I have to go get a filling in nine hours, and I am not particularly excited about it. To make matters worse, it isn’t even to fill a cavity, in which case this whole thing would be my fault, it’s to lessen the depth of a groove in one of my molars. And this isn’t the first time this has happened, I think it’s the third. I can almost guarantee that exact same thing will happen tomorrow morning that has happened every time I have had this procedure done before. I will warn the dentist that I require a significant amount of pain medication in order to not feel what is going on, they will tell me that this should be plenty, it won’t be, and then we will have to stop the procedure no less than three more times to repeat those same steps. It will be a lesson in patience and pain tolerance.
I would not go so far as to say that I have a fear of the dentist, as I know some people are frozen in terror at the mention of the word, I do have a healthy amount of discomfort prior to procedures like this.Ultimately, though, I am incredibly grateful for my dentists and the diligent work that they do. They have saved me from what I am certain would have been much worse pain over the long run. I just don’t particularly enjoy being repeatedly jabbed in the mouth by sharp metal objects, but I know it is for the best that I go forth with it.
That is perhaps life’s greatest struggle: the fact that the things that do us the greatest amount of good in the long term usually cost the most in the short term. That is what really hits me when I read 1 Corinthians 3:12-13.
“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.”
English Standard Version
The word costly reaches out from the page and hits me right between the eyes. We all want to construct a building that will stand that test on Judgement Day. We all have a desire to build with gold, silver, and precious stones that will not be consumed by the fire. But are we truly willing to pay the price?
Gold, silver, and precious stones cost exponentially more than wood, hay, or straw, so if we desire to build with those things we need to prepare ourselves for what that is going to cost us. Our ‘payment’ for those items probably won’t come in the form of a check but in time, energy, and selfless sacrifice for the cause of Christ.
In Ephesians, Paul takes a moment to explain our new found purpose in Christ: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) God laid out the blueprints for our projects long before we were even a passing thought in the mind of our grandparents’ grandparents. He worked in the lives of His people to bring us up in just the right way, endowed us with just the right skills, and lead us into just the right situations to do the good work He prepared for us, but once we arrive there—in that moment—we, ultimately, have to make the decision to carry out His plan.
The Greek word used in Ephesians 2:10 for ‘handiwork’ is poiéma, and, from it, we derive our English word for ‘poem.’ Our lives are the living poetry of God, and it is in those moments, when we choose to build with the more costly things, that the poem takes on the proper meter and rhyme to flow smoothly into perfection. If we reject the line He has given us, we leave on a sour note, unresolved until God enters in with His perfect refrain of the redemption found in Christ.
We should be actively seeking out the more costly things during construction. A luxury house doesn’t just happen. The contractor must settle for nothing less than the finest of amenities and that takes a significant amount of work. We can’t just install linoleum in a top of the line home, we need to be seeking out marble and granite, natural stone and hardwood.
We need to dedicate serious time to prayer, to study, and to building up others in the love of Christ. We need to seek God’s will for how we should be putting together this portion of the building, asking what materials He wants us to use over there. What stands on that Day will then be laid at the feet of Christ, so we should build with Him always in mind. That is the key to building with the more valuable materials: constantly asking yourself, “If I were doing this for God Himself, how would I approach this task differently?” Because that is truly what you are doing. You are building for God. So do it with joy, but also do it with diligence and with the understanding that those things which cost you the most are going to be the things that stand the ultimate test.
God wants to help you succeed in this project, so when He provides you with a material that you have to pay a little extra for, do not hesitate to take it. He gave it to you so that you can better play the role as a part of His poiéma, His handiwork, His masterpiece. You are His, so follow His instruction and learn to trust that His way is always best.
With the love and diligence in Christ,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
Colossians 3:23 NIV