Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:13-14 (NIV)
The admonishment from these verses reverberates within me. God gently says to me, "Crysta, child whom I love and desire to transform, get over yourself so that My grace can be expressed through you."
I have always had a strong sense of justice. I do not want others to be hurt or mistreated. I empathize with the pain of others and deeply grieve when I have been the cause of pain. But all too often, my sense of justice has been spent on myself: A threat is perceived, hurtful words are hurled, disrespectful treatment catches me by surprise and every nerve in my body cries for justice. Thoughts of defense and protection come to my mind, my feelings and emotions demand that I take up the fight against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12 tells me that my fight is not against flesh and blood, so why does my flesh cry out for a roll-in-the-mud, let's-settle-this-now, flesh-and-blood fight?
James 4:1-3 asks this same question and gives a very powerful answer: What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn't it the whole army of evil desires that war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. (NLT)
Basically, when my flesh rises to take on a fight with flesh and blood, it is because I didn't get what I wanted. I coveted something different than what I was given. I wanted a different scenario. I was offered unkindness, I coveted kindness. I was ignored, I coveted attention. I was interrupted, I coveted respect. I looked at the situation, the hurt, the insult and said, "This is not just treatment." At this point, whether I recognized it or not, I took my eyes off of God's truth and God's way and wanted my own way. My heart, which a moment before was yielded to God, stood up in rebellion against this slight of injustice which God had allowed.
Is God unable to work for good in me or in this situation? Is God too weak to enable me to respond in service and kindness? Is this person too difficult for God to show mercy? To all three, the answer is No. Flesh and blood may have meant that hurt or insult for evil, but God, in His foreknowledge, meant it for good.
The hurts and insults that come into my days are sandpaper situations. In order to buff out the rough edges of self, these sandpaper situations are lovingly used by God so that Christ's beauty may smoothly flow from my life. When the pain of the sandpaper is at its greatest, the rough edges of self are the most predominant. When self has found its proper place of anonymity, the sandpaper slides smoothly across my soul producing greater reliance on the Giver of all good things.
In Genesis 4:3-5, Cain faced a sandpaper situation. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord. Cain offered some of the fruits of his garden. Abel offered the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked on Abel's offering with favor, but He did not look on Cain's offering with this same favor. So enters the sandpaper. Cain wanted his own way AND recognition for his offering. He coveted the favor given to Abel. Instead of seeking to do what was right, he became angry because he did not receive what he coveted.
The Lord talked with Cain and admonished him, saying: "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6, NIV)
Cain did not listen to the Lord's admonishment, instead he allowed sin to master him. As a result, he killed Abel - his own brother. Cain could not have two masters. He chose the master of sin over the Master of love.
The warning given to Cain rings in my own ears, yet God's mercy and offered grace beckons even louder. God will give me the grace and strength to stand against my own selfishness and covetousness, but I must submit to Him and resist Satan, the master of sin. God must be my only Master. (II Corinthians 10:3-5, II Corinthians 12:9-10, Hebrews 4:14-16, James 4:6-8)
The temptation to fight against flesh and blood is crouching at my door. Wanting the comfort of my own way, my soul will attempt to resist the sandpaper of submission and transformation, but grace...Grace reminds me that I have been bought with a price and my life is not my own.
I am graced to grace others. I am set apart to be a vessel of grace. The question is, will I get over myself and submit to the Sander and Lover of my soul that His grace can be expressed through me?