Travelling by car Dr. Billy Graham and his wife Ruth were brought to a halt by a barricade across the road bearing the sign “Under Construction”. Ruth turned to her husband and said “I want those words to be put on my tombstone”.
From the moment of our conception from sperm to fetus, to babyhood, childhood, adolescence to adulthood we are under construction. What we eventually become is determined by many factors. God’s intended plan for us is our ‘spiritual transformation’ and the site where the construction takes place is within us incorporating every aspect of our life. Mishaps, delays, adjustments, unexpected blockages and hindrances may occur throughout the construction process, but God is patient with us and never absent from the ‘site’. He oversees our construction through every phase.
The moment those Galilean fishermen left their nets to become disciples of Jesus a process of reconstruction began. He promised to make them what they had never before been, ‘fishers of men’, ‘branches of the vine’ and his ‘friends’. It was understood that to become a disciple was a life time engagement of following the master so closely, you virtually walked in the dust of his footsteps; his way of thinking and living reshaped yours. St. Paul in his correspondence to new Christians refers to this process ‘just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to life your lives in him, rooted and built up into him’ (Col.2:7). Their construction architect was Christ and the blue print was for their spiritual transformation into his likeness.
Likewise, you and I, as members of the church, are subject of his construction and his end design is – our spiritual transformation. Our involvement in worship, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, service, reading, giving, fasting are not ends in themselves; they are potential influences on our transformation. Our work ethic, our way of seeing, listening, learning, caring, our relationships and personal interests, form the shape of our construction. From him we learn that honesty, integrity, faith, humility, kindness, mercy, compassion and, most of all, love, are the essential components.
One important factor we need to realize is we cannot spiritually transform ourselves. It is not a DIY job. We begin by responding to God’s love. His Spirit becomes our source of energy and Christ’s constant, loving management gives direction for each day. We do not have the resources within ourselves; we are disciples following his instructions, fully dependent on the grace and gritty resilience he supplies each day enabling us to cope with the baggage we inherit and the pressures and circumstances life brings.
Paul’s letters were a construction manual: ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom.12:2), ‘Grow in the knowledge and love of God’, ’You are being built together to become a dwelling place in which God lives (Eph.2:22), ‘be made new in attitude of your mind’ (4:15, 23). He urged them to become mature (Eph.3:13-16). Peter also refers to the power for our construction ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life’, that we ‘may participate in the divine nature’ (2 Pet.1:3-) ‘make every effort to add to your faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection, love’. Love being the greatest quality of all. John also (1Jn.3:2) ‘What we will be has not yet been revealed’. For all three writers the construction process is a divine – human partnership, ‘Work out your salvation, for it is God working in you (Phil.2:12).
When we place ourselves under God’s management there is mystery in our spiritual formation. When times of crisis, or brokenness, or serious setback, or events over which we have no control occur we tend to think the process is falling apart when in fact it may be the time when major construction, or transformation, or correction is required. It being the very place where our unlikeness to the image of Jesus is located. Our own desires are being redirected allowing God to do what he chooses, in order to shape us into the purpose, the life with him, for which he made us.
The construction process takes time. There is no instant change to wholeness. We do not expect an infant to become an adult by next morning. Every aspect of our being is involved – our heart, mind and body. John Wesley clearly understood conversion as the first step in the process of personal spiritual reconstruction in which social responsibility, education, care for others in need became elements in the construction of a new life in Christ. ‘So shall no part of day or night/ From sacredness be free;/ But all my life, in every step,/ Be fellowship with thee’(Horatius Bonar). It isn’t how we start, but how we learn to live and love that matters. Be encouraged. His work in us is unfinished. As Ruth Graham realized we are always under construction.