Imagine a rusted barrel by a well-beaten path. It looks worn out, useless. Next to it, another just like it. They look the same on the outside, but on the inside they contain something completely different. You do not know until you open them up…or put holes in them. They had both originally been prepared for the same purpose, useful, then they were corrupted.
The owner of the one barrel thought they should clean up the barrel, so they did their best to de-rust the outside, clean it up, and make it look brand new. They put a label on it to advertise its quality and usefulness. The owner of the second barrel did nothing except fill up their barrel with a certain liquid.
Over time, the first barrel continued to wear out, despite its owner’s efforts. As holes developed from the inside out, the liquid inside began seeping out—toxic waste.
The second barrel also wore out, but starting with the outside, exposed to the elements. Like the other barrel, the liquid inside began seeping out—white vinegar. Slowly, the rust was dissolved and the barrel was restored from the inside out. Now it could be filled once again with purified water for the weary travelers who would pass by and for the owner, who expected to enjoy it.
When we come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we may be rough on the outside, like the second barrel. Slowly, as the world wears us out, we have various trials, but those are opportunities for fruit of the Holy Spirit to be shown in our lives. These sanctifying experiences clean us up from the inside out, making us useful to the Lord. Like the first barrel, any efforts we put in to better ourselves are useless, outside the grace of God who alone can fill us with what is useful.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
We have a tendency to focus on external decisions or worldly efforts in determining what is of true eternal value. Too many think that cleaning themselves up on the outside is what saves them from sin, death, the influence of satan, and the world. Too many think they have something to offer because they, their lifestyle, their physical resources, or even their perceived spirituality have an attractive appearance.
However, what is truly life-giving? These verses remind us that the unseen, eternal things are what can truly have glorious substance. For those who are true believers, God has given the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. By the power of the Spirit, we can be certain of the life to come, even as we suffer in this life. We may not be perfect now, but we have the hope of perfection, made sure by the transformation we see in our lives now!
What comes forth from you when you experience trials from the world or discipline from the Lord? Is it like toxic waste which can only bring about death? Or is it like the vinegar which has a bitter taste but is useful in the end? This world will not like the “taste” of one walking by the Spirit, but it is worth the suffering of denying myself in this life in order to please the Lord! I have to recognize I have nothing of value apart from Jesus Christ. We can take nothing else with us. Let us also boldly share what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in us. Will you allow yourself to be poured out?
“For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened…so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a pledge” (2 Cor. 5:4-5).
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Senior Pastor for Shoaff Park Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, IN.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!