Story of Hope: Spiritual Growth - February 2020

Posted in Monthly Stories of Hope


Peggy face shot

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of

knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. (Philippians 3:8)

Dear Friends,

What does spiritual growth look like in our lives? Is it something that is easy to accomplish? How many years do we need to know Jesus before we can say that we are spiritually mature? What does it take to grow up spiritually? In the early years of my walk with Jesus, these were some of the questions that I would ask myself.

I came to know Jesus as an adult. I was a successful business owner and known in my community through appearances on TV and my work as a professional fitness trainer. However, I felt very immature in my faith. It wasn’t until my commitment to the Lord was tested for the first time, through physical suffering, that I really started to understand what it means to grow up in faith.

Shortly after my salvation, I sold my fitness business and went back to school to study the Bible and become a biblical counselor. I met my husband while in school, and God opened a door for us to be the coordinators of a biblical counseling ministry in a church. As we were working in the ministry, I finished my master’s degree and was considering pursuing a doctoral degree to further prepare me to help distressed women to find hope and healing in Jesus. Only a few months before I was to start the doctoral program, I checked into the hospital for routine surgery on my abdomen. During the procedure, an incision was made and a dark spot was cut off my stomach and sent to the pathologist. There was no concern that bad news would be coming back from the pathology report. As I was recovering from the surgery, however, the pathologist called and told me they had found Level IV melanoma cancer and needed to go back for more surgery on my abdomen.

My heart stopped! Hearing the news was devastating, and it only got worse as they wanted to examine some lymph nodes to see if it had spread to my internal organs. If it had spread there, I would have only a few months to get my affairs in order before the Lord called me home to heaven.

I couldn’t believe it! I was on track to start a doctoral program so I could be more equipped to minister to women – the very thing that God had called me to do. How could it all be over so quickly? I was not ready to let go of this life and the opportunity I had been anticipating to one day help women come to know Jesus. I fought with God, I fought with my husband, I fought with my own emotions. Then God stepped in!

I was reading through Philippians when I came upon Philippians 3:7–12. I can’t tell you how the passages just flowed over my heart and mind and brought me to a place of complete brokenness with God. I was fighting, I was weeping, I was resisting everything! Yet what I needed to do was repent of my desire to be in this world more than I wanted to be with Jesus.

I only remember the deep pit I was in when Jesus came and touched my heart so deeply. His love overwhelmed me and caused me to realize that this world has nothing to offer me compared with the surpassing knowledge of knowing my Jesus more deeply. I realized I wanted to know the power of his death and resurrection. I found that my heart had been more interested in what I could “do” for Jesus than it had wanted to “be” with Jesus. Jesus wanted me to long to be with him more than anything else in this world.

I was putting my work “for” Jesus ahead of being “with” Jesus. I had to let go of my desire to be known on earth as a biblical counselor and instead to grasp the desire to be with the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace. I confessed that I feared giving up all this world has to offer, and then I repented of that fear and surrendered my life to God’s will for me. Peace came rushing over my life and my heart. I was ready for whatever the Lord revealed in the results of the tests and surgery to come.

Soon after, it was revealed that the cancer had not spread to my other organs, and the medical team was able to remove all the melanoma in the second surgery. Miraculously, I was able to start my doctoral program only one month after the surgeries. It was a tremendous lesson and opportunity for spiritual growth in my life.

When God brings us to places where he tests our faith, these are the greatest opportunities for spiritual growth. What tests have you gone through with the Lord? How have you grown spiritually?

That lesson has given me a deeper trust in God’s will for my life even when the process or journey doesn’t seem to make sense. I also have a deeper desire to be with Jesus and a readiness to let go of this world when it is God’s time for me to be with him. And now it’s much more important to me for the women I counsel to come to know the Lord’s words and love than it is for them to acknowledge my role in their healing.

Today, I pray that you are willing to let go of anything that is keeping you from growing in your love for Jesus and to surrender to him. I pray that you are willing to open your heart and follow wherever he is calling you and that as you follow, you find the greatest opportunities for spiritual growth.

In Him our hearts rejoice,

Dr. Peggy Banks

Global Ministry Director

TWR Women of Hope


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