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To Push on the Rock ~ Chapter 8

So, for various and sundry reasons, I’m switching to post my latest book on here vs. Facebook where I was posting it. If you want to read the first seven chapters, they’re on my Facebook page.

Chapter 8

“All right, then what about weakness? How does that fit in?” Will asked.

Moses picked up a fist-sized rock. “What do you think? Impressed?”

“Um, impressed about what?”

“That I can lift this rock,” Moses said matter-of-factly.

Will raised his eyebrows. “Should I be?”

Moses gave him a half-smile. “I guess you aren’t. What if a mouse picked this up? Would you be impressed then?” he asked, waving the rock towards Will.

“Um, I think I’d be shocked. No mouse is actually strong enough to do that, so I’m not sure I’d believe it even if I saw it.”

“Well, that’s why Paul says that his weaknesses are actually strengths.”

“Because he likes strange mice?”

Moses laughed. “No, because God’s strength shines forth in our weakness. As God told Paul, ‘[His] grace is sufficient for [us], for [His] power is made perfect in weakness.’(144) Just like suffering strips away pretense and creates an opportunity for people to see Christ in us, weakness makes it clear that God is at work. People see the ‘mouse’ and how impossible it is for us to do what we’re doing. That gives us the opportunity to tell them that it is impossible for man, but that nothing is impossible for God.(145) Like Paul says, ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ ”(146)

“So weakness proves that we’re not really the ones doing ministry. It makes us transparent. Is that it?”

“That’s part of it. God also uses weakness because ministry is more than just telling people about God—it’s reflecting Him.(147) And how He does ministry through us displays His character just as much, if not more, than what we do or say.”

“Huh?”

“It’s the difference between reading a description of this hole and looking at a model. Which brings you closer to understanding it?”

“Sitting down here for a night,” Will said wryly.

Moses chuckled. “Yes. There’s definitely an element of self-discovery that comes from experience.” He sobered. “But we can’t have a relationship with God for anyone else. We can’t sit in this hole, and then give that experience to someone else. They have to do their own self-discovery. However, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, encourage them in their journey.”

“Guess that means the model would be the way to go.”

“Right. Who we are and how we do ministry communicates God’s character in ways that what we say and do never could.”

“That sort of makes sense,” Will admitted. “Just like having my father gone all the time communicated more to me than all his sermons on the importance of family. But I’m still confused about how weakness accomplishes that. I thought God designed us with our strengths so that He could use them.”

“I’m not saying that He won’t use them,” Moses hurried to say. “I’m saying that God uses weakness to showcase who He is, to protect us, and to protect those around us.”

Will wondered where Moses was going to take this. Death and suffering had ended up going places he’d never imagined. Best to just go along for the ride. “Okay, so by using the mouse, God shows that He’s really strong. What else?”

“It’s not that simple. God shows that He’s strong beyond anything we can imagine—a different kind of strong; strong enough to accomplish things far beyond human ability, but also strong enough to do them through a human.”

“Hmm, I guess that is a different strong. I can’t help our horse carry anything more unless I take something in his place.”

“That’s a good analogy. God does carry things for us, but He does it from the inside, living in us.”(148)

Will shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m not sure I like that idea.”

“Why do you say that?”

“God, in me. Knowing everything from the inside out—there’s nowhere to hide when God is always with you. There’s nowhere to run,” Will said quietly.

“There’s nowhere to run even when you don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of you—think about Jonah.(149) That’s simply the reality of God being transcendent, seeing everything all the time. But that doesn’t make it a bad thing. After all, does God chase us down and hold us kicking and screaming? Does He force us to obey?”

“Sometimes. I definitely felt hounded to come out here,” Will muttered.

“Will, you of all people should know that God doesn’t force us to obey. Is your bridge built?”

“No . . . .”

“No. If God had forced you to obey, would it be built?”

“I suppose so.”

“I think so, unless of course it took longer than six months to build—that is how long you said God’s been telling you to build it, isn’t it?”

Will gave a slight nod.

“So your bridge would be built, and you’d probably be several projects in by now, but you’re not. God isn’t a stalker. God isn’t an enforcer. His presence in our lives doesn’t have to make us squirm. He gives us room to run from Him. That doesn’t mean we won’t be miserable if we run—a square peg getting shoved into a round hole would be miserable; living contrary to how we’re designed to live makes us miserable, and we’re designed to live in relationship with God. I think you can testify that running from God is not the way to find happiness.”

Will knew what Moses was getting at. After all, the only reason he’d come out into the mountains in the first place was to get God off his back. He couldn’t stand the nagging anymore. He supposed that he’d proven to himself that God wouldn’t force him to obey. No, God wouldn’t force; He would just make it very, very uncomfortable not to obey. Probably part of that implacable love. Will might not like the reality that there was nowhere to run from God, but it was reality. A sudden thought struck him. God knew where they were right now. Maybe God’s ever-presence could be comforting, at least under the right circumstances. “I think I see what you mean. So is that it? God uses our weakness to show people how strong He is?”

“That He’s strong enough to work from the inside. That implies something else about who God is. What do you think that that might be?”

“I don’t know. Something about how close He is to us?”

“Exactly. He knows us inside and out; He knows where we’re weak, and He still loves us, still chooses to use us.(150) We are known. Being known is one of the deep hungers of the human heart. What else?”

Being known. The words echoed in Will’s heart. Being known and accepted. Not having to live up to some standard in order to have worth. It still sounded too good to be true. He wasn’t sure anyone really knew him. Certainly not his parents. And yet, Moses was saying that his heavenly Father did know him. “It sounds so—intimate the way you’re describing it,” Will commented.

“Read Psalm 139 sometime. It is intimate. We’ve already talked about how, if God knows what we’re made of, He can orchestrate the perfect circumstances to help us grow, but there are other implications. For instance, if God is inside us and knows us inside and out, do you think He can forget us or ignore our pain?”

“I guess He couldn’t forget us. It’d be like me forgetting an arm or a leg, or an injury,” Will said, rubbing his aching neck. Sleeping on the ground and stress had certainly made it hard to forget or ignore. He sighed. “Lately, I just wish that God would forget me, but then there’ve been other times when I’ve been worried that He had forgotten me or didn’t care and that’s why things were going so badly in my life.”

“I love Isaiah 40:27-31. That’s where I go when I feel like God has forgotten me. God says, ‘Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.’ ”(151) He took a deep breath. “God isn’t far away or uninvolved. His character is to be intimately present, intimately involved. And the way He uses weakness to display His power reminds us of that reality.”

Will recalled the time he’d taken apart his mother’s clock. She’d been less than happy about the whole thing, but he’d been amazed at how many bits and pieces there were, bits and pieces you couldn’t see from the outside. Taking apart death and suffering and weakness had so many more things inside than you could imagine from looking at the outside. Who would have thought that you could argue for intimacy with God based on weakness? “Weakness says a lot more than I’ve ever thought of . . . .”

“That’s one of the things that I love about studying God—there’s always more to learn, more to see, more than you expect to find. Weakness might not be something one would think to equate with God, but it’s integral to how He works, integral to showcasing His character. It’s stamped all over the Bible, all over God’s interactions with us. Jesus came as a human babe. Tiny. Helpless.”

“It really is amazing that God would choose to be a baby,” Will mused. “I guess it’s the both/and of the Messiah—that He came as a tiny, helpless baby and then He’ll come again as the conquering king. Wow, that’s just like you were talking about with suffering and death. God changes things from the inside out and from the outside in. He transforms suffering by suffering Himself and redeeming it bit by bit now, but then He will transform suffering by getting rid of it altogether in the future.”

Moses grinned. “Exactly.”

Will leaned back, trying to grasp the idea that had come to him. “That’s really something. Like you just said with weakness—it takes a special kind of strength to work through humans, but also to be strong enough to do more than a human can do. God is both kinds of strong. And He does both kinds of work: the delicate internal transformative work and the brute force external transformation—inside out, outside in.”

“Yup.”

Will felt like he should be taking notes or something to keep track of all the new ideas congregating in his brain. But he hadn’t brought any sort of paper with him. Maybe, if he was going to go on this journey with God, he should keep a notebook around in the future. For now . . . . Lord, please help me to remember the things I need to know later. Will realized he’d been silent for a minute or two and, bringing himself back to the present, he refocused on Moses. “So, weakness. What were you saying? Weakness protects us, or something like that?”

“How do you feel when you think about your weaknesses?”

“Weak . . . helpless . . . alone . . . embarrassed . . . .”

“Out of control then.”

“Yeah,” Will said. His gut clenched as he remembered how awful the helplessness felt. “I don’t like it.”

“You don’t like feeling out of control, but are you ever really in control?”

“Well—”

Moses quirked a look at him. “If you are, can you please get us out of this hole?”

Will opened his mouth, then shut it. “I guess not.”

“Nope. So who is in control?”

“What do you mean by ‘in control’?”

“Able to affect every situation, but not a puppeteer.”(152)

“Um, God. No one else comes to mind.”

“Right. So if you actually lived like you weren’t in control, how would your life change?”

Will considered. What would change if he really lived like he wasn’t in control? “I guess it’d be sort of pointless to try to control things. And I might be less stressed when I can’t control things—more accepting maybe. And I might pray more, rather than trying to force things to happen.”

“That makes sense. Although obviously that doesn’t mean that you sit at home and wait for things to change. Like we talked about earlier, our choices matter. We’re not victims. However, our range of influence is limited so, as Christians we plan and work, but hold those plans and work with an open hand so that God can change them.(153) What else would change? Think about ministry in particular.”

“Ministry in particular, huh? Well, if I wasn’t trying to force things, I guess that would go back to results—I can’t create change.”

“You’re doing great! Keep going,” Moses prodded.

“Well, if I can’t force change, then I have to rely on God,” Will said.

“Which, in my opinion, is one of the big reasons why God uses our weakness—He designed us for relationship with Him and weakness reminds us that we need Him.”

Will sat up straight. “Are you saying that God is using our weaknesses to force us into relationship? I thought you just got done telling me that God doesn’t force us!”

“I said He doesn’t force us to obey. Remind and force are two different things. Does it bother you when things come with an instruction manual?”

Will’s brow creased. “What do you mean?”

“Is it unfair of the manufacturer to give you an instruction manual?”

“No, they designed the thing. They’re just trying to make sure the consumer knows how it’s supposed to work.”

“They’re reminding you how it’s supposed to work. Does that make them the bad guy?”

“I don’t see how that’s related. God could have created us so we don’t need Him. He didn’t have to make us weak,” Will argued.

“Son, think about what you just said.”

“What? I just said that God could have created us so we don’t need Him.”

“Precisely—‘created.’ Suppose you created something beautiful—like a symphony. Does your symphony need you?”

“No, someone else could play it. Frankly, I can’t play any instruments anyway.”

“Can your symphony exist without you?” Moses persisted.

“Sure, lots of things are published posthumously.”

“But what if you never existed? Can someone else write your symphony note for note?

Will gave a half-shrug. “Maybe?”

Moses raised an eyebrow. “Maybe? Are you sure about that?”

“No?”

Moses flicked his gaze heavenward. “Music is an intensely personal expression. Is there anyone else exactly like you?”

“No, I guess not,” Will said.

“It’s a logical impossibility for the created to exist independently of the creator.”

“Huh. I guess when I was thinking about my symphony being published posthumously, I wasn’t thinking about if I’d never existed in the first place. When you put it that way, it actually makes sense.”

“Good. Let’s build on that: could God have created us so that we would never need Him?”

Will thought for a moment. Even if it was impossible for God to create anything that didn’t need Him, there was still something disturbing about man’s need for God—specifically, his need for God. It was one thing to need Him for existence and for salvation. It was something entirely different to need Him every moment of every day. “I guess not ‘never,’ but still, He could have created us to need Him less.”

“Does needing God force anyone to have a relationship with Him?”

 ‘Force?’ Maybe not force. I mean, if everyone is designed to need a relationship with God, and that need forced people to actually have a relationship, then everyone would have a relationship with Him, and not everyone does.”

“Remember that passage—Ezekiel 18? God pleads with people to turn to Him, but He doesn’t force them. God doesn’t force us to walk on our feet instead of our hands—but we’ll have fewer joint problems if we do.”

“Hmm.” Will’s forehead wrinkled. “So it’s more like a wake-up call? The difference between having an alarm and having someone come physically pull you out of bed? Basically, we still have a choice.”

“Exactly. No one has to have a relationship with God. No one has to be permanently separated from Him—to go to hell. God created hell as a place to quarantine sin since He can’t co-exist with sin and it’s destructive to us.(154) Heaven wouldn’t be heaven with sin around. Satan is doomed to go there, but God made sure that not a single human would be doomed to hell.(155) We each have a choice—will we hang onto our sin and go with it into hell, or will we give our sin to Jesus and go to heaven? We’re designed to be in relationship with God and we can let our weakness propel us deeper and deeper into that relationship—like the wind in a ship’s sails: turn the sails the right direction and the ship can take you where you want to go. We still decide how to position the sails, but positioned the right way, weakness can be a powerful force in helping us be the people we’re designed to be. It reminds us that we need God.”

“Doesn’t it seem kind of demeaning for Him to use weakness?”

“Demeaning how? To God? Or to us?”

Will shrugged. “I just know that I don’t like thinking about my weaknesses. I don’t like having them. I guess it’s like suffering—somehow it just feels wrong for God to use weakness. I’d rather not have any weaknesses, even if they can be useful.”

“Why don’t you like your weakness?” Moses asked.

“Why would I like it? Does anyone like being weak?”

“It hurts your pride when God uses your weaknesses instead of your strengths. Is that what you’re saying?”

Will thought for a moment. Was that what he was saying? At base, yes. God had given him strengths—shouldn’t that be where God worked? Why did God have to choose to use areas where he felt like a fool? Will scowled. Was God trying to make a fool of him? “Yeah. How’s a guy supposed to stand on his own two feet if God’s always putting us in situations where we’re off-balance?” Will asked indignantly.

“We’re not.”

“Pardon?”

“We’re not supposed to stand on our own two feet. There’s no pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps in Christianity.”

Will just stared at him.

 ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’(156) That’s the Gospel, Will: God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves.”

“So?”

“So ministry isn’t just telling the Gospel—it’s embodying the Gospel.”

“Right.”

Moses fixed him with a piercing look. “Even if God only used your strengths, you can never do enough to fix your insecurity.”

Will threw his hands in the air. “I know, I know.”

It was obvious that Will was getting upset. Moses decided it was time to change tactics. “Have you ever heard of kintsugi?” he asked.

Will took a deep breath. Kintsugi? “No. Should I have?”

“Kintsugi is a Japanese art of pottery repair.”

“Pottery repair?” Will repeated, not sure that he’d heard correctly.

“There’s a Japanese philosophy that age and imperfection add interest and character to an object, thus those imperfections are cherished. In fact, rather than trying to hide them, kintsugi masters fill in the chips and cracks with gold to show them off.”(157)

Will held up a hand. “Wait. Let me get this straight—instead of throwing away broken dishes, the Japanese repair them with gold.”

“Yep.”

“Wow. That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“Why not?”

“The pottery is broken! It’d be much more sensible to just replace it. I can’t even imagine how expensive it is to repair it with gold.”

“But the imperfections are what make it unique,” Moses said. “Without them, there’s something sterile, almost soulless, in the sameness of plate after identical plate.”

“Maybe. Or maybe there’s something beautiful in the perfection of the sameness,” Will retorted. “I’d still prefer to just buy an unbroken plate.”

Moses chuckled. “It’s art. Think with the art side of your brain. Would you really want to buy twenty copies of the exact same painting, and then hang them up around your house for the rest of your life?”

“I guess not. I still think plates are a different matter.”

“I actually agree with you, as far as plates go—I like things to be neat and clean around me too, and having chipped plates feels a little messy somehow—however, we’re using plates to talk about people, not to talk about plates.”

“Fine. So if we’re talking about people, your point is that God didn’t design everyone to be exactly the same.”

“Yes, that’s part of it. But instead of accepting those differences, we try to be like everyone else—to be the plate without any cracks. We hide our weakness and flaws by projecting an image of perfection. We try to prove our worth to others and to ourselves. Do you see the problem with that approach?”

“We’re never good enough for some people,” Will said darkly.

“Beyond that.”

“Um . . . .”

Moses took pity on Will. “It’s a projection, not reality,” he said. “It takes energy to maintain. It keeps you isolated—”

“What? If people like you, you have more friends—not less.”

“But do people ever like you, or do they just like the projection?”

Will sighed gustily. “Probably the projection.”

“We know that God knit each of us together in our mother’s womb.(158) He designed us to be unique and uses our brokenness and weaknesses. Do you see how freeing that is?”

Will considered. “I guess. I still don’t like the idea of my weaknesses on display.”

“You may look at your weaknesses and just see the crack, but when other people look at them, they see something beautiful—the gold, the Holy Spirit shining through those cracks. Your flaws become a work of art. Do you see how different that is from pride?”

“Definitely. Putting imperfections on display is very different than hiding them.”

The corners of Moses’ mouth turned up. “That’s one way of putting it. Do you see how that actually deals with our insecurity, rather than just masking it?”

“I guess. I’m still not sure that I really want my insecurity dealt with by putting it on display . . . .”

“Yeah. Nobody ever said that ministry was easy. But, by letting God use our weaknesses, display our weaknesses, it fills in the insecurity—gets rid of the reason for it. We’re no longer riddled with cracks—we become riddled with gold. And that paves the way for us to accept ourselves the way we are.”

Riddled with gold. Or left broken if he protected his weakness from everyone, including God. He could be safe from fighting his insecurity, but the cost . . . . Will dragged in a breath. It was steep. Definitely something to think about—later, much later, if they ever got out of this hole. He frowned. “Accept ourselves the way we are? Isn’t that contrary to all your forced growth stuff?”

Moses grimaced. “God is always calling us into deeper relationship with Him, and He’s always perfecting us. However, He made us the way we are. Remember how we talked about suffering and how love can transform it?”

“Yeah.”

“Weakness is the same way. God can turn those ‘imperfections’ into something good and beautiful. You don’t look at a key and say ‘It’s really too bad that the edge isn’t perfectly straight and smooth’—the jagged edges are what enable it to fit into the correct lock.”

“Huh. So you’re saying that our flaws actually make us better ministers?”

“Yes! If we surrender them to God’s love. Because then we’re embodying the Gospel—God’s strength working in and through us to do the things we’re incapable of doing. Plus, it’s like suffering: our weakness can connect us to others on a heart level in a way that’s impossible for self-sufficiency.”

Will nodded slowly. “Yeah. That makes sense. Like in Hebrews where it says that Jesus is able to empathize with our weakness, because he was tempted in every way.”(159)

“Exactly. And sometimes our weakness is actually just uniqueness.”

“What do you mean?”

“Is your eye weak because it can’t hear?”

Will blinked at him. “No, it’s just not designed to hear.”

“Right! So if it needs to get information from hearing, what does your eye have to do?”

“Ask the ear to give it the information?”

“That’s the Body of Christ in action, right there,” Moses said. “God even says that we’re a body with different parts.(160) We’re designed to be interdependent. Dependent on God. Interdependent on each other. No one is designed to function well on their own.”

“So what you’re saying is that sometimes when I look at myself, my weaknesses might actually just be a difference in design?”

“I think you’ve got it,” Moses said, clapping him on the back.

Will wasn’t sure what to say to that. He still wasn’t sure that he wanted to be interdependent with anyone. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to be dependent on God—but that was neither here nor there since apparently he didn’t have any say in the matter. Trying to pretend that he didn’t need God would be as futile as trying to keep the tide from coming in. And now Moses was saying that it would be just as futile to act like he didn’t need others. “Wow. So weakness forces us into community, just like suffering,” he said dully.

Moses heard Will’s tone. Lord, I don’t know what to do here. I can’t force Will to want to live in community. I’m trying to share what You want me to share. Please reach his heart. Show him that Your plan is best. Show him the benefits. Moses wracked his brain for a good angle. Maybe Will’s hunger to do ministry would be a good avenue. “Will, I know that you don’t want to live in community. And I can’t live it for you or transfer my experiential knowledge to you. But, I hope that you’ll at least try it before you reject it. It’s like we were talking about before—there are amazing benefits that you’ll miss out on if you don’t.”

Will poked the fire viciously. “Sure.”

Moses’ eyes narrowed. Sure. “You know that uniqueness is pretty important to anyone wanting to do ministry. I love thinking that God made me uniquely suited for the good works He prepared in advance for me,(161) that I don’t have to be perfect to be use-able. I don’t have to be able to do it all because God does it all using the whole Body of Christ. How do you feel about that idea?”

Will stared at the flames. There was peace in the idea that he didn’t have to be perfect before being usable, even if he still wasn’t sure about all the community stuff. “I like it,” he said finally. “I’ve never heard of that kitsuko—”

“Kintsugi,” Moses corrected.

“Right. That thing. But I like the idea that God can use all of me. I guess it is like the Gospel,” Will said. “We don’t have to shape ourselves up before we can be saved and we don’t have to shape ourselves up before we can minister.”

“You’re right. You have no idea how comforting that reality is to me. God uses us as we are—not as we wish we were or as we pretend to be.”

“It goes back to letting people see God instead of you, doesn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“So people worship Him, not the minister,” Will added.

“Exactly. That’s all pride is anyway: getting others to recognize how worthy you are. That’s part of why it’s so destructive.”

Will raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”

“Remember? Pride keeps you from needing a savior, which means that you live your life based on a lie. It affects every moment of every day of your life,” Moses said firmly, trying to keep the flood of regret from breaking into his voice. If he’d ever forgotten how devastating pride was, tonight had strongly re-cemented that reality.

“That’s why you’re so emphatic about pride, isn’t it?” Will asked quietly.

Moses gave a faint nod. “You know from my book that I’ve seen the destructive power of pride intimately, very intimately. It’s taken me places I don’t want to go. It promises to satisfy, and then leaves me hanging. It gets in the way of my relationship with God and steals my joy. I never ever want to see it that up close and personal again.” He took a ragged breath, then continued, “Plus, I think that it’s important for someone doing the kind of ministry that doesn’t have obvious results—they in particular need to know what a trap pride is.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because humility takes the pressure off to produce results. It means that I just have to be faithful and watch God show up. And I don’t have to worry if others think that I’m crazy for doing the things I do, or to obsess over my lack of results.”

Will could see why that would be important for someone like Moses. Following God without results could drive a person to despair if they didn’t divorce themselves from the results. That doesn’t mean I want to apply it to my own life, a tiny part of him whispered. Time to move on. “I see. So how does weakness protect others?”

“Think about the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. They considered themselves sufficient to do ministry, but what did their ministry look like?”

Will tried to dredge up what he knew about the Pharisees. “Well, they knew the law inside and out . . . .”

“True, but they missed the heart of the law: the love.(162) And what did Jesus say about how they helped people?”

“No idea,” Will admitted.

“If you have time, you should read Matthew 23 sometime. It’s a searing indictment of the Pharisees ‘ministry.’ For now, let me give you some of the highlights: in verse four, Jesus says ‘[The teachers of the law and the Pharisees] tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.’(163) Or skip down to verse 13: ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.’(164) Jesus even calls them ‘sons of hell’(165) and whitewashed tombs: beautiful on the outside, but dead on the inside.(166)

“Wow. That is harsh.”

“It was. But so is what they were doing to people. It’s no wonder Jesus got angry enough to use a whip and overturn tables in the temple because men were putting extra steps between people and God.(167) Dealing with our sin is hard enough without anyone else creating other hoops we have to jump through before we can have a relationship with God. There’s a reason Jesus was so adamantly opposed to their religion. Read John 10:10.”

Will flipped around in his Bible until he found the verse. “ ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,’ ”(168) Will read. Steal and kill and destroy. Where exactly was Moses going with this? “Okay, how does weakness fit here?” he asked.

“No one is neutral. We’re either slaves to sin or slaves to God—sons of hell or sons of God.(169) On our own, we’re broken, sinful people, right?”

“Um, okay.”

Moses took a moment to choose his words. “So in our own strength, we end up being like the Pharisees—our ‘ministry’ actually destroys.”

“But—but what about God using His Word?”(170)

“How so?”

“Couldn’t God have used the Pharisees to do real ministry?”

“Sure. Look at Nicodemus after he met Jesus.”(171)

“I meant before they met Jesus, in their own strength, because they used God’s Word. Doesn’t God use His Word no matter who’s teaching?”

Moses sighed. “I refuse to rule out God’s ability to use anyone—I’ve seen Him use people who hate Him to work His plan.(172) However, using the Bible doesn’t guarantee ministry. I’ve seen people use it to destroy, to bludgeon someone with the truth—rather than giving them truth out of love—the same way that the Pharisees used the Law to lay burdens on the people.”

“I’m confused.”

“Think of a chisel. Can you use a chisel to destroy a sculpture?”

“Yes . . . .”

“Can you use a chisel to create a sculpture?”

“Yes . . . .”

“What determines if the chisel is used to destroy or to create?”

“I guess that would be the sculptor, or whoever is holding it,” Will said.

“Exactly. Our brokenness and imperfections and uniqueness are the same way. If we let our sinful nature and pride determine how they’re used, we destroy. If we let God wield them, He uses us to create—to give life.” Moses leaned forward. “That’s why we want God’s power instead of our own, why our weakness is precious: so that God can make us competent as ministers of life.”(173)

(144) 2 Cor. 12:9 NIV

(145) Matt. 19:26

(146) 2 Cor. 4:7 NIV

(147) 2 Cor. 3:18

(148) John 14:17; Acts 1:8; Rom. 8:9-16; Gal. 2:20

(149) Jonah 1

(150) Rom. 5:8

(151) NIV

(152) I think you see the juxtaposition between God’s sovereignty (Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21) and our choices (e.g., Jonah; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9) throughout the Bible. It’s easy to emphasize one or the other rather than leave that uncomfortable tension.

(153) Prov. 3:5-6; 6:6-11; James 4:13-15

(154) 1 John. 1:5; Matt. 25:41

(155) Yes, I realize God does call us and that there is some mystery—the tension between free will and sovereignty. However, in my opinion, when we say someone is doomed to hell we’re not portraying the whole truth of God—namely that humans were originally designed to live in perfection with God eternally, and that some of us choose not to accept Jesus’ payment for our sins.

(156) Eph. 2:8-9 NIV

(157) http://www.dajf.org.uk/event/kintsugi-the-art-of-broken-pieces

(158) Ps. 139:13

(159) Heb. 4:15

(160) 1 Cor. 12:12-27

(161) Eph. 2:10

(162) Matt. 23:23

(163) NIV

(164) NIV

(165) Matt. 23:15

(166) Matt. 23:27

(167) Matt. 21:12-13; John 2:14-16

(168) John 10:10 NIV

(169) Rom. 6:16-18; John 8:42-47

(170) Isa. 55:11

(171) In John 3, we see Nicodemus coming to Jesus in secret. In John 7:50-52; 19:39, he openly supports Jesus.

(172) E.g., Judges 2:14-15; 3:8-9; 3:12-15

(173) 2 Cor. 3:5-6

To Push on the Rock
By Elizabeth Frerichs
© Elizabeth Frerichs 2015

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