I have a friend who loves crafting. She can take virtually anything and turn it into something beautiful.
Flowers are a favorite subject for her. I’m frequently amazed at the materials she’s able to use. Coffee filters, sheet music, ribbons, and more transform into blossoms in her hands.
God loves crafting, too. We are His materials, and He has one Subject in mind: the image of Christ. His vision is for Christ-followers to become more like Christ, imitating His perfect character in the unique places and with the unique gifts and personalities He gives us.
That sounds wonderful. But sometimes we feel very unlike perfection-making material. And we wonder how God can use one Standard to artfully shape such a diverse and imperfect bunch of people.
We might not know everything about how God works. But there are a few things we can know for certain – and in which we can find comfort and guidance.
God knows what we’re made of
As our Creator, God knows everything about us, inside and out. Nothing about us surprises or confuses Him – neither the good nor the bad, the extraordinary nor the mediocre, the stellar nor the messy.
He knows the design and history of every organ in our bodies – every hair, bone, nerve, muscle fiber, vein, and so on, right down to the building blocks of our cells and the amino acids in our DNA.
He also knows all about the design and history of our souls – our strengths and weaknesses, our wants and needs, our values and quirks, our worries and phobias, our pains and burdens. He knows what we’re doing, thinking, and feeling at any given moment – in advance.
In short, He knows what He’s working with – and how to shape it into the masterpiece He wants it to become.
He loves to show grace
God knows us well, but He also loves us well. He wants what’s best for us – including our transformation.
And He relentlessly pursues that “best”. He seeks the straying, welcomes the wanderer home, gives good things to the undeserving , and died to save the sinful (that’s all of us). He wants nothing more than for every person to experience a rich, joyful relationship with Him and each other – the very things we were made for.
And He is doing something about it, making it possible through Christ for anyone who puts their faith in Him. In Christ, He supplies our every spiritual need, including everything we need to grow.
His Spirit works in us
When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, we receive one of God’s greatest, most transforming gifts: the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit’s presence marks us as Christ-followers, destined to be transformed into bearers of Christ’s image and members of Christ’s body, the Church, equipped to serve in our own unique ways.
The Spirit does things in us that we could never do ourselves. When we have no words to pray, He intercedes for us. When we struggle to understand God’s Word, He gives us discernment. When God commissions us for a task, He guides and equips us. When we sin, He convicts us. When we repent, He cleanses us and points us in the right direction.
And one day, when Christ returns, He will transform our very bodies into a glorious, immortal state, just as He resurrected and transformed Christ’s body on Easter morning.
Because nothing can stop His work – not even suffering and death. In His hands, a cross and a tomb become symbols of victory and a means of new life. In His hands, things that others have intended for evil or viewed as burdens are vanquished and appropriated for good.
We are participants in God’s work
God doesn’t stop at accomplishing wonders on our behalf. He invites us to participate in the process. Not because He wants us to “earn our keep” – He knows we never could – but because He wants an active, two-way relationship with us.
We respond to God’s grace with acts of faith and trusting obedience. As we take steps to follow His lead, He equips us and nurtures Christlike traits in us. He builds on what He has founded and guides us as we grow.
Faith without works – grace without a response – gets us nowhere. It’s like crafting materials locked in a drawer, or great art tucked away in the attic.
To be clear, God can and does work on us without us knowing (and it’s a good thing He does, or we’d be a lost cause). But once we’re aware of what He has done and wants to do for and in us, there’s no good reason not to accept His invitation to participate. And the guidelines are simple, though not always easy: Our job is to join in God’s work by striving to follow Christ’s teachings and example, guided by the Holy Spirit.
This is a project that will last a lifetime. But if we persist under our Master Crafter, we will see the end result. We will experience the beauty that comes out of hardship; the grace and gratitude that grow only in dark, close, messy places; the wonder of God at work.
Sometimes we’ll fray, and sometimes come apart at the seams, and sometimes feel incredibly unimpressive and unimpressed. But at all times we can know that we’re in the most capable Hands in existence.
It’s a humbling, mind-blowing thing. Sometimes it’s the only thing that gets us through.
And He will.