Saturday, June 14, 2014
Diamonds in the Rough
When I was a child, I remember people referring to a “diamond in the rough” as a person with a loving heart, raw talent, and/or good common sense, yet lacking in proper etiquette, refined language, formal training and/or education. A classic example is Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower seller in the musical “My Fair Lady” (based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”), transformed by the careful tutelage of a phonetics professor into a regal, elegant lady.
When I was in the early years of my medical career, decades before being saved, I used to dream of being a real estate entrepreneur to supplement our income and as a way to early retirement. I used to listen to a motivational lecture by Earl Nightingale so many times that the cassette tape broke!
The true story Nightingale described was called “Acres of Diamonds,” about an African farmer who grumbled bitterly about the poor quality of the rocky, infertile soil on his farm. He had heard tales of others making a fortune in diamond mining, and hoped to do the same. So he sold his farm for a pittance, but far from striking it rich, he lived in miserable poverty, finally so desperate that he drowned himself in a river.
The new owner of his land one day spotted a flash of red and blue light coming from a rock at the bottom of the stream. This turned out to be the largest diamond ever discovered, and the farm became one of Africa’s most productive diamond mines. Had the first owner only taken the time to study the appearance of diamonds in the rough, he would have realized the fortune he already possessed. Instead, he plowed up diamonds in the rough and tossed them away, and he sold acres of diamonds he already owned to look for them elsewhere.
Nightingale’s point was not to overlook opportunities right where we are planted, even though they may be disguised as obstacles, or to mistake treasures for trash due to lack of study and preparation. He summarized it this way:
The thing about this story that has so profoundly affected millions of people is the idea that each of us is, at this very moment, standing in the middle of our own acres of diamonds. If we had only had the wisdom and patience to intelligently and effectively explore the work in which we’re now engaged, to explore ourselves, we would most likely find the riches we seek, whether they be financial or intangible or both.
I don’t know whether or not Nightingale was saved, for only God knows the heart (Psalm 44:21; Acts 15:8). But for those who are saved, the treasure we have within – the Holy Spirit – from the moment of salvation onward, is truly priceless (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 1 Corinthians 6:19). Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), yet with Him, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26)
But sadly, many who claim the Name of Christ trust in their own pitiful flesh or look to other people or circumstances to improve their situation, not realizing the power of Almighty God within, if only we yield to Him (Colossians 1:27). We may store up earthly treasures that we can’t take with us, while ignoring heavenly rewards that we could enjoy throughout eternity (Matthew 6:19-21).
Now that I am a born-again Christian, I wonder how many times we complain about trials and difficulties we must endure, not realizing that God allows our suffering to polish us into the image of His Son (Philippians 3:10). Other blessings of those trials are to strengthen our faith in and dependence on Him (2 Corinthians 12:9), and to give us compassion and experience to help others going through similar trials (Galatians 6:2,10). Yet we dismiss the burdens as trash and fail to realize that He turns them into treasure by working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
When we read our Bible, do we stub our toes on the rocky verses that convict us of our sin (Psalm 139:23-24; 2 Timothy 3:16), and toss them aside in anger? Or do we see them as precious jewels that can enlighten us with His truth and illuminate our path to being more Christ-like? (Psalm 119:11,16, 18,72,105, 127)
The Bible speaks of believers being purified in the Refiner’s fire, like fine silver when the dross is burnt away (Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2), or as soft clay being molded and reshaped in the Potter’s hand (Isaiah 29:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:4). Yet before we can become malleable as molten silver or wet clay, sometimes He must chip away the hard shell keeping us rigidly bound in our own ways. Once we place our faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), Christ frees us from all our sins by washing us in His shed blood (Matthew 26:28).
Often, though, we are still encumbered by the heavy weights that shackle us (Hebrews 12:1). These may include guilt over missed opportunities or past sins, even though God has forgotten our transgressions (Psalm 32:1; 85:2; 103:12), or bitterness and lack of forgiveness toward those who have wronged us (Matthew 6:12,14,15; 18:21,35).
Old habits from our unsaved lifestyle, such as drinking, smoking, or bad language, may prevent us from shining as brightly as we could otherwise (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 John 2:10). Even activities that are not sinful, or even good works such as church service, may need to be chiseled away if they keep us from God’s best for us.
Praise God that if we allow Him, He takes us just as we are, with all our imperfections that detract from His glory, and like a master Jeweler skillfully cleaves us into a polished gem!
Jesus Himself was the ultimate Diamond in the rough, born and living in the most lowly of circumstances, and scorned for His unimpressive hometown (John 1:46) and simple parents (Mark 6:3), by worldly standards. His inner circle, Peter, John and James, caught a glimpse of His heavenly brilliance in His Transfiguration, but He quickly resumed His ordinary human form and asked them not to tell anyone until He had risen from the dead (Matthew 17:1-2,8,9).
When He died for us on the cross, He was so marred and disfigured that we could not even bear to look at Him (Isaiah 53:2-5). Yet without that ugly suffering He took on Himself for us, there could be no forgiveness of sins, no redemption, no eternal life (Isaiah 53:11-12). When we behold Him in all His glory, His radiance will outshine the most beautiful rainbow and all the precious gems we have ever seen or could imagine! (Revelation 4:3)
May we allow Him to polish us like a brilliant diamond, reflecting His light as shining jewels in His crown!
© 2014 Laurie Collett