Thursday, December 11, 2008
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Our friends live in a rugged and majestic area really in the American West. They call it "Big Sky Country" out there. Their house has been there for a long, long time - long before many other people settled where they are. Sitting in their living room, you can't help but admire these beautiful old logs in the walls. But for years, no one ever saw those logs. Over the years, they have been covered by first one layer of material, then another, then another. Our friends actually had to strip away five layers of stuff: plaster, sheet rock, even manure - layers that were covering up the original beauty of this house.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Painful Road to Beauty."
Our friends had to strip away layer after layer of this accumulated junk to get what now looks so beautiful. There's a Master Builder who's working on you and me, and He's using that same method to help us display the beauty we were made for. In fact, some of what you're going through right now may be Jesus stripping away another layer of ugly or useless stuff; not to hurt you, but to make you into something more beautiful than you ever dreamed you could be.
In Malachi 3:2-3, our word for today from the Word of God, He describes the process of His makeover miracles with another analogy, refining precious metal that really isn't very precious until it's refined. The Bible says the Lord Almighty "will be like a refiner's fire...He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He will purify...and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness." God's method of getting people ready to do important things for Him is to put them through the fire; not to burn them, but to remove the impurities that keep them from being useful to Him and valuable to others. He strips away old attitudes, old pride, old sinful baggage and ways of doing things, old layers of selfishness, self-reliance and self-centeredness. Not to cause you pain, but to make you more precious and more powerful than you've ever been before.
That doesn't mean that having junk stripped away doesn't hurt. It usually does. God uses hard things in your life as tools to remove another ugly layer. Romans 5:2-4 provide this helpful perspective on the hard things we go through: "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." I like that part. I want to have the glory of God reflecting from my life like the glory of the sun reflects through the moon. I don't especially like the next part, though. "Not only so, but 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."
Now why would we rejoice and be thankful for the hard things we're going through? Because we understand that they are the process by which the glory comes, by which the hope comes. I'm sure our friends in Big Sky Country must have gotten pretty tired of stripping away another layer after another layer. But I think I know what kept them going through the hard times. These words: "It's going to be worth it when it's done." And it is. I didn't see the process, but I sure saw the beauty that resulted.
Any person you know who reflects the radiance and the beauty of a life filled with God, I can guarantee you they have gotten that way, not primarily through their good times but through their great pain and struggle of the stripping processes of God. He knows what you can be, and He loves you too much to leave you like you are. Today's hard times are the tool of God to replace what's ugly and useless with something you will love and He can use. You won't always love the process, but you are going to love what He's making!