This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Joseph Ton (Romanian Christian writer), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:5)
Suffering is not without purpose. Peter writes that we are living stones which are joined together to build up a spiritual temple.
Peter must have had King Solomon's temple in mind when he wrote this. Solomon had stone-cutters working for him who hacked out the stones one by one from the mountains and polished them. Then, all the stones were transported to the building site, where they only needed to be put together. The Bible says that there was no sound of a hammer or a chisel on the construction-site; the polishing had already been done in the quarry (1 Kings 6:7).
Peter writes that we are living stones used to build up a spiritual temple. One day, the last stone will complete the building and what a wonderful temple it will be! God will reside there. But it also implies that we are now in God's quarry, a place of cutting and polishing, and that hurts.
Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ (the pain) as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. He persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:26-27).
That way God can use us--a living stone to build a spiritual house.
A moment of introspection: God using us, oh the blessed thought--
at the very end, to see what God has wrought,
we the stones in a spiritual house,
our place in the perfect temple,
with imperfect lives by Christ Jesus bought.
Joseph Ton described for us the building of the wonderful spiritual temple with the living stones that make the building of God's residence structurally sound. But until then... Brother Ton reminds us, the living stones, that "we are now in God's quarry, a place of cutting and polishing, and that hurts." Suffering is hard; it is never easy. Regardless of what we know and how hard we apply the principles of God's Word, it is going to hurt. Hannah Hurnard described our journey to the "Land of Love" as being the journey of Much Afraid, in the company of Sorrow and Suffering. Both of these are known to our Christian family and often to us, as we journey through God's quarry. The apostle Paul sought to help the church in Rome to understand their own suffering, seeking to allay the approach-avoidance conflict of Much Afraid in saying "...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:3-5) Shall we accept Suffering as our companion in the arduous journey through the quarry? Shall we welcome sorrow as a fellow traveler and yet praise God throughout our grief, as we wend our way toward the "Land of Love"? Perhaps our companions would develop in us perseverance, character, and hope. The question we must each face is not, 'if' we are going to have trials in life, but how will we respond to them? In Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, he wrote about suffering being inevitable (1 Thessalonians 3:3) so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. In St. Peter’s writing, Peter also acknowledged suffering in the believers’ lives; (1 Peter 4:19) Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
Thomas à Kempis, in his The Imitation of Christ (Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 2), wrote "Christ was despised on earth by men, and in his greatest need, amidst insults, was abandoned by those who knew him and by friends; and you dare to complain of anyone? Christ had his adversaries and slanderers; and you wish to have everyone as friends and benefactors? Whence will your patience win its crown if it has encountered nothing of adversity?" Adversity or suffering is not without purpose. Execration and insults work for our good (Romans 8:28). J. Hampton Keathley III, Th.M. explained that "Suffering is a tool God uses to get our attention and to accomplish His purposes in our lives. It is designed to build our trust in the Almighty, but suffering requires the right response if it is to be successful in accomplishing God’s purposes. Suffering forces us to turn from trust in our own resources to living by faith in God’s resources."
Oswald Chambers ("Christian Discipling", Vol. 1. Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 9) averred that "Perhaps to be able to explain suffering is the clearest indication of never having suffered. Sin, suffering, and sanctification are not problems of the mind, but facts of life--mysteries that awaken all other mysteries until the heart rests in God." Our life companion, Suffering, then would seem to be a fact in our lives. Could we shun her and grow in Christ? Could we ignore her and know victory in our lives? As Joseph Ton reminds us, Moses considered disgrace for the sake of Christ to be of greater value than earthly treasure (Hebrews 11:26-27); but why did he consider it so? Because he was looking ahead to his reward--because he saw him who is invisible.
Sorrow is a loyal companion--impossible to avoid in life, yet shall we overcome the grief that accompanies our imperfect lives? George Eliot (Pen Name for Mary Ann Evans, author and poet) wrote that "There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and recovered hope." A Latin proverb tells us that "There is no grief which time does not lessen." Our sorrows lessen over time, yet never completely leave us until we reach the "Land of Love" (Isaiah 35:10)--because of our imperfection. Paul, the apostle, wrote to the Christians in Rome, that we all have sinned and fall short of God's glory--His perfection. Through our sorrow, can we not find healing and growth? Jerry White, president of The Navigators wrote (Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2) that "Most of us cannot control our immediate response to losses. It simply takes time to reflect on them, to understand our feelings about them and to reorder our thinking." Sorrow takes time to work its healing, and may take time to bring our thinking in line with the will of God and the compassion that is His trademark. Sorrow brings upon us times for reflection and reordering of thoughts and feelings. In our own sorrow, we may learn to aid the sorrowful (Virgil, in his 'Aeneid', I, l. 630), receive succor from our Lord (Isaiah 53:4) and in turn offer comfort and help to others (2 Corinthians 1:4). This way, God can use us. God is the divine potter, and we are His clay, to be shaped and fashioned to His purpose, as His building blocks/stones. God will complete the building. He uses living stones that have been polished in the quarry through the suffering and sorrow of preparation. The Bible doesn't run from sorrow, but rather encourages us to see it as one of the blessings born on the battlefield. What does God’s Word say to us about Sorrow as a companion? Sorrow connects us to the comfort of God's presence (Matthew 5:4); Sorrow connects us to the heart of Jesus for His world (John 11:35); and Sorrow connects us to the hearts of those who suffer. Those of us who experience sorrow and are acquainted with grief are best able to help others who suffer. Intercession becomes deeper and more heart-felt if we have experienced the sorrow of loss, the distress of inflicted pain, the sadness because of sin in our own lives and others'.
May we, together, with Sorrow and Suffering to accompany, stand united with the suffering church. Bound together, joining hands and working together to know and to reach our goal. The apostle Paul asked the church to pray for him and his associates in missions. We are asked to remember those who suffer for the Name of Jesus, for if one member of the faith suffers, all we members of the faith suffer with it (1 Corinthians 12:26); may we pray for those who suffer, as suffering with them, in intercession. And, together, may we come to live by faith in God’s resources. In the quarry being fashioned or, beyond--experiencing the glory of God as He uses us living stones in the building of His Temple--may He make us and mold us after His will:
Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way, Lord,
Have Thine own way; Have Thine own way;
Thou art the Potter, Search me and try me,
I am the clay. Master, today.
Mold me and make me Whiter than snow, Lord,
After Thy will, Wash me just now,
While I am waiting, As in Thy presence
Yielded and still. Humbly I bow.
Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way, Lord,
Have Thine own way; Have Thine own way;
Wounded and weary, Hold o’er my being
Help me, I pray. Absolute sway.
Power, all power, Fill with Thy Spirit
Surely is Thine, Till all shall see
Touch me and heal me, Christ only, always,
Savior divine. Living in me.
We are polished, honed, shaped, and affirmed in our worth as living stones, in the building of God’s spiritual temple. May we yield ourselves to His grace, in His deft hands, humbling ourselves in His sight (James 4:10) in the quarry. May we let Him lift us to our position in the final construction, and await the installation of our last living stone to complete the building.