The Sounds Of Construction
A famous British minister, from the 19th century that I grew up reading about, once said, “The life of a Christian is a series of miracles.”
I believe God is in the miracle business. And the miracles that He does are spectacular. But most of the miracles today don’t seem to be instantaneous.
We really are the immediate gratification generation. I think we read the New Testament and wonder why we don’t see God performing instantaneous, spectacular answers to prayer framed within peals of thunder and bolts of lightning. I think He does give spectacular answers, only in His time. I base this on my own experience. If I had asked a close friend 30 years ago to write down a description of me and then done the same today, here is the conclusion you would come to once you read them: These are two distinctly different people with very little in common.
What happened? Nothing short of a miracle!! I won’t go into all the circumstances, but 30 years ago I was at the end of my emotional and spiritual rope. One day I got down on my knees and told God to either change me or kill me because I didn’t want to live another minute if my life was going to be the same as it had been. That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.
To jump to the end of the story, over the last 30 years God has created a whole new person inside this one that’s not visible to most folks. And it wasn’t in the twinkling of an eye. But it is a miracle! It is spectacular! And it isn’t over yet! What God has done in my life is more miraculous than if He had grown a new arm or leg to replace an amputated one—because He has grown a whole new person. He still does miracles! They are spectacular! They are in His time! To God Be The Glory!!
Miracles All Around
There are miracles all around us if only we had eyes to see them. Our problem is that we look for outward, spectacular results when God’s work, like the tiny mustard seed, begins in a hidden place inside the human heart.
As wonderful as reports of physical healing are—and I thank God that he still heals in answer to prayer today—the greater miracle is the transformation of a sinner into a saint by the grace of God.
If you have been a believer for any length of time, you already know about that hammering and sawing inside your own life. Theologians have a big word for it. They call it “sanctification.” It’s the work God does inside the heart of a believer in order to make him into a brand-new person.
The Church teaches us that God’s grace is fundamental and indispensable to our eternal salvation as Christians. And that initial justification, when we first come into relationship with Jesus Christ, is a completely unwarranted divine gift.
In other words, the Church teaches that God inwardly heals and transforms us by his grace, making us children of God. This is initial justification, which takes place in baptism. So baptism gives us a share in divine love or “righteousness,” an infused “theological virtue” which enables us to become like Jesus and do his will. Baptism restores our communion with God and is the beginning of our salvation, the first step on a lifelong journey.
Through initial justification God obligates us to abide in him (John 14:15) and grow progressively in holiness (see Matt. 5:43-48). This progressive growth after initial justification is known as sanctification. In ongoing sanctification, we continue to grow in the theological and human virtues, with Jesus as our model and example.
Let me give you five fast facts you need to know about sanctification:
It is the work of God.
It is a lifetime process.
It is never complete in this life.
God won’t stop until the job is done.
God uses everything that happens to us—the good and the bad—to make us like Jesus.
From the Epistle of Philippians chapter 1, that we read a few minutes ago, we read. "Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
Note three things from this famous verse.
First, God takes the initiative in starting his work in you.
He is the one who “begins a good work” in us. Salvation always begins with God. He makes the first move, and if he didn’t make the first move, we would make no move at all.
Second, God takes personal responsibility for completing his work in you.
I find this a most comforting thought. God has a “good work” that he intends to accomplish in your life and in mine. God intends that all his children be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and he will not rest until that “good work” is finally finished.
Perhaps you’ve seen those buttons that read PBPGIFWMY. Those cryptic letters stand for a most important truth: “Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” I may not look like much—but God isn’t finished with me yet. And when you look in the mirror—and even deeper into your own soul, you may not like what you see, but no matter. God isn’t finished with you yet.
There is good news and bad news in this truth. The good news is that since God isn’t finished yet, we have great hope for the future. The bad news is that since God isn’t finished yet, he won’t let us stay as we are today. As we yield our selves to Him, He’s going to keep chipping away at us until we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Most of us have a long way to go—and some of us have an enormous distance to travel. But it doesn’t matter. If you find yourself in the muck and mire of personal defeat, be encouraged. He’s not finished with you yet. Rise and walk. God is not finished with you yet. If you’ve been sent to the bench for a personal foul, learn the lesson God has for you and then get back in the game.
Third, God guarantees the outcome of his work in you.
Not only does God start the process, and continue the process, he also guarantees its ultimate outcome, as long as we are yielding ourselves to the work he is doing with in us. He will “carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This means that God won’t be turned aside by difficulties of any kind. He is so determined to make you like Jesus that in his long suffering, patience and mercy your own backsliding doesn't have to hinder the accomplishment of his purpose.
That word “backslide” is not a word you hear often as a Catholic, but it is a very biblical word.
Jeremiah 3:22 says, “Return, you backsliden children, and I will heal your rebellions.”
In Hosea 14:4 we hear God say, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for my wrath is turned away from them.”
Someday you and I will stand before Jesus Christ as redeemed children of God—holy, blameless, and complete in every way. We’re a far sight from that today. But a better day is coming for the people of God. What is incomplete will be made complete. What is unfinished will be finished. What is lacking will be made full. What is partial will be made whole. What is less than enough will be far more than adequate.
What is broken will be fixed. What is hurt will be healed. What is weak will be made strong. What is temporary will be made permanent.
God has promised to do it and He cannot lie. Has God begun a good work in your life? Do you feel incomplete and unfinished? Fear not. God will complete his work in you if you will only submit to the construction that He is doing with in you.