Hiding the Word:
Today is our Awana derby race at church. The girls announced two weeks ago that they wanted cars shaped like an ice cream sandwich and a cheetah. My husband cut the shapes into the wood and the girls painted the cars (and much of themselves) and drilled holes. They are excited and proud of their hard work!
At the race, the girls hope for a trophy of some kind, maybe for speed or for their car’s design.
Me—I mostly hope that our car isn’t the one that hops the track and flies across the gym. Also I hope that our car makes it all the way down to the finish line without getting stuck along the way.
I kind of stand to the side, squint my eyes and breathlessly plead, “Please stay on the track. Please make it to the end.”
With racing on the brain, I decided to pick a verse for the week that focuses on perseverance in the race God gives us to run. No flying off course. No giving up. No getting bogged down and stuck halfway through.
I’m hoping for victory.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Hot Enough For You?
Originally Published 08/12/2011
One night years ago my daughters discovered popcorn.
At first, we did our popping in microwavable bags, but we soon switched to a popcorn popper. On that first exciting day when I pulled the contraption out of the cabinet and set it on the counter, the girls stood on stools so they could watch what would happen. The kernels tumbled into the popper and I plugged it in. One daughter covered her ears with her hands and the other shouted, “What’s going to happen?” over the roar of the machine.
And then that first kernel popped. They squealed in surprise! And then more kernels began popping in quick succession until there was a constant stream of fluffy white popcorn pouring down the shoot and into the bowl.
The girls danced, laughed and shouted and kept calling our attention to the popcorn as if we’d never seen such a magic trick. My husband and I watched the girls more than the popcorn; their excitement was joy-giving.
It does seem like magic. Dump into an inauspicious machine a hard, dried up tiny little crackle of corn and with heat, it transforms into a new texture, color, shape, consistency and taste. Who would have ever thought looking at the original kernel that the wonders of popcorn lie within?
Likewise, who would look at us much of the time and fully realize all that God has placed in our hearts and all that He has planned for our lives? Others might see a brittle surface with no flavor. We might look useless or dried up. We might simply look un-fun and plain old ordinary.
Yet, God is the Master of transformations. Although He sees us and fully knows who we are in this moment, He also always sees what we can become. And He’s willing to turn up the heat to change us.
Because heat is what it takes to break us down, cracking our exterior and softening our insides so that we’re receptive and usable.
To the untrained popcorn popper, it might seem like waste, like the Master is burning His kernels over the flame and they’ll be ruined and tossed aside. Or that this process is pointless and no good will come from the heat; nothing will ever change.
God, however, never takes us through the fire without purpose and never leaves us in the flame a moment longer than necessary to achieve transformation. He isn’t reckless or thoughtless. He’s not cruel or forgetful, blind or oblivious.
Paul wrote in Romans:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
Over the years, I’ve read these verses often and just as often shrugged them off as an impossible standard. “Glory in our suffering?” Not hardly. Truth be told, I’m more of a whiner than a perpetual rejoicer.
But as a toughened kernel who’s experienced at least a bit of transformation from my own sessions in the heat, I’m looking at these verses anew.
My commentary says:
This is more than mere Stoic endurance of troubles, even though endurance or steadfastness is the first result in a chain-reaction outgrowth from distress. This is spiritual glorying in afflictions because of having come to know (as in “to know by intuition or perception”) that the end product of this chain reaction (that begins with distress) is hope.
This gives me pause. Have you really considered how hope fits into this picture? Perhaps I can begrudgingly endure a trial here or there because some periodic heat produces perseverance and fixes flaws in my character. But how does that stir up hope?
For the Christian, hope is confident expectation that God will do what He says He will do. The only way we know that is through experience, the kind of experience that develops perseverance and strengthens our character. We have hope because we’ve seen God deliver us time and time again and we’re confident that He will never fail.
Paul finishes those verses by telling us “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” In other words, we won’t be disappointed or shamed by unfulfilled promises. The commentary continues:
“The reality of God’s love in a believer’s heart gives the assurance, even the guarantee, that the believer’s hope in God and His promise of glory is not misplaced and will not fail.”
It all comes down to the reality of God’s love for us. He loves us enough to know that we’re more than a golden kernel with a tough exterior. He knows that sometimes it takes heat to reveal, refine and transform, but He also knows just how hot it needs to be and just how long it needs to last. He’s not out to singe us or blacken us with despair. He’s lovingly and expertly making us new.
I use The Bible Knowledge Comentary, New Testament Edition, by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.