God’s Tumbler

Written by: George J. Elling

Did you ever wonder why the various people in your life are there? First there is family. They are there because of biological relationships and marriages. Then there are friends which we “pick” to be there. As the old saying goes, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.”

Next are people with whom we choose to have a professional relationship with, like doctors, dentists, auto mechanics, lawyers, etc. Then there are co-workers, bosses, employees, managers, business associates, etc. Some of us have teammates from a sports league or fellow volunteers from a charity we engage with. We may have fellow worshipers from a church or synagogue we go to. And, of course, there are those who are our neighbors and other people that don’t fit into one of the above categories.

We all interact with quite a few people in the course of a week. But, why are these particular people in our lives? Is there something deeper about why certain people are the people we interact with in a given week? Does it go beyond happenstance or “our choices?”

A tumbler is a barrel or a drum in which you place stones, or parts, along with some grit in order to polish them. Round and round the drum turns. The items inside are forced into each other, interacting with some friction, enhanced by the grit, to wear down the rough edges of the objects in order to achieve a smooth and polished result.

We, and the people in our lives, can be like the items in a tumbler. We are all going round and round, being forced to interact with each other, sometimes easily, and sometimes with a great deal of friction.

It is easy to simply view people in your life in terms of what they can do for you; a utilitarian view. You can also view people in terms of mission or ministry. These are people whom we are to “love on” and help. But, what if God has this particular set of people in your life to help shape and polish you as well as for you to help shape and polish them? What if you are in God’s tumbler?

This, of course, is not the only reason God allows, or places, people into your life. There are the practical and missional purposes as well. But, I think it is valid to consider how God is “polishing” your life when bumping up against others, especially when there is a bit of friction. We grow through struggle. This was true also of Jesus’ life. The Bible says;

“Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Hebrews 5:8

Jesus came in contact with all sorts of people during his life on earth. While he healed, helped, and discipled many, he also clashed with many. Some helped his mission, some ignored him. Some tried to control him, and some betrayed him. Through it all, the man, Jesus, learned experiential obedience to the Father and was made perfect, or mature. As a result, he became the man God the Father intended him to be.

After describing the work of ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers), Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:

15 “…But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Ephesians 4:15-16

Notice in this passage the special work of each of the various parts of the body of Christ (not just the professional ministers) and that they contribute to your becoming the man or woman God intends you to become. Not a generic man or woman, but a particular you, a part of the body of Christ who measures up to the standard and stature exemplified by Christ.

But how does this happen? Well, for example:

From the irritating, we learn patience and to appreciate calmness.

From those who persecute us, we learn endurance and to appreciate peace and security.

From the educated, we learn knowledge and to appreciate how much there is to know.

From the lovely, we learn beauty and to appreciate beauty.

From the helpless, we learn to give and to appreciate how God reaches out to us.

From the lonely, we learn to be a friend and appreciate God’s presence with us.

From the dysfunctional, we learn to bring and appreciate order.

From the poor, we learn to give and appreciate what God has given us.

From the ones who truly love us, we learn what true love is and gain a desire to share it with others.

I could add additional examples of how we are shaped by those in our lives, but I think you get the idea.

So today, why not reflect on how God may be shaping and polishing you by the interactions you experience with the people in your life. Pay special attention to the ones you feel cause discomfort and friction. God may be using that person to polish your own rough edges. And remember, it is Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) who will give you the ability to see and understand what God may be doing. Welcome to God’s tumbler!

7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 
2 Corinthians 4:7

17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

1 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4

-GJE

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Tough Encounters

The events of recent days have tried many people’s patience and understanding. We are seeing it all; from the sickness of the Covid19 virus to marches in the streets, to rioting and looting, and political intrigue. In the midst of it is easy to lose a focus on what being a Christian is all about.

Written by: George J. Elling

The events of recent days have tried many people’s patience and understanding. We are seeing it all; from the sickness of the Covid19 virus to marches in the streets, to rioting and looting, and political intrigue. In the midst of it is easy to lose focus on what being a Christian is all about.

Some side with a particular political or activist group. Some side with the police and others with the call to defund the police. Some identify with this racial or ethnic group and others with a different group. There are plenty of viewpoints to go around. As we all respond to people and the issues of the day here are a few things to keep in mind from a Christian perspective.

What has been happening is Nothing New nor a Surprise to God

There have been intergroup misunderstandings, dissentions, inequities and wars since the beginning of human history. Education, politics, police, armies, etc. cannot solve the basic problem of people’s hearts. Only God can change us from within. That is why Jesus told a very religious and pious man that he needed to be “born again” or “born from above” (John 3). God is in the business of changing us.

Also, remember that all of what comes your way is “filtered through the hands of God.” He knew this was going to happen and is with you through the midst of it.

“…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Matthew 28:20b

Act as God did, out of Love

“For God so loved the world that He gave…
John 3:16a

God was under no obligation to rescue us and save us from ourselves. He acted from a pure, self-giving love. This type of love always has a cost. This is why God’s actions to save us are referred to in the Bible as redemption and as God “paying” a price for our redemption.

Jesus instructed us to love as He loved, and to go so far as to love even our enemies.

If we are to have this type of giving love for enemies, how much more should we have this love for those who simply disagree with us or advance a different cause? Also, note that we are to pray for those we believe persecute us. Some of our problems are because we are not praying for those we disagree with.

See people and people-groups as God does – See them from Above

Our basic perspective is very limited. All we do is see things from our natural limited point of view and time on this earth, which is all too brief and self-focused.

Paul wrote that he no longer saw people after the flesh, i.e., from the viewpoint of a natural man who is without the Spirit of God in his life.

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:”
2 Corinthians 5:16a

Instead, Paul urged the following:

“1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
“2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4

Our present and future is not to be that of the natural man or woman who has not been born again of the Holy Spirit. We are to see people from the perspective of God and eternity. Our own rewards and glory will come when Christ is revealed again in all of His glory.

Resolve to be an Ambassador who is a Peace Maker

An ambassador is someone who represents another person or a country. An ambassador does not represent himself or his own self-interests. As we interact with others, we need to keep in mind that as a Christian we are to be ambassadors for Christ.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20

Christians are to be God’s ambassadors to bring about reconciliation between God and man and between men. Jesus taught his disciples:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Matthew 5:9

And,

10 “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 
12 “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:”

Matthew 5:10-12a

A peace maker is one who brings reconciliation. We should ask ourselves what would Christ have us do to reconcile a person to God and to bring about reconciliation between people we interact with.

Your actions are not to focus on You, but about the needs of Others

Your needs will be met in Christ:

“But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 
Philippians 4:19

With your own needs met in Christ you can move forward with confidence in helping others.

Listen carefully, you don’t know the Whole Story

Each person you meet is coming to you with a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad. They are most likely acting out of that compilation of cultural inputs, teachings, successes, failures, rejections, and hurts. So, listen carefully to understand before you try to speak. This isn’t about you winning a Harvard style debate. It is about you being an ambassador for Christ (see above).

19 “…Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” 
James 1:19b-20

God is at work to Change You as much as He wants to Change Them

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Philippians 2:12

Each believer is called upon to apply the Word of God in everyday situations as part of “working out” or the “out working” of his or her salvation. As noted above, God knew you would be in an interaction with whoever it is that you are interacting with today. Now is the time to be the man or woman God intends you to be.

James teaches us:

22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 
23 “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 “For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 
25 “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein
, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
James 1:22-25

God will bless us through interacting with others in a godly way in spite of tough or challenging circumstances.

Count it all Joy

James wrote:

2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 
3 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 
4 “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” 

James 1:2-4

God is more interested in you becoming a complete man or woman in Christ with Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) than He is in your “solving” whatever challenge you are facing. The trial or challenge you face helps accomplish this goal. Therefore, rejoice in challenges as an opportunity to grow as a person and help fulfill the mission of Christ.

“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Christ’s name).”
Acts 5:41

You also may be helping to fill up what was “lacking” in Christ’s suffering on behalf of others in the body of Christ. Paul wrote of himself:

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:”
Colossians 1:24

What you are going through is not without purpose for your life and others.

Take Courage!

As stated in the beginning of this essay, Jesus told His disciples that:

“…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Matthew 28:20b

The apostle Paul was so convinced of his life being “in Christ” that he could therefore confidently say:

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21

In life, or death, Paul’s life was safe in Christ. Yours is too if you have received Him into your life.

Abide in Christ

Trying to do any and all of the above will be futile self-effort if you are not abiding in Christ. Give up on your self-efforts to control people and situations. You are not God. Give up on trying to have an immediate answer for everything and focus on Christ and His word. Jesus told His disciples:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Some ways to abide in Christ include:

  • Read and meditate on God’s word
  • Memorize God’s word
  • Listen for God’s voice
  • Pray for God’s direction, for the needs of others, and to be an instrument of His love.

-GJE

©Mark Davis 2021

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