Forging the faithful… and standing the heat…. Words of Encouragement for those who serve God’s treasured people
Devotional Thought of the day:
28 So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. Colossians 1:28 (Phillips NT)
12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
Ephesians 4:12-13 (TEV)
There was a mother who, like all mothers, was passionately fond of her little child, whom she called her prince, her king, her treasure, her very sun. I thought of you. And I understood —for what father does not carry deep inside some maternal feelings?— that it was no exaggeration for that good mother to say: you are more than a treasure, you are worth more than the sun itself: you are worth all Christ’s Blood! How can I fail to take up your soul —pure gold— and place it in the forge, and fashion it with fire and hammer, until that gold nugget is turned into a splendid jewel to be offered to my God, to your God?
I was talking to another person in ministry this week, and we were talking about how to encourage young people to make the sacrifices of entering the ministry. Within the context was also the discussion of the sacrifices we make to serve others. One of the sacrifices you might realize as you read the words in blue above.
If we are to be the instruments that which the Holy Spirit uses to “forge” people, to shape and mold them as we teach them and administer the sacraments, that weans we have to deal with the heat as well. Using more Lutheran terminology, you can’t preach Law and Gospel without hearing it yourself. For that is how St Josemaria’s forge works, as we are purified and fashioned for the life God has planned for us – to be there for them.
Yet if we spend time at the forge, we have to be there in the heat, we have to hold on, and care for those God gives us to care for, to be there with the fire and the hammer, to work despite the heat, despite how it zaps our strength, despite their sweat and tears (and even the stubborn refusal to bend to God’s will)
Over 20 years of preaching in jails and churches, spending time at bedside and with those who are ill and dying, this is what ministry has taught me. It is those moments where the heat is the hottest that I remember – not for the pain, but for incredible beauty that appears as the Holy Spirit transforms them, as the Spirit revitalizes them and reveals in them the image of God in which they were created, which was marred and broken by sin.
And being in the heat – you get to witness this, you get to see it. You get to look to God and say – I see what you did there, Oh my, how holy! How they shine because of Your care, your mercy and love! How they reflect your glory! As we see this, the heat is forgotten, the Lord and His beloved children are all our mind can focus upon. It is an incredible blessing to see, more than any discomfort, far worth the sweat and the tears…
Miraculously something else happens, those of us who serve as tools, who endure the heat for others, realize the same heat that transformed them, is why we are able to bear the heat, because we too have been transformed and tempered as well. While sometimes we think we are not made for this work, God turns our lives into masterpieces as well.
Praise God for the heat of His forge, and the work He gives us…. for it is an incredible thing to have a small part in, as He uses us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)
2 But who will be able to stand up to that coming? Who can survive his appearance? He’ll be like white-hot fire from the smelter’s furnace. He’ll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. 3 He’ll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He’ll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they’re fit for GOD, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Malachi 3:2-3 (MSG)
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NLT)
It usually sits up on my bookshelf at home – close at hand, but above the reach of little hands.
When I look at it, I cannot help remember what it was, think of its journey, admire what it has become, and the skill of the craftsman (Jim Adams of JDA Knives) that forged it.
You see, it may be an unusual hobby for a pastor, but I collect knives. (and a sword or two) And my JDA knives are quite special.
You see, that knife has had a lot of pressure over the years… it started out as a railroad spike, keeping a a railroad tie and the track joined together. An important job, but one with the pressure of the trains passing over it, the weather and heat and cold trying to dislodge it from what it was set in place to accomplish – keeping people and things heading toward their destination.
When it was time to be taken up, when it’s role was complete, it was tossed aside…useless perhaps…. or at least in minds other than Jim’s.
He took it, saw something, thought of a conversation and a need, and with heat, and pressure and force, took this old rusty knife and changed it into something.. beautiful, useful, practical (it’s wicked sharp). He has a craft that few do, and this knife is a masterpiece. He gave it to me one day… just walked in and wanted me to have it… I am still a little in shock. But very grateful.
The Eph. 2 passage above is one of my favorites, not just because of verses 8-9 – but because of 10. Many people focus on the first two… and quote them without completing the thought. But they just talk of the need for refining – for repurposing and the fact that God does it. But 10, ahh, that speaks of the finished product, a beautifully crafted instrument that our lives become..with all the sin and dross taken care of, with the rust and pitting rubbed out (like in the second passage). God’s masterpiece, His poiema ( we get poetiy from that) His Opus Dei – the work of God. He takes what is washed up, used, abused and turns it into something wonderful, something that He uses for a purpose.
We have a new purpose, a new mission, a new message to communicate. God uses every bit of us to do so,
The pressures we’ve dealt with, the storms we’ve endured, the sufferings we have wondered if we would survive…
And through all the heat, the pressure, God is at work forging someone who will be used for the greatest work..that of revealing Christ to others… of giving the hope that knowing God can bring, the awe that the Master Craftsman of life does care, does love, does know us, and will turn our lives into something beyond our ability to comprehend… He will make us a blessing to others…
So my question to all that are enduring heat – wondering why? even wondering if He is there…
Will you lean upon Him? depend upon Him? Let Him forrge you masterpeice….
And what is He forging you for????
- A Second Call to Biblical Teaching/Preaching… appeal to Christ and His word… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Like Clay in the Potter’s Hands (markatstpauls.wordpress.com)
- The Refiner’s Fire (unveilinghope.com)