Friday, April 11, 2008

A Lesson From The Tool Box

I think most craftsmen are very careful with and protective of their tools. When I was a plastering contractor, I had one tool that I was particularly fond of. It was my finishing trowel. When it was new, it was just like any other trowel but it got better with age and use. Through years of use, the once square sides had worn down until the toe was considerably narrower than the heel. The once rough, unfinished wooden handle had become polished to a bone-like finish from rubbing against my gloved hand. The blade was honed razor-sharp from troweling and I could slice paper with it. When I used it to hard-trowel a finish, it would “sing” with a distinct ringing that only occurred in well-broken trowels.

I loved that trowel. We did a lot of work together and it served me very well. One day, while I was finishing an exterior wall, I set my tools on the ground behind me while I was relocating to a more convenient location. When I returned to retrieve my tools, at first I didn’t see them. Then I found them half buried in the loose dirt. The tire tracks provided all the clues I needed to discover what had happened. A large tractor had rumbled through the tract and had run right over my tools.

My trowel was broken into pieces. The handle was split into fractions, the cast magnesium shaft was snapped off and the steel blade was cracked and popped off its rivets. It was not repairable. My favorite tool was a useless heap of junk.

What happed next was really wierd. I don’t know why, but I sadly knelt down, almost mournfully, and carefully gathered up all the broken pieces. I carried them back to my truck and gently placed them in my toolbox. After a few sad moments of silence, I pulled another trowel from the box and returned to finish my work.

I learned a few things that day about

God is at work in this world to accomplish His purpose. Jesus said, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” Matt. 16:18. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works…Eph.2:10a

The subject here in Ephesians 2 is the Church but I want to use these verses to establish the fact that it is God who is the Designer, Creator, and the Master Craftsman. He does use His people to do His work but He is not dependent on any of one of us in particular to get the job done. If we become useless or unavailable, He will still finish His work according to His plan without us.

This is important to remember lest we "think more highly of ourselves than we ought." No one of us is indispensable in God’s work. It is not our work or our ability but God’s.

We are only His tools. God has special tools for specific jobs. In verse 6-7 Paul explains, that for God to make the gentiles part of that “building,” he, Paul was “made a minister (a servant or ‘tool’) according to the gift of the grace of God (Spiritual gift) given to me by the effectual working of His power.”

So the Craftsman has the right to decide which tools He will use and how He intends to use them.

Have you ever deliberately ruined a perfectly good tool for a reason? I have. There was a time that I needed a special tool for a particular purpose. There was nothing suitable for the job except the shank of a good trowel so I broke off the blade to create the custom tool I needed to complete the task.

Sometimes God takes what seems to be a perfectly good tool and destroys it (humanly speaking) for His purpose. And people will ask, “How could a loving God do that?” Fanny Crosby comes to mind. Had she not become blind, she might never have had the spiritual sight that inspired her great hymns of the Faith.

God knows exactly what tools He needs to accomplish His will. There is a similar example in Scripture- “and as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, ‘Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.’” John 9:1-3

A lot of tools, like my trowel, get better when they are “broken in.” In God’s hand, we become honed and polished through testings, trials, and hardships in our lives to make us useful and favored tools of His choice. In Eph. 2:22-3:1 Paul introduces himself as a prisoner for “this cause…” What cause was that? God was building His Church and He needed His servant to be imprisoned.

Tools are nothing apart from the skill and ability of the craftsman and a skilled craftsman can accomplish very fine work with just mediocre tools. God is sovereign and omnipotent. He will accomplish His work completely and with excellence and He does it with imperfect tools.

Elijah was a prophet of God. He reminds me of my trowel. Through his many years of service, he had been honed and polished to the point that he had become a favored tool of choice in God’s hands. And I can imagine how Elijah must have been “singing” the praises of God as he personally experienced God’s mighty work through him.

But the time came when Elijah became unavailable. When he looked around at his circumstances, he began to lose faith, he became fearful, and he ran away to hide. God came looking for him manifesting His power and provision but Elijah was still fearful. It was like the tractor driver from hell ran over him. God wanted to use him but now Elijah was unusable.

It was time for God to pick up another tool and go on with His work so He chose Elisha. Did he still love Elijah? Of course He did and He swept him up in a whirlwind and carried him off to Heaven in a chariot of fire.

God is not dependent upon us. He is God and like a master craftsman, He has many tools at His disposal. Should we become unusable, He may lovingly take us up and carry us home.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:27-31

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