When I was small I had a fascination with rocks and minerals of all sorts and especially admired the beauty that was hidden in seemingly ordinary rocks that had been polished in a rock tumbler. To wit, when my boys were younger I lived out my childhood fantasy – as many of us parents must admit that we do - of owning a rock tumbler for them! We carefully followed the directions of loading rocks to be polished along with the coarsest polishing compound into the rock tumbler and turned it on. We then discovered that rock tumbling is the source of an insatiate whining and grinding noise that must continue for weeks in order to remove the outer rough exterior of the rocks and reveal the hidden beauty within!
Periodically, the rock tumbler is stopped and the coarse polishing compound is exchanged for a progressively finer compound as this is what will be required to maintain the friction that will continue removal of the now smoother outer layer of the rock. This process repeats itself over what seems like an eternity due to the noise! Nevertheless, we considered this a small price to pay for the moment the rocks would be removed and the beautiful stones revealed! However, in my first batch of rocks – in typical “Tim the Tool Man” style – I allowed the rocks to grind longer than the instructions stated with the result that they were all reduced to nothing but powder! We learned that it is not enough to have a rock tumbler to release the inner beauty of a rock – we must have a wise rock tumbler operator! That is, an operator that would limit the amount of friction applied to the rocks and the duration so that they would be polished but not destroyed in the process!
Phase III: Wounded Stage (Philippians 3:10 …and the fellowship of His sufferings…)
In Phase I (1) of our spiritual journey we began to know in whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12) leading to the experiencing of His power in Phase II (1) . Nevertheless, although our spirit has been made perfect when we were born again (Hebrews 12:23. Ezekiel 36:26) and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11); our soul is like the rough exterior of an ordinary rock that must be carefully polished (Romans 12:2. Philippians 2:12) until it conforms to the beauty of Christ already in our spirit (i.e., already inside the rock). Furthermore, this process must be controlled by a wise operator lest us His "living stones" be turned to dust! (1 Peter 2:4. Isaiah 28:28,29). In Phase III, so that our fallen character might not use His power to our ruin, God passes judgment for suffering to come into our lives to shape our character into that of Christ (Romans 5:3,4. James 1:2-4) which includes the removal of pride (2 Corinthians 12:7). Enter the rock tumbler of God where the rubbing of rocks against each other along with the polishing compounds cause our soul (our personality including our mind, emotions, and will) to be conformed to Christ who is within our spirit! (Isaiah 48:10. Proverbs 27:17. Colossians 1:27. 1 Peter 2:5)
The group of believers that have experienced the power of God in Phase II and learned to suffer effectively (1) will have their character changed into that of Christ Jesus over their lifetime (Romans 5:3-5;8:29). During this time different polishing compounds will be used such as offenses from lost people (coarse polishing) to those from fellow Christians (fine polishing that really hurts! Psalms 55:12-14. 1 Corinthians 11:18,19), betrayal, loss of things, various temptations, persecutions, etc (John 15:2). However, the master rock tumbler operator will ensure that we are not ground to powder as we willingly trust Him and obey Him (Isaiah 1:19. 1 Corinthians 10:13) and will keep us in the tumbler until it has done its job even thought we are whining about all the grinding in our lives! Can you imagine all the whining God must put up with in the grinding process? (Malachi 2:17)
Furthermore, I have found daily praying the following prayer of Paul extremely beneficial in during this phase of the journey:
A second group in this stage is those that are under false doctrine denying the power of the Gospel (2 Timothy 3:5. Colossians 2:8) thus skipping the work of the second phase. Consequently, they do not have the power of God’s Word in their lives and face suffering in their own insufficient strength (2 Timothy 1:8). This can lead to further development of a false doctrine that undermines the Word of God and emphasizes earning God’s approval via suffering. However, this approach can easily lead to feelings of self-pity, self-righteousness and a desire for false comfort which can lead to more sin. Furthermore, not having the rock of the Word of God in their lives the suffering will not serve to conform them to Christ but rather can slowly destroy them (i.e., turn them to powder because they did not have their trust in God) (Isaiah 1:20. Jeremiah 23:29. Luke 20:18. 1 Peter 2:7,8).
A third group in this stage includes those with a false doctrine that Christians are not to suffer at all because Jesus suffered for them (contrast Psalms 34:19. Acts 14:22. 2 Thessalonians 1:5. 2 Timothy 3:12;2:3;4:5. Philippians 1:29. 1 Peter 4:1). Consequently, they go into denial when suffering comes and do not mature through it. These are those that have typically learned of the power of the Word of God but have been deceived into making it a performance based system of trying to please God by their works of faith (i.e., they feel they must perform the Christian disciplines to please God enough so that He will give them His power).
The Five Phases of Spiritual Growth Series
2. Is Your Reactor Critical? (1)
3. God's Rock Tumbler (1)
4. God's Tractor Pull (1)
5. A License to Learn (1)
(1) Left click on underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.