From a very young age, I learned quickly that I could not always do what others did. I was often punished harder, reprimanded more frequently and pushed to the forefront relentlessly.From childhood to young adulthood, I would constantly search for the loophole.. actually desiring to get away with scandals like what seemed 'everyone' else was doing. When I finally accepted that I was different, I was in college, however, instead of embracing it, I retreated into the shadows in order to avoid the punishment, expectations and responsibilities. However like other reluctant leaders in the Bible, God still pursued me, and never allowed me to trade my gifts. Dressed in a very handsome package, a young man I was dating was used to drawn me back to church after a few years hiatus. Immediately it began once I was back in the church, but by this time I was so weary of fighting to Lord. I decided to allow him to use me for the kingdom. This choice is what I call spiritual maturity. Its when you either get tired of fighting God or you realize you can't win, so you make choices based on God's overall plan for you, instead of what you may want. I have found that God will especially test me in the area of pleasure vs purpose. He will allow certain things or people to cross my path, and wait for my choice. If I make the wrong one, I am almost immediately reprimanded. The Lord knows my heart on some issues and wants me to become even more strong in these areas. Many critical areas of my life such as my career and marriage are purpose driven.. sometimes they are more work than pleasure, when I would certainly prefer more pleasure. However, I know the Lord is working in my life, so I must endure the process. This message is to strengthen the other leaders that may be frustrated by the challenging situations our Lord presents us with. Sometimes you may want to throw in the towel and assimilate into the worlds wayward ways, but I would tell you that beautiful things always take time to cultivate.. more likely if it is part of your divine purpose.. it will be hard. Not only are we responsible for our own fate, but we are Christian ambassadors in the public. If we choose to ignore our purpose, we put others fate in jeopardy. When you find yourself engaged in a battle in which you cant decide between what you want to do, and what you know is right, I would encourage you to draw closer to the Lord and study his word. There are countless examples of people in the Bible that had to make the tough choices to serve the Lord. First example that comes to mind is Abraham and his son Issac.. So Abraham loves this boy... it is his only son, and he waited years to even receive Issac from the Lord. One day the Lord commands Abraham to sacrifice the boy, and by all means Abraham is prepared to do it, but at the last moment, God spares Issac and sends an animal to take his place as a sacrifice. Now I can only imagine what Abraham was thinking upon this extreme request, but he proceeded in spite of his fear, and for his faith, he was rewarded. I will certainly concede that forgoing pleasure is difficult, undesirable and confusing. Everything around us promotes pleasure.. It communicates that we can do whatever we want, without any consequence.. and in all honesty... every person knows that is impossible; that everything has a cost..... I charge the leaders that struggle in the area of spiritual maturity to do more, be more, and be better... so many lives are a stake in a dying world. Consider the temporariness of this life, we have all eternity to experience pleasures without any pain.. can you imagine????