At first it felt almost blasphemous. I found myself thinking, “God, what are You up to here? I’m trying to live for You, serve You, follow You, yet all this ‘stuff’ keeps happening!”
I thought, “Have I done something wrong? Are You mad at me.”
“I don’t remember signing up for all this. I thought my life was supposed to be peaceful, joyful, trouble-free, and productive. What’s with all these trials?”
I needed an “attitude adjustment.” And over the past 10 years, God has been communicating through our rather chaotic life circumstances, those deeper things of God that would never have penetrated my thick skull in any other way.
My wife’s illness, my own health challenges, financial pressures, coronavirus pandemic isolation, etc. could have crushed us — but God had another plan, a glorious one …
The Apostle Paul, once said, in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, “But we have this treasure (the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ) in earthen containers (our bodies), so that the extraordinary greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
I can identify.
So, how does this “Christian character formation” process work? Only our “divine Sculptor” knows what He is “up to.”
The incomparable polymath Renaissance man, Michelangelo, was once asked how he managed to repeatedly create such magnificent marble sculptures (e.g., the Pietà and David) and he replied, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
At another time, he said, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there. I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
This is not unlike the way God works in the life of every believer: God, our “divine Creator/Sculptor,” has an individual vision for every one of His children — it is already fully formed in His mind. As noted in Romans 8:29, “He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son …”
While we might picture God as working to make us into a “better version of ourselves,” His plan is much more ingenious and transformative. The moment we are born again, God sends His Holy Spirit to live within us.
This is the basis for a “brand new you and me,” which proceeds from deep inside us, and moves outward into our daily lives.
In Colossians 1:26-28, the Apostle Paul wrote about the fascinating way that God works in the hearts and lives of his Holy Spirit indwelt followers: “… the mystery which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints … the mystery that is Christ in you, the hope of glory … so that we may present every person complete in Christ.”
God continues this spiritual formation process throughout our time on earth, chiseling away at the superfluous “stuff” in our lives that hinder our progress toward becoming like Him and which mar Christ’s image within us. God is releasing an individualized image of His Son Jesus out of the otherwise imperfect human raw materials (like one of Michelangelo’s blocks of marble) of our lives in this world.
And it all starts the instant we are born again through faith in Christ. God begins by removing our old “core” identity in Adam No. 1 and replacing it with our new identity in Christ, as outlined in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
The challenge in this process is for us to recognize the hand of God “chiseling away” through otherwise unpleasant circumstances and by submitting to His sovereign will as the Sculptor who knows what He is forming out of that “block” of human material.
In Romans 8:28,30, there is a promise from God that countless Christians have found profoundly comforting:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose … and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
How About You?
If all the superfluous things — wealth, possessions, accomplishments, etc. — in your life were removed today, what would be left? Is there a “Someone” formed by the hands of God at the core of your being who shines through with the glory of God no matter how much external circumstances pound away at your faith?
— D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at email@example.com. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.