Struggling Images



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Why You Have Struggles

God is polishing you and turning you into beautiful music

Philippians 2.12–13

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • January 7, In the year of our Lord, 2018


  1. You Are Being Polished
    1. Why do you have struggles?
      1. Why can’t life just be easy?
      2. The short answer: God is polishing you!
    2. A Chinese proverb says,

      “The gem cannot be polished without friction.”

      1. Gems do not begin beautiful, but
        1. begin rough and dirty, and
        2. after friction they acquire the beauty we admire.
      2. Have you ever owned a rock tumbler?
        1. My brother Ron had one when I was in Junior High and
        2. he would have been in 5th or 6th grade.
          1. You put rocks in it
          2. with water and sand, I believe, and
            1. you let it tumble day and night without stopping.
            2. Why was it in our bedroom and
              1. not in the garage or back porch?
              2. Anyway, when it is done,
              3. you have beautiful polished rocks.
      3. We also start out rough and dirty, but
        1. through friction,
        2. God creates gem-like beauty in us,
          1. that we might enter the city—
            1. now get this—
          2. whose foundations are made of gems.
      4. Revelation 21 shows the wall, city, and foundations,

        19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst (Revelation 21.19–21).

        1. It makes sense that if we are to enter such a city,
        2. that we also have gem-like quality.
          1. That quality comes through the trials and struggles of life.
          2. Suffering changes us, but
            1. it should not make us bitter,
            2. rather it should make us better.
    3. Paul also taught the Romans
      1. that before we can experience glory with Christ,
      2. we have to experience something else with Christ,

        17b …if…we suffer with Him…we may also be glorified [with Him] (Rom 8.18).
  2. If the Rocks Were Removed
    1. What we see as war in our lives,
      1. God hears as beautiful music!
      2. Have you realized
        1. that the brook would lose its song,
        2. if the rocks were removed?
    2. A brook is simply water cascading over rocks,
      1. yet the sound of a mountain brook
      2. is music to our ears.
        1. It would not be the same,
        2. if the rocks were removed.
          1. Think about it:
          2. The rocks help create the soothing sound.
    3. What are rocks in a stream, but
      1. hindrances in the path of the brook?
      2. The water must fight to move on,
        1. so that what we hear as music
        2. is really war between the water and the rocks!
    4. We are brooks,
      1. each one with his own song, because
      2. we each have our own rocks
        1. with which we must fight to go on in life.
        2. What would happen if the rocks were removed?
          1. The song in our lives would disappear, and
          2. we would reach the end sooner.
    5. The rocks in our lives,
      1. the problems that we face,
      2. make us better people,
        1. if we learn to cascade over those rocks,
        2. as the brook does.
          1. When we learn to cascade over the rocks in our lives,
          2. to work with them
            1. instead of just being frustrated that they are there,
            2. then rocks create beautiful songs in our lives:
              1. The song of experience,
              2. The song of maturity,
              3. The song of stability,
              4. The song of wisdom,
              5. The song of power. 
    6. Scripture teaches these very things.
      1. Paul wrote in Romans 5,
        1. that we should actually glory in the tribulations we experience.
        2. Why would he say such a thing?

          “We…glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5.3–4).

          1. Like glorying in weight-lifting,
          2. knowing the results.
      2. When James penned his letter,
        1. he said something similar,
        2. even telling us to count it as a joyful thing,

          “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jam 1.2–4).
    7. God allows rocks to get in our way as we cascade through life, but
      1. He does not do it to hurt us,
      2. rather He does it to make us better, and
        1. to make us into a  song.
        2. The rocks show us that God directs our lives,
          1. even as rocks in a brook help direct the course of the water.
          2. Perhaps we are heading down a path
            1. that will only make us a stagnant pool,
            2. so God brings in the rocks
              1. that we may go in a direction that keeps us fresh,
              2. like water that rolls over the rocks.
            3. Frustration does not make the rocks go away, but
              1. only makes them greater,
              2. hence more difficult to go over.
    8. The rocks also teach us of our need
      1. for God to direct our lives,
      2. as Moses told Israel,

        “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deu 8.3).
    9. Therefore, instead of wishing that the rocks were not there,
      1. let us cascade over them,
      2. making beautiful music.
  3. If the Irritation Was Removed
    1. What is a pearl?

      “A pearl is a hard glistening object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk…Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes, known as baroque pearls, can occur” (Wikipedia).
    2. How is it formed?

      “It is thought that natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, irritated by the intruder, forms a pearl sac of external mantle tissue cells and secretes the calcium carbonate and conchiolin to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl” (Ibid).
    3. Thus, without the irritant,
      1. we get no pearl.
      2. The beauty of the pearl
        1. comes from the intrusion of
        2. something that does not belong there.
          1. It comes from the outside.
          2. It disturbs the life of the mollusk.
    4. Is it not significant
      1. that Revelation 21,
      2. not only shows the foundations of the city as formed of gems, but
        1. notice the gates of this beyond awesome city,

          21a The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl (Revelation 21.21a).
        2. It should not surprise us then,
          1. that Acts 14 records Paul and Barnabas
          2. returning to churches that they had started,
            1. teaching those churches
            2. one of the requirements of entering heaven,

              22 [they were] strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14.22).
    5. Second Corinthians 12 shows
      1. that God allowed Paul to enter heaven,
      2. then to come back to earth.
        1. While there he heard,

          …heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12.4).
        2. Paul might have been tempted to think
          1. that he was extra special because
          2. God had allowed him to have this experience.
      3. Therefore, God did something to keep Paul humble,

        And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure (2 Corinthians 12.7).

        1. Paul wanted it removed, naturally.
        2. He asked for it to depart,

          Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me (2 Corinthians 12.8).
      4. Listen to
        1. what Paul said God told him, and
        2. Paul’s reaction to the Lord’s statement,

          9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12.9–10).
      5. This thorn in Paul’s flesh
        1. represented something with which he struggled in the body.
        2. It was not a major tragedy.
          1. Like a thorn in the flesh,
          2. you can go on living with struggles, but
            1. it is difficult and,
            2. downright irritating and frustrating.
      6. However, the grace of Christ can then flow through your life.
        1. You can show His power by how you deal with the irritations.
        2. Your attitude will show that Jesus lives in you.


  1. In Philippians 2, Paul urged the church in Philippi to be,

    …like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2.2).

    1. We can achieve those things among us by doing what he said next,

      3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2.3–4).
    2. You can in think in those ways by doing what he said next,

      5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2.5–8).

      1. Watch then what God did for Jesus,

        9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2.9–11).
      2. Having said all those things,
        1. Paul then gave an exhortation on what to do and
        2. he also explained why we should do it,

          12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2.12–13).
  2. Hebrews 13 also says something utterly profound.
    1. Hebrews was written to Christians who were struggling.
    2. Think of what the writer says about what our God has already done (v. 20),
    3. then note what the writer says God is doing now (v. 21),

      20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13.20–21).
  3. What kind of gem is God polishing you to become?
    1. What is the music He is creating in your life?
    2. What kind of pearl is He seeking to make of you? (color, shape, size)
      1. Romans 8 shows into what He is forming you,

        28 We know [now] that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8.28–29).
      2. The point of verse 28
        1. is that God works things in your life
        2. for something good.
      3. The point of verse 29
        1. is to explain the previous sentence,
        2. identified by the first word, “for,” and then
          1. by “to be” or
          2. in some translations “to become.”
    3. Paul said that God works all things,
      1. prayer,
      2. time in Scripture,
      3. fellowship,
      4. instruction from fellow Christians,
      5. rebukes from others, and
      6. struggles, among other things
        1. to form you into the gem of,
        2. to form you into the music of, and
        3. to form you into the pearl of
          1. the image of His Son.
          2. To do that, He has to clean us up,
            1. He has to knock off the rough edges,
            2. He has to completely reform us, and
              1. one of the tools that He uses,
              2. according to verse 17 and verses 31–39
                1. are our struggles.
                2. Because we refuse to let go of our old ways.
                3. To enable ourselves to move on,
                  1. we have to make changes, and
                  2. that is what He intends.
  4. Start right now with the cleaning up process
    1. by having Him wash all your sins away.
    2. The blood of His Son Jesus cleanses away
      1. the things you have done
      2. in violation of His will.