So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
– Ephesians 4:11-16
My wife goes to the oven, opens the door, and sticks a toothpick into the cake. She pulls the toothpick out and says, “Not done yet.”
Are any of us really done? Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy Graham, had this placed on her tombstone, “End of Construction – Thank you for your patience.” She’d seen it on a sign when they left a construction zone on the highway. She had thought about how she and her husband had thought that the construction delay had been more severe than at other times. The sign humbled her. That little bit of waiting is nothing compared with how God has waited our entire lives for us to ‘get it.’
The Scripture talks about gifts that God gives each of us. Sometimes, our desires and plans get in the way of God’s plan for us. As such, we may not see the gifts from God. Without seeing those gifts, it is hard to realize how to use those gifts for His glory. Yet, as the Scripture passage ends, we learn that each of us has a part to play. Once we are attuned to God’s plan, we can do our part.
That reminds me of our toolroom keeper when I was a platoon leader in the Army. I don’t like using names without the person’s permission, but I will, in this case, use his nickname. Everyone called him “Matt.” That had nothing to do with his name. He started getting a complex, but my platoon sergeant was a patient, kind, wise man. Okay, he was a towering giant well over six feet who had his own problems, but as a sergeant in charge of 38 or so men, he was the father figure. He explained how the nickname got started, and Matt was finally okay with it.
Matt, a buck private, was small and very raw. He grew up in the Ozarks, far from the nearest town of at least one hundred people. As he explained to me, his men folk all left home to join one branch of the service or another. When his Mama had told him, “It’s time you left home to become a man,” Matt went an hour down the road to catch a bus for the big city to join the Army. This may sound like something from a 50s ‘B’ movie, but this was the late 70s.
Because of his build and the fear that the seasoned soldiers would tease him too much, he was made the toolroom keeper. He issued tools to the other guys in the morning and inventoried everything during the day. He had been trained by the Army as a carpenter, but one day he was inventorying a carpenter box. He picked up a claw hammer and asked, “Sir, what’s this?” I wanted to laugh. I wanted to say, “You call yourself a carpenter?” No, I smiled and said, “Matt, that’s a claw hammer. You should have sixteen in the box. You should have another six rip hammers. The claw hammer has the bent hook to pull nails, while the rip hammer is straight so that you can easily rip a board along the grain of the wood.” Of course, there were a variety of other hammers in the box, but the other hammers were a lot larger hammers than the one-pound hammers used by carpenters most of the time. The photo shows a rip hammer and an old construction helmet.
We finally trusted Matt on a job site. The squad leader had him clean paint spills off the floor. The squad leader thought he would get paint thinner, but Matt got gasoline. After a while, Matt got gasoline on his pants. He had seen his uncles light a match to dry out their pants when their cigarette lighters leaked. When he tried this on gasoline, his pants caught on fire. He ran. One of the top men in the platoon tackled him and immediately rolled him inside a tarp. I believe the result was called, “Crepes with Matt Sauce.” The squad had been renovating a gymnasium, and we had a tarp covering the gym floor to keep the massive amount of dust off the floor. It was a perfect Stop-Drop-Roll situation, but Matt was bedridden with blisters behind his knees. He couldn’t bend his legs without a lot of pain. He would fully recover, but before he was 100%, he went back home to visit Mama. We had a poor track record. The average troop in Europe at the time did not speak the language and felt alone in a foreign land. Guys went home for a visit. They claimed a hardship, and the recruiter pulled strings to get them stationed in the US. With a young guy who had spent two weeks in bed and going home scarred, we thought we had seen the last of Matt.
Two weeks later, we noticed a familiar silhouette approaching from the main gate, laboring to carry his duffel bag, which probably weighed more than he did. My platoon sergeant said, “It can’t be!” As he got close enough for confirmation, I yelled, “Matt! I didn’t expect you back.”
Matt replied, “I was thinking of a hardship, but I talked to Mama. She said I ain’t done yet.”
I guessed Mama had used the toothpick test. It was now our job to finish the job Mama had given us, to make Matt into a man. The platoon sergeant kept up with Matt over the years. He turned into quite a good man.
So, when one of your fellow bloggers has an odd post that doesn’t make sense or isn’t full of Grace like their other posts (That could include me.), remember that God isn’t done with us yet. When you are dealing with difficult people in your family, your workplace, your church, or along your street at home, remember that they ‘ain’t done yet.’ When a husband and wife can endure all kinds of hardships without complaint and then get angry enough to reach for a rolling pin over a triviality, they need to take a deep breath and remember that God is not done with you and God is not done with your spouse. When you stumble with sin, you can either ride the ‘Guilt Train’ in self-pity and self-loathing or you can repent, talk it over with God, and remember, “God is not done with me yet.”
Our God is a God of infinite patience. It is hard to believe it at times, but He really loves us.
The road to complete sanctification is a tough road at times, the Scripture today talks of the world’s ‘deceitful scheming.’ But it says that with maturity, we can endure. We have God, His Holy Bible that we need to read each day, and Jesus walking beside us, not to mention the Holy Spirit guiding us.
With the kind of maturity that comes from trusting in God, we can experience ‘the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ Even then, like Ruth Graham, we should wait for our tombstone to say, “End of Construction – Thank you for your patience.”