We all know what it is like to face difficulty. Each person has endured, is currently enduring, or will endure their own struggles. These challenges and struggles, however, are not unique. Though maybe under slightly different forms, the people of God across the ages have faced similar troubles. Why does our God send these various trials or struggles to His people? We are being shaped into living stones, fit for a place in the temple of God.
The Bible compares us to stones that make up the temple. Now, this statement might seem an odd response as we seek to understand why we are sent trials in this life; but think about all of the things that must be done to each stone of a temple. They must be cut from the quarry and shaped individually. They must be shaved and sculpted to fit perfectly in their place among the other stones. Finally, they will be lifted up into their place in the temple. That is not an easy process.
These stones are cut out from the quarry for a special purpose. There is no longer a possibility that they will be used to build a house or a well. These stones are now given the purpose of building a temple. They are given that unique reason for their shape, dimensions, and their very existence.
But the truth is that we have similarly been cut out from the quarry of this world for a special purpose. Every trial that we face is shaping us – even as the stones are shaped by the mason – into the people that God intends us to be. He is molding us into the perfect shape to fit in our place within the temple. These stones, now lively members of a body that is separate, are given a new and holy design.
Though we are called out of the world and made holy through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we are still rough and unformed. From the time we are infants, we are living with the reality of sin. We struggle against sin every day until we draw our very last breath.Like the stones fresh from the quarry, we still bear the scratches and marks of sin. But by God’s grace we are not left in this shape. All through our lives He is sanctifying us and creating us to be holy, beautiful stones that are worthy to fit among those in his temple.
How often do we ask for God to remove sin from our lives? When we pray for forgiveness and the ability to avoid that sin, we must understand that God may fulfill our request in a way that might be difficult or painful. Like the rocks, we will be shaved and sculpted. The smoothing of the stains and mars of sin in our lives is a painful process and requires much work. Do we pray for spiritual growth with that awareness in mind?
There are many trials that we face in common. These trials have lessons to teach the church as a whole. Maybe facing a pandemic was intended to show us how much we need the church and the worship that we so often take for granted. Maybe being isolated at home reminded us of how we ought to value the fellowship of our Christian brothers and sisters. Maybe a controversy within the church is predetermined to lead us to treasure unity among the believers.
Alongside these trials which God uses to purify his church are the many personal struggles that we face. These might be teaching us to lean on God, to leave behind a reliance on ourselves, or to let go of a tendency towards pride, anxiety, or lying. Whatever the trials we face, we are individually being shaped more and more into a lively stone that is useful in the temple of God.
Throughout this entire life we seem to face trials and struggle against sins, so where is the end of this process? There are still imperfections and gouges that cannot be polished away in this life. Every Christian in this life would confess with the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 that “I am the chief of sinners” until their last breath. Until we are called to the perfection of Heaven, we will continue to be crafted bearing the flaws of sin and suffering. The end of this suffering will come at that moment when our soul is lifted up to join our Creator, the One who is shaping us all our life long.
So how do we find peace in all of the trials that we face? It is easy to merely say that it is making us a better person and a better Christian, but in the moment that might not make our struggles feel any less daunting than before. The comfort is that our loving God is the sovereign One who is sending these trials. He is the one cutting away the rough edges. We cannot understand why each piece has to be cut a certain way, yet we can trust that His ways are best. We cannot see all of the shaping that God is doing in the lives of his other living stones among whom we must fit perfectly, and this makes our individual shaping difficult to grasp as well. Psalm 139 says that the knowledge of God’s sovereignty over our entire lives is too wonderful for us to fully understand in this life. (139:6). However, we can trust that even when the process hurts, it is always working for our good (Rom. 8:28). We may be touched by affliction, but it is light in comparison to the eternal weight of glory(2 Cor. 4:17). We will be a part of the beauty of His temple, shining into eternity. What a promise is ours!.
When God lifts up His stones to glory, He places them among the other perfected stones in His temple. These stones are given a place among the glorified elect where they will be praising God forever. What a beautiful product this temple will be. Each glistening, perfectly shaped stone will reflect the glory of God Himself. Each one will be a part of the one church that is made to praise God in eternity.
This is a beautiful future that we have in store, and it is only ours through the work of Jesus Christ. The beauty of this building is upheld by the work of Christ, our cornerstone. Through His work we are justified, sanctified, and glorified. It is a work that begins even in this life, and is perfected in heaven. If Christ were not the base of this radiant temple, then all of it would never be able to stand. Thanks be to God that we have Christ as our foundation now, and eternally in the life to come.