Phase IV: God’s Tractor Pull!

Tractor pulling is a motorsport race where modified tractors pull a heavy sled along a track. The friction and resulting resistance to being pulled by the sled vary from minimal at the starting line and increases until the tractor can no longer pull it. The winner is the tractor that can pull the sled the farthest!

Consequently, the tractors start off moving quickly, but each foot of ground covered causes the friction to increase such that what seemed comfortable at first becomes impossible, and the tractor stops. In this way, each tractor is tested only up to the limit it can endure and no more. Therefore, no one can cross the finish line, for all will meet their match somewhere on the journey down the track; even tractors with multiple engines producing thousands of horsepower cannot complete the race!

Phase IV: Death of self-will (self-abandonment or brokenness stage) (Philippians 3:10…being conformed to His death,)

In Phase I, of our spiritual journey, we began to know in whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12), leading to the experiencing of His power in Phase II (Acts 1:8) followed by suffering designed to form the character of Christ in Phase III (Romans 5:3,4). Those that learned to suffer effectively (1) in Phase III will have cooperated with God in the use of His power to overcome the cause of suffering in ourselves and others through prayer, preaching, teaching, ministering, etc. At the beginning of Phase III, we wielded the Word of God with dramatic and nearly immediate results. However, as we learned more of the power available to us in the Word of God, the problems and resulting suffering intensified in our lives. While we were still able to help others, it seemed we were less and less able to use the power of God to help ourselves out of situations causing suffering. Enter the tractor pull race of God – where the opposition increases as we increase with the goal of us reaching the end of our self-will. No one that is “alive to self-will” can finish this race no matter their gifts, talents, and abilities!

The purpose of Phase IV of our spiritual journey is to conform us to His (Jesus’) death (Philippians 3:10). This is not referring to physical death, which we all must experience at the end of our time on Earth (Hebrews 9:27). This is the death to self that Jesus modeled (1) when He willingly set aside His position as God in Heaven over this whole universe with millions of angels waiting on and worshipping Him and became the God-Man servant on Earth that humbled Himself to the point of dying on the cross for us.

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5–8 NET)

During His time on Earth, Jesus only did what our Heavenly Father showed Him to do.

So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. (John 5:19 NET)
I can do nothing on my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. (John 5:30 NET)
“But I have a testimony greater than that from John. For the deeds that the Father has assigned me to complete—the deeds I am now doing—testify about me that the Father has sent me. (John 5:36 NET)

Jesus only spoke only what our Heavenly Father asked Him to speak.

For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told me.” (John 12:49,50 NET)
The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:24 NET)
I charge you before God who gives life to all things and Christ Jesus who made his good confession before Pontius Pilate, (1 Timothy 6:13 NET)

Jesus did this so flawlessly that to see Him was to see what God our Father is like.

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9 NET)

Furthermore, that is why Jesus is called the WORD because there is no difference between the words that God the Father is saying and what Jesus is doing.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. (John 1:1 NET)
Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. ” (John 1:14 NET)
“Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come—it is written of me in the scroll of the book—to do your will, O God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:7 NET)

Similarly, we are to die to self (i.e., die to disobedience or sin) in every area of our lives. Jesus referred to this as “picking up our cross daily.” Note that just “wanting” to save our lives, even if we do not save it, will cost us living His life, or rather Jesus living His life through us.

Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34–35 NET)

Furthermore, we must successfully complete Phase IV, or we will never experience Jesus living His life through us, which is Phase V, the final phase of our spiritual journey.

and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11 NET)
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NET)

While we were able to use the power of God for ourselves in Phase III, we will find that this is NOT possible in Phase IV. In Phase III, we went from being very confident in our ability to use the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18) to win spiritual battles to NO confidence in ourselves but only in the armor to win the battles as we yielded to and wielded it. While this understanding will allow us to effectively intercede and minister to others, it does not provide the protection we will need as we go forth to destroy the works of the enemy.

The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8 NET)
with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. (Acts 10:38 NET)
I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12–14 NET)
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time for prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried up, who was placed at the temple gate called “the Beautiful Gate” every day so he could beg for money from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple courts, he asked them for money. Peter looked directly at him (as did John) and said, “Look at us!” So the lame man paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!” Then Peter took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. He jumped up, stood and began walking around, and he entered the temple courts with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the man who used to sit and ask for donations at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with astonishment and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1–10 NET)

Realize, if the weapons provided our own deliverance during this phase, then we could wrongly learn to operate independently of an intimate relationship with God our Abba-Father (Daddy-Father). The plan all along has been for God to have children that have willingly abandoned their lives to Him in a loving relationship with the God who is love Himself (1 John 4:16).  Jesus modeled not using the power for Himself but rather depending on His Father when Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3,4,11). That is, He depended on God His Father to meet all His needs while He concentrated on using the power to serve the needs of others as the Father directed.

Consequently, tenacious and torturous personal suffering will come that no wielding of the armor of God will provide victory (2 Corinthians 12:7 (2)). The armor will provide relief and keep it suppressed, but it will NOT remove it so that it has no power in our lives any longer (Ephesians 6:13). That is, we win the battle but not the war – victory is winning the war! This war for our soul will rage on with our becoming increasingly efficient at using the weapons of our warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4,5). However, as we become more proficient and thus able to endure more suffering, more of the demonic and fallen angelic are unleashed upon us (Ephesians 6:12. 1 Corinthians 10:13). During this time, we may turn to God when weary, but NOT at the end of our strength and ability, and ask Him to stop the suffering. However, God knows that self-will still has the strength and judges it right for the suffering to continue.

For even if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I would be telling the truth, but I refrain from this so that no one may regard me beyond what he sees in me or what he hears from me, even because of the extraordinary character of the revelations. Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. (2 Corinthians 12:6–9 NET)
We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:8–10 NET)
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast about the things that show my weakness. (2 Corinthians 11:22–30 NET)

As this tractor pull race continues, we will become more aware of various things slowing us down (1). Some of these things will be a sin, and some are simply distractions to our divine destiny in life.  Consequently, we learn to seek the Lord’s wisdom and choose to have them removed.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, (Hebrews 12:1 NET)

However, there will be one major area that we cannot remove, no matter the fighting or pleading with God. This one major area is the cross God, our Father, has uniquely chosen for us to bear.

And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it. (Matthew 10:38–39 NET)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24–25 NET)
Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34–35 NET)
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23–24 NET)
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26–27 NET)
The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life. If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:25–26 NET)
(for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. (Romans 8:13 NET)
So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5 NET)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good. (Titus 2:11–14 NET)

Until finally (maybe years), the battered and war-weary skilled warrior realizes that no amount of human effort, even with expert wielding of God’s armor, will provide deliverance. That is, he cannot pull the load any further (2 Corinthians 1:8). Then with all self-will’s strength expended, he falls on his knees and turns to God in tears and asks Daddy-Father to please remove the source of the suffering.

But now, O Lord, upon what am I relying? You are my only hope! Deliver me from all my sins of rebellion! Do not make me the object of fools’ insults! I am silent and cannot open my mouth because of what you have done. Please stop wounding me! You have almost beaten me to death! You severely discipline people for their sins; like a moth you slowly devour their strength. Surely all people are a mere vapor. (Selah) Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cry for help! Do not ignore my sobbing! For I am dependent on you, like one residing outside his native land; I am at your mercy, just as all my ancestors were. Turn your angry gaze away from me, so I can be happy before I pass away. (Psalm 39:7–13 NET)

Suddenly, with one fell swoop of  His two-edged sword, the LORD God annihilates the hoards of the enemy and on the return swing of His blade turns the war-torn battlefield into a flower garden with a babbling brook, butterflies, singing birds, and luscious green meadows.

The godly cry out and the Lord hears; he saves them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged. The godly face many dangers, but the Lord saves them from each one of them. (Psalm 34:17–19 NET)
Pray to me when you are in trouble! I will deliver you, and you will honor me!” (Psalm 50:15 NET)
In my distress I cried out to the Lord. The Lord answered me and put me in a wide open place. The Lord is on my side, I am not afraid! What can people do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper. I look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take shelter in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take shelter in the Lord than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:5–9 NET)
He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hate me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in my day of calamity, but the Lord helped me. He brought me out into a wide open place; he delivered me because he was pleased with me. (Psalm 18:17–19 NET)

Including fantastic food, too!

And surely, he drew you from the mouth of distress, to a wide place, unrestricted, and to the comfort of your table filled with rich food. (Job 36:16 NET)
You prepare a feast before me in plain sight of my enemies. You refresh my head with oil; my cup is completely full. (Psalm 23:5 NET)

The warrior then sees the wisdom in the phases of spiritual growth and that suffering was the only way to learn this truth, the only way to crucify the flesh, the only way to brokenness, the only way to the death of self-will, it is the way of the cross, it is the way of the Master!

Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load. (Galatians 6:4–5 NET)
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer. And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again, (2 Corinthians 1:3–10 NET)
He delivers the afflicted by their afflictions, he reveals himself to them by their suffering. (Job 36:15 NET)
It was good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes. (Psalm 119:71 NET)
Sorrow is better than laughter, because sober reflection is good for the heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:3 NET)
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 NET)
because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith. Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4,5 NET)
The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:7 NET)
The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will in no way be harmed by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:11 NET)
The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give him some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on that stone will be written a new name that no one can understand except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 NET)
And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations— he will rule them with an iron rod and like clay jars he will break them to pieces, just as I have received the right to rule from my Father—and I will give him the morning star. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 2:26–29 NET)
The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:5–6 NET)
The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:12–13 NET)
I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” (Revelation 3:21–22 NET)
The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7 NET)

Recommended reading for a Phase IV Christian:

Brokenness, the Forgotten Factor of Prayer (1) by Mickey Bonner

  • Publisher: Christian Literature Crusade; Assumed First edition (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • ISBN-10: 187857812X
  • ISBN-13978-1878578129
The Five Phases of Spiritual Growth Series:

(Security, Wholeness, Success)

Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 
(3 John 1:2 NET)

(1) Select the link to open another article with additional information in a new tab.

(2) The form of this Koine Greek word translated “messenger” occurs 47 times in the New Testament and is translated “angel (1)” 46 of those times.  It is the opinion of the author that it should have been translated “angel” consistently here, too.

Hal has taught the Bible for over three decades. Through an interdenominational ministry dedicated to helping the local church build men for Jesus, Hal trained men, the leaders of men’s ministries, and provided pulpit supply. Before that, he was a Men’s Ministry Leader and an Adult Bible Fellowship teacher of a seventy-five-member class at a denominational megachurch. Presently, Hal desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home. 

Leave a Reply