When I was small, I had a fascination with rocks and minerals of all sorts and especially admired the beauty 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 to remove the rough outer 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. This will be required to maintain the friction that will continue removing 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 when 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 rock – we must have a wise rock tumbler operator! 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 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 rightfully passes judgment for suffering. That is, when we, through our thoughts, words, and actions, say to God, “not thy, but my will be done,” then He is obligated to honor our request since God will not override our free will. Consequently, God rightfully passes judgment for suffering from Satan’s fallen world (1 John 5:19. Acts 26:18) to come into our lives. That is, God partially lifts the hedge of protection (1), allowing us to experience what we actually deserve based on our lack of Christ conformity and our many sins committed both knowingly and unknowingly. The goal of this suffering is 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).
Sometimes it takes a deep hurt to feel a deep need for God
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)
God’s discipline is focused on mending broken relations not mending broken rules
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). Different polishing compounds will be used during this time, such as offenses from lost people (coarse polishing) to 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 though we are whining about all the grinding in our lives! Can you imagine all the whining God must put up within the grinding process? (Malachi 2:17)
Furthermore, I have found daily praying the following prayer of Paul extremely beneficial during this phase of the journey:
For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9–14 NET)
The second group in this stage is 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).
The 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. 1 Thessalonians 3:3,4. 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).
But if they are bound in chains, and held captive by the cords of affliction, then he reveals to them what they have done, and their transgressions, that they were behaving proudly. And he reveals this for correction, and says that they must turn from evil. (Job 36:8–10 NET)
In conclusion, the storms that we experience in life are used by God as His Rock Tumbler.
He delivers the afflicted by their afflictions, he reveals himself to them by their suffering. (Job 36:15 NET)
The storms can either shape us or decimate us depending on if our lives are grounded in God’s Word or Satan’s World.
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Verses about Suffering as a Believer
“A disciple is not greater than his teacher, nor a slave greater than his master. It is enough for the disciple to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more will they defame the members of his household! (Matthew 10:24–25 NET)
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you.Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too. (John 15:18–20 NET)
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 NET)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43–48 NET)
But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart. “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one—I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me. (John 17:13–23 NET)
So, since Christ suffered in the flesh, you also arm yourselves with the same attitude, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin, (1 Peter 4:1 NET)
Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker. But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name. (1 Peter 4:12–16 NET)
Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him. Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules.The farmer who works hard ought to have the first share of the crops. Think about what I am saying and the Lord will give you understanding of all this. (2 Timothy 2:3–7)
But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. (1 Peter 3:14–15 NET)
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. (Matthew 5:11–12 NET)
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets. (Luke 6:22–23 NET)
So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. (1 Peter 4:19 NET)
For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him, since you are encountering the same conflict that you saw me face and now hear that I am facing. (Philippians 1:29,30 NET)
My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. (James 1:2–4 NET)
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the message with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, despite great affliction. (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NET)
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my physical body—for the sake of his body, the church—what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. (Colossians 1:24 NET)
The godly face many dangers, but the Lord saves them from each one of them. (Psalm 34:19 NET)
so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know. (1 Thessalonians 3:3,4 NET)
This is evidence of God’s righteous judgment, to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which in fact you are suffering. (2 Thessalonians 1:5 NET)
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:8 NET)
Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12 NET)
The crucible is for refining silver and the furnace is for gold, likewise the Lord tests hearts. (Proverbs 17:3 NET)
Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have purified you in the furnace of misery. (Isaiah 48:10 NET)
As the crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, so a person is proved by the praise he receives. (Proverbs 27:21 NET)
He delivers the afflicted by their afflictions, he reveals himself to them by their suffering. (Job 36:15)
They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions.” (Acts 14:22 NET)
When they arrived, he said to them, “You yourselves know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, and with the trials that happened to me because of the plots of the Jews. You know that I did not hold back from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:18–24 NET)
From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. (Galatians 6:17)
You, however, be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do an evangelist’s work, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:5–8 NET)
This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold—gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away—and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6–7 NET)
And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10,11 NET)
The Five Phases of Spiritual Growth Series:
- Have You got Your Big Boy Pants On?
- Is Your Engine Running?
- God’s Rock Tumbler
- God’s Tractor Pull
- A License to Learn
(Peace, Wholeness, Success)
Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. (3 John 1:2 NET)
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