This past Sunday found us seated in a cozy Baptist adult Sunday school class. We visited hubby’s aunt’s church, as she’d recently returned from a mission trip to Africa and would share about it during the morning service.
So there we were, seated around a table with five other people…a scented candle in our midst and coffee perking in the background. Perfect small group setting, even if one no longer drinks coffee (my loss). Our study: Matthew 8:1-13 on faith. Quick recap–Jesus heals a leper and tells him to tell no one, but to present himself to the priest for a testimony. Of course, we kept reading on into the incredible story of the Roman centurion whose faith believed that Jesus could speak healing and his servant miles away would be healed, but my thoughts were still with the leper.
Leprosy. Probably the worst disease ever as anyone afflicted was socially and physically cast out of society and made to live apart until death. Think of the faith it took for this leper to come out of hiding and near enough to Jesus to request healing. Consider what he’d gone through, the suffering and cruelty and loneliness that brought him to that kind of faith.
Into my musings, the Sunday school teacher, a humble and soft-spoken man, responded to someone elses’ thoughts (again, I was wool-gathering so I didn’t catch what prompted this gem). He said,
“My mother always said she was just a lump of coal and the hardships and difficult people that crossed her path were just helping her to more quickly become a diamond.”
What a gracious response to trials, right? And again I thought of the leper and his afflictions. Bitterness could have poisoned his inner man but instead he chose to hope, to keep the faith, and look at his reward! Healing. Another chance at an abundant life.
But don’t leave me yet, the best is yet to come. We next flipped back in our Bibles to Zechariah 4:6-7:
Then he answered and said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.
What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'”
Grace to the mountains (obstacles) in our lives. Grace to endure the trials, the ugliness. Grace to keep hoping. Grace to obey God’s command to “Consider it all joy concerning the fiery trials among you”…
Grace, grace, God’s grace.
The Gaither Vocal Band sings a song entitled, “Love Can Turn the World”, here’s a snippet:
“If coal can turn to diamonds, And sand can turn to pearls; If a worm can turn into a butterfly– Then Love can turn the World…”