Scientists tell us that the Galeras volcano in Columbia, South America has been an active volcano for over 500,000 years. Most of the activity has been small eruptions leaving an occasional dusting of ash on nearby cities. However, after an explosion in 1993, an interesting discovery was made inside the volcano. Dr. Fraser Goff, a geologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was sampling gas vents in a deep river canyon just west of the summit when a guide jokingly asked him, “Do you want to look at some gold?” Dr. Goff picked up some rocks for sampling, and when he cut them into small slices he found they were full of gold. This was the first time visible gold particles were found in an active volcano. After studying the volcano for nearly a year, he observed that the volcano spews more than a pound of gold each day into the atmosphere, and deposits 45 pounds of gold each year into the rocks lining its crater. Dr. Goff estimated that there is a gold vein at the base of the volcano that is at least ten feet wide. However, no one would have even known the gold existed if it were not for the ultra high heat and pressure from the core of the volcano that pushed the gold to the surface.
Those who were casual observers of Job’s life were only able to see the horror, hurt, and humiliation he endured. However, Job had his eyes fixed upon the honor he knew he could count on from the Lord through it all. In Job 23:10, he writes, “…He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” He knew that the Lord was able to weave a purpose through all the problems, pain, and pressures he faced. Common sense would tell anyone that the Mississippi River flows from north to south. However, if you have ever flown over the mighty river, there are places where the river will flow north, and places where it flows due west. But, regardless of all the twists and turns, the river will ultimately flow south. While the Lord may reveal our destinations, He is under no obligation to explain His detours along the way. Samson was sent to defeat the Philistines, but he never counted on doing it as a blind man. Paul was promised he would go to Rome, but he never thought he would go as a prisoner. Author Philip Yancey said it best, “Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” How can you live with the bedrock assurance “…that all things work together for good…” in your life?
The Lord ordains the design of our lives. In Jeremiah 1:5, God reminds Jeremiah of the great plans for his life before he was even born, “…I formed thee…I knew thee…I sanctified thee…I ordained thee…” The word “formed” actually means “to squeeze into a mold.” Like a carpenter who builds the form for a sidewalk, the Lord pours out the concrete events of our lives in such a manner as to shape us into the boundaries of the framework. If you have ever watched children dressed up in their parents’ clothes, you can easily discern the obvious: they do not fit! Have you ever found yourself amidst circumstances that simply do not seem to fit? They do not fit our pace, our plans, or our position. But, there is something the Lord is keenly aware of in the process. He knows how to grow our lives to fit the circumstances. Moses was destined to be a deliverer, but it took years being a servant to fit him for leadership. David was anointed to be king while still a teenager, but it took years of hardship to fit him for the throne. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Every humiliation, everything that tries and vexes us, is God’s way of cutting a deeper channel in us through which the life of Christ can flow.” The Lord’s grand design for our lives is not to measure us for greater levels of success, but rather to mold us into a greater likeness of His Son!
The Lord oversees the details of our lives. In Deuteronomy 8:2, Moses commanded all of Israel to “…remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness…” During their journey, there was darkness, detours, dry holes, and dead ends. But, as they looked back in reflection, they would discover the Lord not only knew where He was going, but He knew what He was doing. When a printer goes to work setting up his printing press, he does something that appears contrary to the laws of reading. He sets all of the letters backwards! It is not until he goes to print that anything he is trying to say makes sense. God led Moses to the bitter waters of Marah for the purpose of exposing His sweet provision. God reduced Gideon’s army to three hundred men for the purpose of extending His strong power. Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said, “God is to be trusted when His providences seem to run contrary to His promises.” The Lord not only knows where I am and where I’ve been, but His fingerprints are already traced on my tomorrows.
The Lord occupies the dealings of our lives. In Exodus 33:14, God gives Moses the most assuring promise in all the world, “…My presence shall go with thee, and I will give you rest.” As a child, I was terrified of the dark, but I discovered incredible courage when someone would walk with me in the dark. The Christian’s secret of living an effective life is not found in experience, education, enthusiasm, or sheer effort. The secret is God’s abiding presence with His own children. Joseph was cast into a prison, “but the Lord was with Joseph.” When Joshua faced the mighty obstacle of Jericho, “the Lord was with Joshua.” When David became prey to Saul, “the Lord was with him.” When Paul had a death sentence on his life, “the Lord stood by him.” It is a wonderful discovery to learn that the pressures of life only press us deeper into His presence. Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks said, “The grand design of God in all the afflictions that befall His people is to bring them nearer and closer to Himself.” The Lord never guaranteed a journey without trials and difficulties, but rather that the journey would never be without Him!
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us…” Only those who have learned to find the hand of God in all their circumstances will ever grasp the fact their trials are actually working for them rather than against them. The combination of the pressure from the Lord’s hands and the intense heat from the Lord’s breath are the making of a wonderful explosion in your life. But, don’t be afraid. It just might be the difference between a lump of coal and a nugget of gold!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2009 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.