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 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 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 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 rightfully passes judgment for suffering (1)
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 (1) for suffering (1) 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).
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 (1) 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). 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 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)
The 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).
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).
In conclusion, the storms that we experience in life are used by God as His Rock Tumbler. 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)
The Five Phases of Spiritual Growth Series:
- Have You Got Your Big Boy Pants On?
- Is Your Reactor Critical?
- God’s Rock Tumbler
- God’s Tractor Pull
- A License to Learn
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.