Summer at Venture Pt. 2

Spiritual Maturity Grows Through Perseverance, Redirection and Training

Dale Gustafson
Jun 20, 2021    33m
What is the condition of your heart for Jesus? This message teaches us when we make room in our heart for the Holy Spirit through perseverance, redirection, and training, our spiritual maturity will grow and thrive. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Dale Gustafson: [00:00:14] Hi, my name's Dale Gustafson, and it's a pleasure to be here today, I want to thank Tim for inviting me to be here. I'm a pastor up in San Francisco, but I live here in Los Gatos, I've lived here a long time. So being here with you guys this weekend, it feels like home, and I know a lot of you and I'm looking forward to seeing you.

Dale Gustafson: [00:00:33] And it's Father's Day. Man, what a great day to honor and celebrate dads. Maybe your dad, maybe you are a dad. So, man, we are thankful for you. Maybe for some of you, like, man, you're looking forward to being a dad. It's a great pleasure and a great honor. So some of the things are going to be talking about this morning have to do with dads because I'm a dad and it just comes out that way. But I think God has something special for each and every one of us here this morning as we go through that.

Dale Gustafson: [00:01:00] Let me start here, in their book called Switch, which addresses how to change the world, and how to change when change is hard, the Heath brothers tell this story about a young man who had found himself constantly in trouble. It goes like this, a young man named Bobby was referred to counseling by many, many teachers because he was constantly late, defiant, threatened other students, and was often in the principal's office all day long, and he was about to get placed in a school or facility to try and control him. But he gets sent to counseling and the counselor says, I want to see if there's something within him that I can find that is different. So here's the conversation as they state in their book. The counselor says, Bobby, is there a class you don't get in trouble in? Bobby says, well, I don't get in trouble on Mrs. Smith's class? Well, why not? Well, she's nicer than everybody else. Oh, yeah, well, what makes her nicer? Well, she just is. So the counselor wanted to see for themself, after observation, the counselor identified that Mrs. Smith did something different than any other teacher that Bobby had. A couple of those things include, one, she greeted Bobby at the door every day and said it was nice to see him. And after giving instructions to the whole class, she always touched base with Bobby because he had some difficulties in understanding and had some learning struggles. And finally, she said something of encouragement to Bobby each and every day. This gave the counselor something of clarity to work with the other teachers around. She wanted to see if she could replicate the same interaction in each classroom to see if there could be a change in Bobby's behavior. Well, three months later, the number of days of Bobby was sent to the principal's office had declined 80 percent, and most times at least five out of the six classes, he wasn't kicked out of them. So, now he's still not a model student, they said, but something changed. They were able to identify something that got through Bobbi's hard exterior to that place where he responded differently. The opportunity was right in front of them to create a space, and this one teacher said, it doesn't matter to me all the things being said about Bobby, I want to find it.

Dale Gustafson: [00:03:33] Now, there's a truth here for all of us, that's there is this place within each one of us in the way we think, in the way we feel, and that space is where the Holy Spirit does works in us, that seems to matter. That space that seems to be fought for by the things of God, and by the things not of God, the things of this world. There's a battle for that inner space. Henri Nowan makes this observation in his book, he writes this, "A spiritual discipline is something that creates space in our life. But it's not just space for space's sake, it's space for Christ. It points us in Jesus's way." So that begs the question is, how is your space? The gospel writer probably refers to this as the soil, the soil where the seed fell? What's your response? What are you thinking about? What has access to your heart? Because the condition of our soil, the condition of this space within us, often determines at least our initial response to something.

Dale Gustafson: [00:04:46] Let me share it this way, there's a story that I tell people from time to time, sometimes in messages, sometimes just sitting around the dinner table. And I've seen over time that according to how a person's space is, they respond a little differently to this story. It goes like this, I'm one of six kids, I'm the youngest of six kids, And the oldest brother of mine is only eight and a half years older. So there are six kids within eight and a half years, that's a lot of children, that's a lot of years being pregnant for my mom. We would show up like a campground, we would have like two camping sites. We were all excited, we'd get out of the car and everybody else around us suddenly would pack up their gear and move to another spot, I thought it was great. When we show up at a restaurant, we often got placed in the back, like in the backroom away from everybody else, that was just kind of our experience.

Dale Gustafson: [00:05:35] Well, one of the things you do when your dad is that in order for you to keep your hobbies going, you teach your kids what you like to do, and my dad loved to snow ski, so he would often take all of us if you imagine six kids out on the ski slopes. Now, we have different levels of experience, so my older brothers would be on the more difficult hills, and because it was the 70s, I was left by myself to ski by myself on an easy hill. The reason I say that is because that's something we wouldn't do anymore, like, here seven-year-old go off and ski by yourself, but I did. And I remember finding my dad at lunchtime in the ski lodge and saying, Dad, I had an amazing morning, I am so good at skiing now. He's like, oh yeah? But dad, I didn't fall once. And he looked at me and he said, well, maybe you're not trying difficult enough hills. Now, when I tell that story, there are some people who go like, heck, yeah, that's the kind of dad I want to be like, I want to challenge my kids. And then there's other people who are like, oh, you poor person, that must have been so hard, that must have damaged you, that must have caused you to go down these paths. And I'm like, no, that's just who my dad was.

Dale Gustafson: [00:06:54] Now, the point of the story isn't to say this is what's right about fathering, a wrong about fathering. But what I've learned is, according to your experiences, according to your schema, according to your life experiences, you're going to have a different response in that space. You're either going to have great empathy for potentially a hurt child, or you're going to feel motivated, and that's an indication of the condition of your heart. Not just what's hurtful, but also what's challenging.

Dale Gustafson: [00:07:26] There's a verse, or set of verses, in the book of Hebrews that I want us to go through this morning. The writer of Hebrews is writing this letter to a group of people that have come to faith in Jesus, they had left this very distinct Judaism way that they'd had and they started to follow Christ, but they kind of drifted back and forth. And the writer of Hebrews had just finished listing all these amazing people of faith and the Jewish faith, and then they make this connection to this is now how you should live. Let me read it to you, it comes from Hebrews Chapter 12. He writes this, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Dale Gustafson: [00:09:57] There is a really intentional turn in the writing of Hebrews who has gone from these heroes of faith and say we have a cloud of witnesses and focus on Jesus. They were so convinced that the death and resurrection of Jesus had changed everything, that the ways of the past, though it mattered, it wasn't everything. And now there's this relationship with a God in heaven who cares about that space within you. And cares enough about discipline, and encouragement, to help shape.

Dale Gustafson: [00:10:28] But here are some observations I want to make from these verses for us today, the three are this. There's a value of perseverance, and we'll talk a little bit about where it comes from. There's this idea and this truth that when you reject redirection, you're actually rejecting maturity. And the third piece is, that training happens all along the way in our life.

Dale Gustafson: [00:10:53] The first one is this, there's a real value of perseverance and where it comes from. "Let us run with that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Now, if I was to ask you, who here wants to grow weary and lose heart? Probably nobody would raise their hand. In fact, if you ask yourself that question, it makes a little more sense. Do I want to grow tired? Do I want to lose heart? You see, perseverance is not how to continue when you are weary. What the writer says, it prevents you from becoming weary, it prevents you from becoming strained, it prevents you from losing heart. Because we get to these points with that inner life of us losing heart, we've gone weary, we're at the end of our rope, and then we turn and then we pray for perseverance. But there is an opportunity for your inner life to be persevering, so you never get there.

Dale Gustafson: [00:11:48] We give ourselves a chance to persevere when we identify and throw things off of us because there's extra weight. And some of those things are sin, let's just be honest. Some of those things that so easily entangles are the continual things we fall into, the things that disappoint God, not just for disappointment's sake, but because it's actually hurting us. And there are times that we need to admit and confess that we're living a contradiction, that we are ungratefully forgiven. And there are other times that maybe it's not as obvious, maybe you have some expectations of how life should have been, or what a father would have been like, or what my father should have been like, and we start to strive out of these weaknesses. Or we think this is what God should have done in that circumstance, there's a lot of disappointment. Maybe you're disappointed in others and what you think others should be doing, or how life should be, and those things are weighing you down as well and entangling you.

Dale Gustafson: [00:12:50] But perseverance comes from not only the detangling of those things, but there's this living out of our own strength of who God is and what God is doing in us. This can be a strength of interest, the strength might be a learned skill, but it can be something that you do, you just do it differently. Because there's a trap when we strive to do everything in this life, just like everybody else, we compare ourselves. It's the comparison trap, and it gets us in trouble, and then it attacks our hearts.

Dale Gustafson: [00:13:21] Let me give you a really simple example of this. My daughter wanted to play soccer, and God made my daughter in very unique ways. In fact, when my daughter was very young, we were actually concerned whether she was going to talk or not. Because many other kids her age the first couple of years of life were talking, and my daughter didn't really say a word. So we brought her to the doctor, we got her hearing checked, we did all those things. But when my daughter decided to talk, it seemed like she didn't start with words, she started with sentences and paragraphs. In fact, I had to often remind my daughter to breathe in between the paragraphs she was saying to us, so my daughter was a talker. We signed her up for soccer, I actually think it was the soccer league here at this church, she was like five years old, it was like 17 years ago, and she played the defense. Now there was somebody on the other team who was her really good friend and she was really good on offense. In fact, she scored many goals every single game. But my daughter had a different strategy, she didn't really realize it, but she's like, I'm just going to talk to this girl. So most of the game, my daughter was talking to her friend Kimmy, and just distracting her. And there is this point in the game where Kimmy's dad was a coach on the other team and he would say, Kimmy, get your head in the game. And I realized what was happening, and I'm like, Anna, keep talking to Kimmy, just keep talking to her. And then her dad would yell, Dale, that's not how you play soccer. And I'm like, it ain't how you play soccer, but this is how my daughter plays soccer. In fact, the whole season, I think my daughter touched the ball twice, but she used that skill of talking to distract, to play defense. And you're like, okay, that's not really the rules. But my point is Kimmy didn't score a goal the whole game, so it could be said my daughter played great defense, but she did it her way.

Dale Gustafson: [00:15:20] And that is transferable to so many things, that we think we need to parent like the neighbor's parent, we think we need to live like we see on Instagram, we think we need to be who somebody else tells us to be. And yet God is saying, I want you to live out of who you are and how you do things. Now, I think my daughter is the most amazing twenty-two-year-old person I ever met, but she can't play soccer, but she used her gifts. And it's that internal work in her life, and it's the internal work in anyone's life that develops those strengths, and it comes from those places of perseverance.

Dale Gustafson: [00:16:02] You see, our battle is not traditional, our battle isn't flesh and blood, but it's spiritual. And in Romans, it says, man, "The same Holy Spirit that rose Christ from the dead is living in you. And in those darkest moments of some of those teenage years with my daughter, when all of my advice of life, it all fell flat. The one thing I knew was true, is that the same Holy Spirit that rose Christ from the dead was in that space of my daughter, and that's all I could say to her. Man, the same Spirit is in you, you can do it. And as a dad, it's tough, but that space matters.

Dale Gustafson: [00:16:49] The writer of Hebrew continues, that perseverance also comes from others, but so does the drain of perseverance. Parker Palmer writes this in his book, “When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless, a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. That kind of giving is not only loveless but faithless, based on the arrogant and mistaken notion that God has no way of channeling love to the other except through me. Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.” Here's my point, we have to personally identify the drains in our life, those times where what we are doing is actually dangerous to other people. Community gives us life, but community takes life, we need to do really, really well with that. And as believers, we are called to forgive one another so these things are inevitable. So there's an expected amount of things that will just happen between each other so that we need to forgive each other. But we should also be striving to decrease the amount of times where we actually need to forgive each other as well.

Dale Gustafson: [00:18:27] Secondly, when we reject redirection, we're rejecting maturity. The writer of Hebrews writes, "Submit to the Father of spirits and live." Now, redirection can happen so many ways and sometimes we feel like things aren't working out in my life, so God must be punishing me. Well, he might be redirecting you, things just might not be working out. There's a play, the enemy wants you to think God doesn't care for you, but yet, God says, I have something great for you. So it might be discipline, and might not be disciplined, the bigger issue isn't to decide what it is, it's just what can I learn from this?

Dale Gustafson: [00:19:06] Now, I experienced kind of two redirections distinctly in my life, one of them was like a public one, that it is kind of like it woke me up to some things and one was a very personal one. I remember being like in my early 20s, I was a youth pastor, I thought a lot of myself, I thought I was a pretty cool youth pastor. I don't know how I did it, there was no social media back there to tell me how wonderful I was, I just figured I was great, a lot of kids coming to youth group. And I was at this conference, and I just felt like I you know, I'm not like one of those young 20-year-olds just out of college, but I'm not like close to 30 being old and irrelevant, I thought I was like in my sweet spot. And the speaker at the conference said, hey, there's a group of people here right now that are so smart and so insightful and so full of energy, I considered that he was talking about me and my age group. And then you get to this point and he says, who here is in their late 20s? And there's like a couple thousand people on this conference, and we raise your hands and we cheered because I was assuming, yeah, he's talking about me. He's like, if you're in your 20s, I'm not talking to you. In fact, stop talking until you turn 30, and then everyone over 30 started cheering. And then he went on to talk about people who are older and have perspective. Now, in that moment, it's kind of a funny age thing. But I thought, wait, might there be something true to this, might there be something different than how I'm seeing myself?

Dale Gustafson: [00:20:33] And then there was this other moment, it happened a few years later. I was sitting at a staff meeting and an older person in my church who was probably in his mid-70s came to speak to us, and there was this dripping of wisdom and perspective and love. And he just saw life so much different, and his love for God came from a different place than where my love for God came from. And at the very end of this talk, I came up to him and I said, this may sound weird, but what's the biggest difference between me at my stage of life and you at your stage of life? And he looked at me and he says it's perspective, you can't fast track it, you can't cut corners, it happens over time, it happens when you allow God to teach you the things you cannot and will not learn on your own, it happens when you give him access to that space in your life that the world is fighting for. And he will bring you to places that are bigger than you, not bigger than him, and then he says, let me show you what I can do. And when you resist those places, you miss the chance to be discipled by the Lord of the universe. That woke me up. You may not define that as discipline, but that was a loving Father God moment of saying this is where you are, let me show you where you could be, let's move.

Dale Gustafson: [00:22:13] So my question for you is, what will you do with what God has placed in front of you? Redirection, sometimes, is painful, redirection, sometimes, looks subtle, but your response to it changes everything.

Dale Gustafson: [00:22:29] And the encouragement to this is this, the third point, there is training that happens with us all along the way for our entire life. The writer of Hebrews writes this, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. And later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." There's always something training you and leading you in the direction of courage or fear, of truth or lies, and whatever is leading you is that thing that has access or control of that inner life within you. And I have learned over my time in my life to pay attention to what has access to my heart and to my mind. The Apostle Paul in Philippians describes it like this, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Because those are the kinds of things, what you're dwelling on, permeates that space. So in a very simple and clear way, we have to ask ourselves what has access to our heart, to our mind, to that space?

Dale Gustafson: [00:23:50] Sometimes I ask myself questions, and so it can be revealed to me. The questions I often ask myself is, what am I striving for? What do I want people to be saying about me now? What am I looking to for validation of worth, of value? And it does me no good to be dishonest, I just had to be completely honest because this tells me what really is informing that inner place in my life. And another thing that I used to do that I had to stop, was that we all have these kinds of things we call stress relievers, right? Or, man, I've had a rough day or a rough month, I just need to go do this. And for me, it was like going to a ballgame or spending time with friends, and those things are all good. But I started to realize that the things I called stress relievers were really just distractions, they just were this inadvertent avoidance of the things going on inside of my life. They just distracted me from it, so I didn't have to deal with it anymore. And in a real way, this is what we saw a lot this past year. As things shut down, and life became in some ways simpler as far as the things we could and couldn't do for many of us, all that stuff started to rise up, the things we never had to deal with before because we were busy enough to keep them at bay, and they rose to the top. And for some, it caused some really serious traumatic things, and they want to deal with them and we need to deal with them, and for some, it just caused confusion, then we kept blaming the current events on those. But the reality was, there were so much unresolved things because we never stopped to say what has access to my inner life.

Dale Gustafson: [00:25:35] Because the truth is this, is Jesus addressed this very clearly in saying what's the condition of your heart? He said it this way, "But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them." You know, there's that phrase, sometimes we'll say something that's not very kind, or mean, or whatever, and we are like, man, I don't know where that came from. I know where it came from, it came from your heart. Now, when I'm honest, and when I say something that's actually cutting and hurting, I have to go, man. I need to figure out where that came from. I know where it is, it's somewhere in my heart I said it, so there's some truth to it, I've got to do some work. Ken Gire, in his book The Reflective Life, said it this way, "There's a way of living that actually prepares the heart so that something of eternal significance can be planted there." It's how we live, it's how we think, it's how we feel, but is that eternal place, it's that space where the Holy Spirit resides, and there's that battle for.

Dale Gustafson: [00:26:42] So if all of that is true, how then should we be preparing and praying for each other? We often pray, maybe I'll just put myself in there because I'm not sure how you often pray. But I often pray around circumstances, don't let this happen, or I want safety here, heal this person, all good prayers, you know, God honors those prayers. But there's a different kind of prayer life that actually gives God, thy will be done, when we're saying God, I pray that you have access to their heart, whatever you want.

Dale Gustafson: [00:27:14] I'll explain it like this, as my daughter was growing up, I often would say to her, here's the kind of person that I want you to marry one day, man, he's got to love God, he has got to love you, and babe, he's got to love the 49ers. Now, I know your pastor Tim isn't super happy about that one, being a cowboy fan, but truth is truth Tim, I'm sorry about that. So I would say this, and the cool thing is, you know, like, she would date somebody who loved her and love God, but, man, he was like a Seahawk fan. I'm like, that ain't going to work out, and just kind of joking, but it didn't work out. And now there is a different boy in the picture, and he loves the Niners, so there's a chance. But all joking aside, there's a truth here because what actually matters, those things that are outside of our control. And let's just say as parents, there are things we can hope for, there are things we can dream for, but it's outside of my control who my daughter dates. So my prayer isn't around his behavior. My actual prayer is, God, I just pray that whoever she marries one day, that the Holy Spirit has access to his heart. Because when the Holy Spirit has access to your heart, he encourages you, he comforts you, he convicts you, he challenges you, he redirects you, he does all the things you want in the inner life. Because from the inner life comes the outer expression.

Dale Gustafson: [00:28:43] Paul writes it like this in Philippians chapter 3, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." What Paul is saying is there's an outward expression, but it takes place from an inward change. Who I was no longer matters, that's what he's forgetting behind, and I press forward out of this strength of my inner life.

Dale Gustafson: [00:29:17] One final thought. from once again, the author, Parker J. Palmer, from his book, Let Your Life Speak, he says this, A leader, and this world leader can be replaced by a father, or a mother, or a brother, or a sister, or a person, but he's referencing a leader. He says this, "A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light upon some part of the world and upon the lives of the people who dwell there. A leader shapes the ethos in which others must live, an ethos as light filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A good leader is intensely aware of the interplay of inner shadow and light, lest the act of leadership do more harm than good." What this author has identified is that inner life, if not paid attention to, will cast the shadow of harm. You want to be a great dad, you want to be a great mom, you want to be a great employee, you want to be a great student, whatever it is, step one, give the Holy Spirit access to that inner life, pay attention to the battle going on inside your mind. When God wants to redirect, let Him, when God wants to encourage you, let Him, but give that space, give that first fruits, give that first place. Because this isn't just an opportunity, it's what God absolutely is desiring for you and for me. And blessed community comes out of this space, community that works come out of this space, where I want to help you experience all that God has for you. Because my prayer life has to be and should be, and as a community of believers really should be, man, I want to pray for you not so that you agree with me, but so that you agree with him. I mean, that's what community is about, it isn't having one brain agreeing with each other, it's agreeing with Him. And when we agree with him, the inevitability is that our inner lives are reflecting something and we're casting light and not shadows. This awareness that Parker references comes from maturity, it comes from confidence, and it comes from assurance. Maturity comes when you journey and learn through struggle, through the things that are bigger than you. And confidence comes by taking what you have learned from the past struggles and implement for victory in the next struggle. And finally, this assurance comes from just doing this with other people.

Dale Gustafson: [00:32:12] My hope for you this morning is, that even if it's just the smallest step, you say, God, I want to give you that inner part of my life, teach me, show me. And if you have a loved one in your life, whether it's your child, your dad, your mom, whatever the relationship is, and you're just, you might be at your wit's end, and your advice is falling flat, all the things, just pray that the Holy Spirit can get access to the heart because that's where the real change happens, that's where the Gospel lives.

Dale Gustafson: [00:32:46] Let me pray for us. Father, thank you for this time together. Father, I pray that we would be people that pay attention to the things that are going on inside of us and that we just allow you to shape, mold, and carry us. That we wouldn't cover up those things, that we wouldn't hide those things, but we'd have spaces where like, man, this is what's actually going on in the inside and deal with it, and hand them over to you, and hand it over to each other. May those who are caught in the trap of performance or comparison let go and let you breathe new life and new assurance with it. Father, we give you this time, in Your name. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032