Monday, October 17, 2016

Finding the Diamond in the Rough

You probably know that diamonds, as magnificent as they are, started off in very humble form – carbon which has been compressed under extreme pressure and high temperatures for a long time. Amazing what you can make out of a lump of coal.

As with most gems, it’s necessary to dig into mines to find diamonds. In a sense, life’s a lot like that – whether it concerns people or prized possessions. Sometimes you have to look hard and deep to discover the surprise below the surface.

We see this in business – an employee that initially seemed unremarkable, through hard work and perseverance, proves to be a prized staff member. Dedicated teachers are adept at finding hidden gems, students with special talents and affinities for particular subjects, if only they’re encouraged to develop them. Most sports teams thrive because, along with the obvious “star” players, athletic diamonds in the rough emerge.

When I applied for a job with CBMC, a ministry to business and professional people, I was asked to take an extensive psychological profile. The subsequent evaluation described me as “a diamond in the rough.” My prospective employers were advised if they were willing to be patient with me, I could prove to be a valued team member.

Patient they were, and I enjoyed 20 years with the parachurch ministry. I’d like to think I made some valuable contributions, not only to CBMC’s organizational mission but also for eternity. But that’s not for me to assess.

Studying the Bible we find God specializes in identifying and using diamond-in-the-rough types of people. This is basically how David, a humble shepherd boy, was chosen to be king of Israel. The prophet Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to find the successor to the headstrong and disobedient King Saul. Jesse – the father – proudly presented all but one of his sons, each of whom seemed impressive. God, however, was not impressed.

The Lord prompted Samuel to inform the father, “The Lord has not chosen these….” Then he asked, “Are these all the sons you have?” To which Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest…but he is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:10-11). Why bother with “Squirt,” right?

The prophet informed Jesse the selection process wasn’t done, so he should send for the overlooked shepherd boy. Upon his arrival, young David was immediately chosen as the king-to-be: “Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one’” (verse 12).

There’s a simple reason behind this. Earlier, God had informed Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We tend to evaluate people according to the “look test.” God prefers the heart test, judging who the person really is on the inside.

Repeatedly in the Scriptures we find the Lord choosing the unlikely, the improbable, even the despised for His work. Jesus chose lowly fishermen, a hated tax collector, just plain ordinary people to be His followers – and after His crucifixion and resurrection, when He ascended to heaven, Jesus entrusted His eternal mission to this collection of characters people of the time viewed as rabble.

This should serve as encouragement for each of us. Maybe we don’t have the glowing resume or credentials of other people; we're certain they’re more qualified than we are, especially for the work of God’s kingdom. But human qualifications are often among the least of His concerns in the selection process.

As Proverbs 21:2 tells us, “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Then it adds, “He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend” (Proverbs 22:11). To God, if your heart’s right, you might be the diamond in the rough He intends to use! And if we’re paying attention, He might send some diamonds in the rough our way to help in what He’s called us to do.

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