit, you will only get so far in the preparation process. So, what about if I serve Him with passion, doing great works, am I stagnant? My answer is: think what you could have become.
If you are willing to be that one, you may end up in the desert for years, but one day God will unveil you at the appointed time, even as God unveiled Jesus at the age of 30, not 29, to the world.
In managing new projects, the subject matter always changes. I could just manage a plan, but my preference is to understand the subject matter well so I can manage all the moving parts of the project and ask questions that no one else is asking. In the kingdom, it is not just about understanding the basics, or prayer and worship, it is about the subject matter. If God is preparing you for the day of the Lord, that is an important subject matter that He will at some time unfold to you, and I can tell you that most ministers have that subject matter wrong or obscured. Ask yourself this: what subject matter do you need to learn to get to that next level; what inputs are you missing; where are the gaps. Allow the Spirit to fill those gaps at any cost!
We live in a different day than our predecessors. But most Christians do not realize it. They are waiting for God to give them a pass on dealing with the harshness coming to the world. I prefer to go my merry way and focus on just my career and maintain a church-accepted lifestyle of reading the Word, prayer, and church attendance. But I am not wired that way, and my suspicion is that you are not either.
Are you being dealt with? Is He prompting you? Is He challenging you to come up hither? Maybe it is time. You can choose to remain the same and tomorrow may be normal. But is that what you really want? Isn’t our utmost desire to be a friend of Jesus, to be His pleasure on the Earth.
John Robert Lucas
October 29, 2011