In the 90s, I lived in Newark, New Jersey, and worked in Upper Manhattan, New York City. The gated apartment building that I resided in was 22 floors high with a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline. At night, the view of the buildings and the Hudson River with thousands of lights was breathtaking.
Although I had a vehicle, public transportation was the least expensive and less stressful commuting method across the state lines. The commercial realtor who owned the apartment building negotiated hourly, roundtrip curbside transport with New Jersey Transit to Port Authority available 16 hours a day, seven days per week. The buses had full amenities with comfortable and spacious seating to enjoy the scenic views, nap, or review daily work responsibilities. With special lanes assigned for buses and ride-sharing, the commute took 60-90 minutes to arrive at Port Authority in NYC.
During the five years of commuting, I always sat on the bus’s left side, looking out the windows to take in the varied lifestyles and activities in two states. In 1995, the City of Newark began building NJPAC, one of the largest Performing Arts Centers in the United States. Passing the site was part of the daily bus route, and for two years, I witnessed the construction of the massive building from the concrete foundation to completion. As I reflect on the workers’ commitment to produce this excellent structure, I applaud their dedication and perseverance. For those who know the history of Newark’s urban city, the State of New Jersey can be proud of its most spectacular building, NJPAC, which celebrates the Arts, recognizes the community, and has led to the rehabilitation and revitalization of one of its most problematic cities. https://www.njpac.org/about/mission-and-history/
We may never have the opportunity to build a spectacular building or house. However, we can begin the process of spiritual development to build a rock-solid relationship with God. Please know that unlike building the Performing Arts Center to its’ completion in 1997, spiritual growth and development is a life-long journey. It is not a once saved, always saved spiritual experience. When we decide to serve God, we must go through many life-changing events that cause pain and suffering. Even Jesus forewarned, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
Nevertheless, we have a Heavenly Father who has committed to always take care of us: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” Hebrews 13:5.
What is required for us to develop spiritually?
Sanctification: to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate; to purify or free from sin, requires that we strive daily to become Christ-like. For us to meet God’s definition and standards of holiness, we must believe in Righteousness by Faith. Total belief in God requires action on our part every day of our lives. The Apostle Paul shares his spiritual journey, “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” 1 Corinthians 15:10.
Human Effort + Divine Intervention = Victory
Serving God is not a complicated process. Yes, it takes whole-hearted commitment to renounce worldliness and all of its pleasures; even so, God does not require the impossible. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13. God is fully aware of our limitations. He knows how much each of us can bear. Still, He waits for us to ask for help. God does not force us to give our hearts to Him. From the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we know that God gave humanity the free will of choice to worship Him with faith, trust, and obedience or to choose another path that will lead to destruction and death. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Romans 6:23
Think about your childhood. Did your parents/caregivers raise you with love that included morals, values, boundaries, and discipline? God created marriage and family institutions because we (human beings) require love, a sense of belonging, and a learning environment to reach spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental development. If your parents had expectations, then indeed, it is realistic to accept that God, our Heavenly Father, would also require us to love and worship Him.
There is nothing unfair about serving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. God is our Heavenly Father, who knew that humanity would reject Righteousness and choose the pleasures of sin. Unconditional love, which originates from God, led to creating humanity: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…Genesis 1:26. Personally, I am overjoyed that God would create us, although He knew the willful sins that we would commit.
Our Father had the Plan of Redemption in place because He knew that some of us would strive to live holy lives by committing our hearts to Him. Before creating human beings, God and Jesus agreed that Jesus, His only Son, would die for our Redemption, which allows us to be saved from the consequences of sin. Jesus’ death on Calvary’s Cross was not a last-minute strategic plan. Who else could die for us? It took Jesus, who was Divine and without sin, to rescue the human race from the final death. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15
When I reflect on the changes from October 2019 to now, I am thankful that I have and serve a Heavenly Father who knows and cares. Yes, our world is in a state of chaos from a severe pandemic, economic decline, social unrest, and political rivalries. But, have you thought about the strength of the COVID-19 virus? Over 1.04 million individuals have died due to the Coronavirus. Currently, we have the original COVID-19 virus and a mutation of the said virus that continues to wreak havoc. There is no vaccine or human actions that can guarantee that we will not contract this airborne, respiratory illness. If God did not love us, He could allow the Coronavirus to wipe out the entire human race. The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1. From studying God’s Holy Word, the Bible, we know that the Coronavirus will not wipe out humanity and leave the earth desolate.
We have readily embraced the concept of transparency (to reveal all) as if this concept is something new and has evolved in modern times. What has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9. God has always been transparent. The Bible tells us about God’s character, the Plan of Salvation, God’s commands and precepts, His standards of Righteousness, and prophetic events that will happen before Jesus Christs’ Second Coming. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14.
Because of God’s love and mercies, He extends to us the opportunity to accept His Plan of Salvation. Now is the time to build a spiritual foundation based on faith, trust, and obedience. Transformation can only occur when we possess the willingness to do our part every day. Praying without ceasing and diligently studying the Bible gives us the strength to persevere. Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.… Romans 5:3-5
Despite our circumstances, the global pandemic, economic decline, and social and political unrest, it is our Faith in God that keeps us connected to Him. We have the blessing of active participation in our spiritual development.
- Now repent of your sins and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped away… Acts 3:19
- Jesus declared, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
- But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
- But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23
- Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9.
Bible Reading: 2 Peter 3
God, we thank you for the opportunity to have a relationship with you built on love, faith, trust, and obedience. Thank you for being transparent and revealing the steps we need to develop spiritually and stay connected to you. We ask forgiveness of our sins and pray for the strength to persevere. We desire the reward of Eternal life and commit to serving you for the rest of our lives. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2020, No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes without the author’s written permission.