David armed himself with five smooth stones for the confrontation with Goliath. Consider the rounded, smooth stones found in a stream; they are continuously washed and eroded by the flowing water. In times of strong current, they are bumped against one another, gradually grinding down the rough edges.
Peter speaks of believers as living stones, built up as a spiritual house (I Peter 2:5). We are washed in the water by the word (Eph. 5:26). God uses the experiences of life, including our interactions with brethren and sisters, in the manner of a grinding stone to smooth off our rough edges. God shapes each one to fit with others into a suitable dwelling place for His name. The end result of this work is the New Jerusalem, comprised of precious gemstones where God will dwell with His people (Rev. 21).
Bearing in mind the process of washing by the word, we will consider five scriptural questions. Admittedly, they will be taken out of context and applied to us, but exposure to the scriptures is a major part of the process of shaping us into suitable stones for His temple.
Being in the right place
The first question for our consideration was posed to Adam after he had sinned in the garden: “And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9 NKJ). Obviously, God knew where Adam was and was fully aware of Adam’s disobedience. The real question for Adam was where was he in his relationship with God, or more specifically, where had he placed himself by his actions?
Where are we in this respect? Paul says there is a place where we are dead in our trespasses and sins. In this state, we are without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. This is the place into which we were born and, through God’s grace, from which we were called to a new situation described as: “being alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5,12). Indifference and neglect of the things of God, however, could so easily transport us back to that place of alienation.
Baptism brings us to a place of inheritance for, having “put on Christ,” we are therefore Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). The writer to the Hebrews describes a place where an individual, after having come to the truth, continues to sin willfully (Heb. 10:26). Here, hope of eternal life has been replaced with a fearful expectation of judgment. The apostle John tells of a place where we walk in the light, just as God is in the light. If we are walking in this area, although we sin, the blood of Christ will cleanse us (I Jn. 1:7).
Now consider the question on a personal level: Where are you in your relationship with the Father?
The righteous judge
When bargaining with the angel of the Lord regarding the destruction of Sodom, Abraham asked the rhetorical question: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). Here is the second question at which we look, and we ask ourselves, How often do we ask it? We see things in the world that test our faith — calamity, sickness, death or injustice — and find it hard to believe that God is doing right. It is a matter of faith, for the scriptures give us clear assurance: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NKJ).
At times this may not seem to be true, but we need to realize that God is shaping us, working with us and teaching us to trust. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Yes, He will. The scriptures teach us that the Father is faithful to His promises. But we need to ask ourselves, do we believe it? Do we trust Him? Trusting in the Lord brings great peace of mind, whereby we can “lie down in peace and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).
Getting the priorities right
“How long will you falter between two opinions?” Elijah asked as he confronted the Israelites during the contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:21). The word translated by the New King James as ‘falter’ is defined in Strong’s as ‘to hop.’ For the Israelites, this hopping back and forth was between Yahweh and Baal. Jesus tells us that the same situation applies to us, only in our case it is between God and mammon (Lk. 16:13).
What is mammon in our lives? It has been defined as money, worldliness. Perhaps it is best illustrated in the concept of the “American Dream” in which every family strives to own a home, a car or two, maybe a boat, to take annual vacations, to put their children through college and in general to leave the next generation better off than the last. It is not that these things are bad in themselves, but rather it is a question of priorities. Do we sacrifice our service to the truth to obtain these things? Or conversely do we sacrifice these things for the sake of the truth? Instead of choosing Bible School as our family vacation, is our precious vacation time used up in personal pursuits? When our budget gets tight, is our ecclesial donation the first thing or the last to get cut?
We cannot serve both God and mammon; it is one or the other. We like to have it both ways. On Sundays we may be serving God, but the rest of the week our service and hearts may be elsewhere. If we are truly seeking the ways of God, then the things that are so important to the world should not intrude so readily into our everyday lives. Frequently we must stop and evaluate our priorities and, if necessary, ask: “How long will we hop back and forth between two opinions?”
Asking in faith
“What do you want me to do for you?” was the leading question Jesus asked blind Bartimaeus and is number four for our consideration (Mk. 10:51). One wonders what the response would be, should the one who sits at the right hand of God (to whom angels, authorities and powers have been made subject), pose the question to us. The possibilities are endless, but consider for a moment what he has already done for us. Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the tree (I Peter 2:24). He has reconciled us in the body of his flesh, through death, to present us holy and blameless (Col. 1:21-22). He has partaken of the same flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy sin, the very cause of death (Heb. 2:14). In essence, he has given all that he has, completely emptying himself on our behalf. In the light of this knowledge, what more is there that we could ask of him? Yet he tells us: “Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (Jn. 14:13-14). He wants to help us. He is willing to give more!
James gives us instruction regarding the petitioning of our Lord. First of all, God gives liberally and without reproach, but we must ask in faith (Jas. 1:5-6). Equally important, our motives must be right and pleasing to our heavenly Father (Jas. 4:2-4). Therefore, it behoves us to think carefully before approaching the throne of grace with our requests.
Considering our service to God
The fifth question was asked by the penitent Paul, after the vision on the road to Damascus: “What shall I do Lord?” (Acts 22:10). Many years later, Paul instructed Timothy to fulfill his ministry (II Tim. 4:5). In like manner, we have an obligation to fulfill our ministry. It may be preaching, speaking, raising children in the Lord, organizing and planning ecclesial events, working in the service of the ecclesia, caring for the sick and elderly or talking to friends and neighbors. The important thing is to humbly and prayerfully ask: “What shall I do, Lord?” After carefully considering our skills and calling, we must convert thought into action, with a fervent and willing heart, being mindful that whatever we do it must be done as unto the Lord.
This exhortation has provided five questions for consideration. The objective was to expose our minds to the words of life that are able to metaphorically wash, smooth and shape us into stones able to oppose the Goliath-like confrontations of sin.
Now it is time to remember the chief cornerstone of God’s spiritual house, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our prayer that we may be selected as fitting stones for the building in which God will dwell.