One of the hardest parts of being a “Christian author” is people assuming that your theology or politics aligns with theirs, just because you happen to believe in Jesus, and they do too.
I’m sure you, even if you’re not an author, have experienced this similar truth: one of the hardest things about being a Christian is that people assume you agree with them about everything, just because you happen to have a mutual friend in Jesus. And they tend to judge you (even your salvation) if you don’t agree with them. Which can make you feel alone, in the body of Christ. Which doesn’t even make sense, right?
Today, I posted a quote from business guru (and Christian) John Maxwell on my Facebook page. It says: “Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends upon what you are made of.”
Which is, among other things, true.
I didn’t think it was a controversial statement. It was essentially a statement about character. About choosing to have an attitude that allows your trials to form your character. Kind of a nicer way of saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
One of my more conservative (well, more conservative than me) friends, whom I deeply respect but don’t necessarily think the same as, posted a comment. “Where’s Jesus in that?” he asked. It felt a little bit scold-ish, but it’s easy to misinterpret a comment on Facebook.
I grew up in evangelicalism, so I am well-schooled in proof-texting. 🙂 So I was able to throw some fragments of Scripture at him off the top of my head, but also noted that perhaps he’s over-thinking it. Maybe it’s just a statement that says life is tough, don’t let it get you down.
I mean, do we have to say “Jesus” for Jesus to be “in” something? Does our theology have to be overt for it to be true? Isn’t Jesus, being divine, omniscient and therefore “in” everything? And doesn’t a statement like this bring to mind verses like Romans 5:3-5: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Or the similar theology expressed by James in this verse: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Do you see Jesus in the unexpected places, where there is truth or beauty that speaks of him without saying his name?
Leave a comment and tell me about it.
Absolutely all the time. I see Jesus in secular movies and pop songs; I see Jesus in random encounters at cafes and sharing tears with a friend. I agree that sometimes he doesn’t need his name to be spoken.
He is “the way, the truth, and the life” … so I believe wherever there is truth, he is there even if he doesn’t expressly say his name.
PS – loving your Deeply Loved book – particularly loved the chapter on simplicity, you got me with that one!
My answer is yes. I see Jesus even in the actions and movements in those who say they don’t believe in him. As they are drawn to a relationship with him or as they behave themselves more like a believer, I see Jesus at work.
As for the quote, in my experience as a pastor I’ve received similar responses. For those who so boldly want to claim the name of Jesus, it seems to be a struggle for them to accept that it is possible to claim him without always having to say his name. The phrase “what you are made of” I’m sure throws some critics off to assume you’ve suddenly become an Oprah follower.
Keep up the good work, Keri.
Thanks, John, love what you said, “it is possible to claim him without always having to say his name.” It’s interesting how vigilant some of Jesus’ followers are at trying to second guess other believers to correct their theology. Thanks for joining the conversation!
Love it! I am constantly being challenged–because I promote Personal Growth (“self”-help–by insecure Christians who are afraid to say they grabbed a glass of water without ensuring others know it’s Holy water. I’ve actually had them remind me that Zig Ziglar is not Jesus. Appreciate that reminder!
I’ve met roofers who rarely say the word Jesus who have more Jesus in them than some “religious” folk. On one level I get this, because I, too, used to be the guy who knew the Bible better than the Author. It gave me a sense of belonging, and subsided my inner fears when I made sure to inject the name of Jesus, church, Christian, God, etc, into everything, everywhere. Then I learned this wasn’t being done from love but rather–fear. It actually took me and those I was attempting to witness to, further from God.
Thanks, James, and welcome to the conversation here. Appreciate your insights: that often it’s fear that drives people to want overt Christian labels on everything. And Tim, yes, amen to that.
Where’s Jesus in that quote? When I read it I saw nothing but Jesus in it, Keri. If we are made new in Christ, grindstones polish us. If we do not have the Spirit of Christ in us, then we are ground down by life.
I’m very surprised that my question may have offended you, Keri (“It felt a little bit scold-ish, but it’s easy to misinterpret a comment on Facebook.”). I’m sorry if it did. Know that I made no assumptions about your theology or politics matching mine, nor was I trying to correct, admonish, or reprove in any way. What I wrote was my immediate and honest response to your question, “What are you made of?”
It took me a little while to sort out why I responded the way I did (and because I’m a fallible human being, I agree that it’s possible I could be over-thinking this. I’ve been accused of less.)
By way of background, my belief is that life is all about God and bringing glory to His name through Jesus. I don’t live that belief perfectly consistently, but that’s my framework for looking at everything. Also, it may be helpful to know that I’ve only recently begun wondering, “Where’s Jesus in that?”, so it’s top of mind. And, in the spirit of transparency, I’ll admit to being a bit cynical about the pithy “wisdom” of this world. Including my own.
I’m not sure we’re that far apart in what we’re saying. We may just be starting at different places. Anyway, here’s what’s behind my question, “Where’s Jesus in that?”:
I don’t know the context for Maxwell’s proverb. Perhaps it comes at the end of a chapter in one of his books that describes how to navigate life with the Spirit. As written, there’s nothing overtly Christ-centered about it. Remove John Maxwell’s name and replace it with Oprah Winfrey’s or Tony Robbins’s or Deepak Chopra’s or Ben Franklin’s. Anyone could have said it. Just because a professing Christian said it doesn’t somehow make it wise, helpful, or true; in fact, Maxwell’s name may even bias us favorably to the statement because we know he’s a former pastor and loves the Lord, so we assume there’s something “spiritual” about it. Would you see it differently if Deepak Chopra said it? I know I would, and I’d be even quicker to question it.
Second, the proverb’s premise is narrow in its description of life. Yes, life can be a grindstone, but that’s only one dimension of what life is. Some people say “Life is an adventure.” Paul said, “Life is Christ” (to be exact: “For to me, to live is Christ”). So which is it? If I had to choose one, like Maxwell did, I’d go with the apostle’s. Some might say John needs to stop looking at life so negatively. 🙂
Third, the key to the outcome of being under the grindstone is “what you are made of.” This gets to the heart of my response.
I reacted to the phrase by noting that it is totally focused on “you”, which, without Jesus, is called the flesh, e.g. life apart from Christ. In that case, all it does is encourage me or the reader to power up my flesh to face the grindstone of life. Since Maxwell is a leadership guru, I imagine that business leaders, both Christian and not, read his books. How helpful is it to ask a non-believer “What are you made of?” when most likely he or she is going to answer “I have” or “I don’t have” what it takes…the strength…the smarts…the courage, and so on. If they’re motivated, they go out and find someone to coach them in standing strong (without Jesus) when life gets tough. Is that the kind of polishing they need?
On the other hand, if “you” includes faith in Christ, then why ask me what I’m made of? I am nothing, and can do nothing, apart from Christ. Paul said, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). And, in John 15, he applies the same to us, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” So I have to rely on Jesus—not what I’m made of—for everything, including when life’s a grind.
In addition, that part of Maxwell’s proverb—“what you are made of”—seems a bit circular / self-defeating to me. Frankly, some of us need to be ground because what we’re made of is pride, greed, selfishness, anger, self-importance, and any number of other irreputable traits (“nothing good”). In other words, what we’re made of is exactly what needs to get ground off. As above, in John 15, Jesus calls it “pruning” or, less gently for those not bearing fruit, “cuts off.” I needed to be ground quite a bit in life. In fact, I wasn’t just pruned, I got lopped, chopped, and felled. And I wasn’t happy about it. I attribute my survival through life’s grindstone to the Lord Jesus Christ and I can genuinely give him glory for that. Am I polished? I suppose, but not to the shine I’ll have when my sactification is complete.
If we make the assumption that Jesus is behind everything—and, as I see from the comments, some can see Jesus in everything—why not just say, for those of us who can’t (yet) see Jesus in everything, “Life [can be] a grindstone, but you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength”? Or, “Life’s a grindstone, but the question is, will you let it make you more like Jesus, or less like Jesus?”
The cynic in me says, “Because it doesn’t sell.”
Thanks for inviting me to respond.
Wow, great thoughts, Dave, and thanks for sharing your thinking. I think the phrase “what you’re made of” is an idiom that refers to our character–what we are like as a person. Why not put Jesus in that quote? Because it feels a bit heavy-handed, like –here’s the answer. I think you’re going to have a better discussion, in which people will learn what THEY think, and discover new things, if they wrestle with it a bit, and don’t have it just handed to them. But that’s just me. What do others of you here think?
I think that we have an example in Paul, who in Acts 17 quoted a pagan poet in order to point the unbelieving philosophers to Christ. Through this, scripture tell us, some of them were saved. The word “Jesus” wasn’t in those verses–nor were they even written about him. But Paul used them to His glory. Thanks for following Paul’s example so well with a little quote on Facebook!
KSP, thanks for commenting, and for bringing up another great biblical example. If anyone spoke implicitly rather than explicitly about faith, it was Jesus himself–offering a thirsty woman living water, comparing faith to seeds and himself to a grapevine, of all things!