Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Jesus, Builder of Men & Women

Nehemiah builds temple

By Dennis Pollock

We moved recently from a small apartment to a moderately sized house. When I first founded Spirit of Grace Ministries the only way for the ministry to succeed was for me to take a small salary and move into a very modest apartment, so that most of our tiny ministry income could be funneled toward outreach and overseas missions. I hoped to eventually buy a house again, and after around fourteen years God has made that possible.

I knew that moving would be a big job, and I was not wrong. Starting about two weeks before the actual move, we began to pack our things into boxes. Soon our little apartment was filled with boxes and maneuvering from room to room was difficult. The more things we put into boxes, the more things we realized we had, and the more boxes we needed. I like things relatively neat and tidy, and our apartment quickly became the very opposite of that.

Finally, the day of the move arrived. We were more than eager to leave our “wilderness” and move into our “promised land.” We had help, so I didn’t have to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, but it was a long, hard day. At its conclusion we were exhausted but very, very happy. Our new house had so much more space than our small apartment, and we felt like birds released from a cage.

The Job of Unpacking

But of course we had a huge mess, just as much a mess as our apartment had been. Now all the boxes and suitcases were sitting in our new house, in our garage, and in nearly every room, waiting to be opened. If packing the stuff away was a big job, unpacking proved to be bigger and more time-consuming still. At least when packing we could throw things into any old box or suitcase, not worrying too much about placement. But in unpacking it was necessary to find the precise spot or cabinet or closet or room where each item should go. And we had so much stuff! True, much of it had come from garage sales and might not have seemed valuable to anyone else, but for us these things were our treasures. We probably should have tossed far more things than we did, but who can stand to throw their treasures into the dumpster? We couldn’t!

At the time of the writing of this devo, we are still sorting through things and organizing, two weeks after the move. It will probably be a couple more weeks before we get close to having things the way we want them. All the effort involved with this move will end up requiring a little over a month, but it will get done, by the grace of God. Meanwhile we are already enjoying the extra space and the niceness of the house. And of course, we have given God thanks again and again for it. He is the One who gives “every good and perfect gift.”

Getting a house in order after a move requires hard work, time, and patience. I typically like to get things in order quickly. When something is not working or needing to be organized and set in order I like to get it done – NOW! Some things work like that. But arranging a house most definitely does not. I would love to have worked day and night for two days and finished the project then and there. But that was not possible and I could never have done it. It is additionally somewhat frustrating for me to contemplate all that still needs to be done, and know that Benedicta and I can only allocate so much time each day to do it. Patience is surely required, patience with myself and patience with the process. One of the things that makes for patience is the hope of just how beautiful and lovely things will be once the work is complete. That shining hope keeps me going when I am unpacking boxes at midnight, after spending most of the day doing ministry tasks, writing, recording, and planning African missions, as well as taking the absolutely necessary time of praying and spending time in the Scriptures.

God’s Work in Us

As I have had time to think about the process of turning a house from complete chaos and disorder into order and beauty, I began to consider how God does the same thing with each of the children He adopts and births into His family through Jesus Christ. There are many similarities, and certainly I am a prime example of this. When I gave my life to Jesus Christ and trusted in Him as my Lord and Savior, I was a total mess. I was nineteen years old at the time, and not a particularly mature nineteen-year-old. I would love to be able to tell you that once I received Jesus, I gained immediate maturity, lost all my bad habits, and became a model Christian. But if I told you that I would be lying, big-time.

When we believe on Jesus for salvation, we are ordered to repent. “Repent and believe on Christ” is the message of the church. But the repentance experienced by new believers is a pretty basic repentance. We obviously know that we can no longer steal, lie, and be sexually immoral. If we have been practicing those things, we must repent of them and stop practicing them. But while we can repent of these flagrant, blatant sins, we cannot repent of immaturity or ignorance, or psychological issues, or ways of thinking that have been a part of our lives for decades. A new believer, transformed by the Holy Spirit through a knowledge of Jesus Christ, and reading the Scriptures eagerly to discover what God wants of him or her, is certainly a vast improvement over what he or she was before, but on close inspection, anyone can see that the individual has a long, long way to go. Certainly this was true in my life.

But the moment we believe on Jesus and become a child of God, we are automatically enrolled in God’s sanctification program. In short, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit begin to work in our lives to repair and correct one bad habit at a time, one psychological issue at a time, and one immature way at a time. God begins His work to bring us from chaos to order, from spiritually sloppy, messy, disorderly men and women into a people who model the beauty, kindness, uprightness, and love of Jesus. As with organizing a house, setting a new believer’s life in order is not a work of one or two days. Nor in fact does it involve two or three weeks. It is, in fact, a lifetime process.

Unique Issues

And we all come into the kingdom with our own unique issues, faults, and problems. The same approach that might work with a former motorcycle gang member might not at all be effective with a quiet little librarian. But both the gang member and the librarian require the same grace of Jesus and work of the Holy Spirit in order to make progress. None of us can do it on our own.

The Scriptures tell us: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Here is the great news! Here is our reason to have hope and faith that the process will work for us! There are surely things for us to do, and things for us to stop doing. There are tasks and experiences and joys and struggles and sometimes intense pain ahead of us that will be a vital part of our moving from chaos to order, from carnality to spirituality, from selfishness to compassion, from over-eagerness to quiet patience. But the good news is that God Himself, the great Alpha and Omega, the Creator of all the universe, the One who holds the stars and planets in their courses, is working in our little lives, making absolutely sure that we are growing every day and reflecting more and more of His beautiful nature.

Any great and lengthy work requires patience. It takes no patience to pop open a soda can, or turn on the television, or eat a donut. But to build a huge skyscraper is not the work of a few days. And neither is the building of a life. But our God is the ultimate Master-builder of men and women. Jesus tells His disciples: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Did you get that? Let me shorten it for you: “Follow Me and I will make you…” Let me say it again: “Follow Me and I will make you…” Jesus is the Maker of men and women. He carefully and patiently crafts us into vessels of honor and usefulness. He shapes us and forms us and polishes off rough edges and adds decorative designs upon us until at last He has an instrument perfect for His use. No, not perfect in the ultimate sense, but perfectly useful in His mighty hands.

Our Patient God

He is patient. You cannot take a kindergarten student and put him immediately into college level courses. He must grow, he must learn, and time must pass. Jesus knows this full well, and He does not rebuke us for our immaturity. Little babies act like… well, little babies. How could it be otherwise? We do not punish a baby for being a baby. We know that if we are patient and allow time to pass, the day will come when they will cease their baby ways and become adults. The lazy, disorganized, imprecise, chaotic lifestyle that characterized our youth will give way to maturity, a willingness to work long and hard at tasks, patience with disagreeable people, and ever-growing confidence in God’s goodness and provision through Jesus.

A house that is clean, orderly, and well-furnished is a beautiful thing. It is pleasant just to sit in such a house and drink in the lovely surroundings. But a life that is spiritually orderly, self-controlled, kind, patient, loving, and submitted to the Lordship of Christ is far more beautiful. Such men and women defy the common wisdom which says that people will always get more grumpy, impatient, and quick-tempered in their old age. Those who cooperate with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are the exception to this rule. As Moses’ face shown from the times he spent in the presence of God, so these elderly men and women will have a glow about them – not a physical glow, but gentle, kindly grace that makes them a blessing and an encouragement to those who know them.

God doesn’t rush things. He takes His time and does very precise work, as all craftsmen do. He moves us from season to season, working on various aspects of our personalities and character in each season. Some seasons are a lot more pleasant than others, but all are good, for all are directed and used by the One who loves us and desires our progress. Paul writes:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Something is Happening

As we meditate on Jesus in the Scriptures and behold His glory, something is happening in us. We don’t feel it at the time. There is no obvious evidence that much is going on, but over the course of the years of our lives we come to recognize that we are being changed. We dare not compare ourselves with others but the one person we may compare ourselves with… is ourselves. I am now in my sixties, and I know that the Dennis these days is better, more useful to God, and less impatient than the Dennis of my twenties and thirties. I’m more organized than that Dennis, more willing to work for Christ, and more confident in God’s willingness and ability to completely provide for me. That younger Dennis was a Christian, but today’s Dennis is a kinder, gentler, and more useful Christian. I am far from perfect, to be sure, and many others my age are further along than I am, but still I am grateful that I have made some progress.

I cannot take the credit. I did not bring myself from there to here. It has been God who works in me, and in all His children both to will and to do for His good pleasure, and it is Jesus who is our faithful Shepherd who leads us in paths of righteousness and fruitfulness for His name’s sake.

 

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