Tag Archives: Worthless

Trials, Gold, and Dross

So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel.
Ezra 6:21 (NIV)

On Sunday, after I gave the message among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers, Wendy and I were having our normal lunch date together. Wendy had given the message the previous Sunday. She shared the story of her journey through infertility. This past Sunday I spoke about secrets and my own experience with secrets that kept me spiritually imprisoned.

There was a common theme in our messages. We both slogged our way through long stretches of trial and difficulty, and we both experienced previously unknown depths of joy and freedom at the other end of our respective valleys.

As we dined and debriefed, we discussed a few of the things that some religious people cling to as if of vital importance. Things such as church membership and adherence to a particular denominational institution. For the two of us, such trappings hold very little importance. To a certain extent, I realized that our journeys and struggles through hard spiritual terrain had refined our perspectives on what it means to be followers of Jesus. Membership certificates and institutional inclusion are of very little importance to us compared to the more tangible daily realities of our own personal, daily spiritual trek among our community of Jesus’ followers.

In today’s chapter, the returned exiles complete their construction of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. There is a very small distinction in today’s chapter that is easily lost on a casual reader. The returned exiles are referred to as “Israelites.” When Jerusalem was besieged and the exile began, they were the nation of Judah. For hundreds of years prior to the exile, the tribes of Israel were separated in a bloody civil war. “Israel” was the northern kingdom. “Judah” was the southern kingdom. Now, upon return from their exile and the restoration of the Temple, they were simply “Israelites” along with Gentiles, like Ruth, who had chosen to follow their faith.

I couldn’t help but think that the experience of exile over 70 years changed some things for those who went through it. Old conflicts and prejudices fell by the wayside. Those who returned had a renewed understanding of what was truly important and what things simply didn’t matter all that much in the eternal perspective. That’s what exilic experiences and the spiritual struggle through valleys of pain, grief, and trouble will do for a person. It refines things. I’m reminded of Peter’s words to fellow believers scattered across the Roman Empire experiencing dreadful persecution:

May the thought of this cause you to jump for joy, even though lately you’ve had to put up with the grief of many trials. But these only reveal the sterling core of your faith, which is far more valuable than gold that perishes, for even gold is refined by fire. Your authentic faith will result in even more praise, glory, and honor when Jesus the Anointed One is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7 (TPT)

In the process of refining metal, which Peter uses as a metaphor, the gold remains while the “dross” (literally “scum on molten metal”) is removed as useless and worthless.

In the quiet this morning I find myself pondering those things that my trials have refined and revealed to be the gold of eternal importance and those things that my trials have revealed to be worthless scum in the grand scheme of things.

Chapter-a-Day Judges 6

I'm not listening. Gideon said to him, "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter." Judges 6:15 (MSG)

Consider, for a moment, some of the "heroes" of God's story:

  • Jacob: the younger son, a deceiver, becomes the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Joseph: the youngest of Jacob's sons, became the most powerful man in Egypt and saved the nation.
  • Moses: an orphan and a murderer on the lam (with speech impediment to boot) leads Israel out of bondage and delivers God's law.
  • Deborah: a woman leads Israel in a time when women had about as much social standing as livestock.
  • Gideon: the "run of the litter" leads Israel to defeat the Midianites.
  • David: the youngest, smallest son of Jesse becomes the greatest King of Israel, through whom Jesus would be born. All this despite being an adulterer and murder.
  • Solomon: the youngest son of David, born out of a scandalous marriage to Bathsheba, becomes the most powerful king in Israel's history.
  • Mary: a young girl with no social standing, becomes the mother of Jesus.
  • Jesus disciples: an eclectic, rag-tag group of uneducated misfits would turn the world upside down sharing the good news of Jesus.
  • Paul: a murderer and persecutor of Christians becomes the most influential follower and apostle of Jesus.

Anyone see a pattern?

As human beings, I've noticed that we are quick to believe the most negative things about ourselves. "God would never use me. I'm not sure God even loves me. I could never to anything worthwhile for God. I'm too…worthless, sinful, ugly, small, fat, dumb, short, stupid, dirty, weak, sick, poor, young, old, sinful, untalented, unknown, unlucky, unimportant, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

Look at the list again. 

Join the club.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Ashley Rose


Chapter-a-Day Exodus 3

Take another look. Moses answered God, "But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Exodus 3:11 (MSG)

There is a HUGE difference between what God sees in Moses and what Moses sees in himself.

God sees a man who has been prepared since birth for this task. God sees a man who knows Pharaoh's court, who knows Egypt's ways, who has an insider's understanding of the Egyptian political elite. Beyond that, God sees in Moses a humbled heart (that He can raise up), a heart stirred by justice (through which He can deliver the law), a man who, after years in the wilderness, now knows how to shepherd bunch of silly sheep (and can now lead His "flock" out of Egypt).

Moses, on the other hand, sees a murderer. Moses sees an escaped criminal. Moses sees a failure. Moses sees a worthless shepherd who has nothing to his name but what his father-in-law has provided for him.

How easily we look at ourselves, desire to believe what God says about us, but can't see past the worst of what we know about ourselves. Like Moses, we react to thoughts of what we could do for God with our buts…

But, I'm a failure.
But, I killed my unborn child.
But, I'm an addict.
But, I'm a secret sinner.
But, I'm fat and ugly.
But, I'm an adulterer.
But, I never finished college.
But, I'm a victim of…
But, I'm stupid.
But, I'm divorced.
But, I've got an eating disorder.
But…
But…
But…

I am convinced that there is no mere human on Earth, listed among the "great," who did not have as many hang-ups, issues, and failures as anybody else. The difference is not in being a better, more worthy person. The difference is in choosing to believe that what God sees in me, is more important than what I see in myself.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and behruz

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